​GEOM 154 Introduction to Earth System Science

Dr. René Heyn

Course Synopsis

The purpose of the module is to ensure that the student obtains an overall understanding of the earth and how it functions. Special attention is given to the nature, composition, and classification of materials constituting earth and the importance of time in earth processes.
This module provides a general introduction to the fundamental concepts of geology. The module includes:

  • a general introduction to rocks and minerals

  • the internal structure of the earth and plate tectonic processes

  • igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks, and metamorphic rocks

  • structural geology

  • historical geology

  • environmental geology

  • earth mineral and energy resources

Course Goals

The course aims to instruct students in the interaction between different Earth System components. This should lead to the understanding that the Earth comprises a complex but fascinating set of related systems, and that physical, biological, environmental and earth sciences do not exist in isolation.

Course Outcomes

The successful student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a knowledge of and ability to identify common minerals and rocks.

  • Demonstrate a proficiency of the basic processes affecting the earth and how they are inter-related through the paradigm of plate tectonics.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of geological time and both the changes (including evolution of life forms) that have occurred over the 4.5 billion years of the existence of the earth and its future fate.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of basic concepts about the formation of various types of mineral deposits and natural organic carbon fuel resources.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the general geological structure and stratigraphy of southern Africa.

  • Demonstrate an appreciation of the importance of geological parameters in applied science like civil engineering and environmental sciences

Study Materials and Textbook Recommendations

Textbook: Earth An Introduction to Physical Geology 9th edition by Tarbuck and Lutgens
Practical guide: Laboratory Manual in Physical Geology 8th edition Edited by R.M. Busch

Below is a list of references and suggested reading that would be useful during the course. Most of the titles below are available in the JS Gericke library, and others will be available as reserve texts in the department:

1. Carlson, D.H., Plummer, C.C. and McGeary, D. (2006). Physical Geology: Earth Revealed (6th ed). McGraw-Hill, New York, 580 pp.

2. Gabler, R.E., Petersen, J.F. and Trapasso, L.M. (2007). Essentials of Physical Geography (8th ed).Thomson Brooks/Cole, USA, 658 pp.

3. Holden, J. (2005). An Introduction to Physical Geography and the Environment. Pearson Education Limited, London, 664 pp.

4. Marshak, S. (2005). Earth: Portrait of a Planet (2nd ed). W.W. Norton & Company Inc., New York, 748 pp.

5. McCarthy, T. and Rubidge, B. (2005). The Story of Earth & Life: A Southern African Perspective on a 4.6-billion-year journey. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, 333 pp.

6. Norman, N. and Whitfield, G. (2006). Geological Journeys: A Traveller’s Guide to South Africa’s rocks and landforms. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, 320 pp.

7. Plummer, C.C., McGeary, D. and Carlson, D. (2005). Physical Geology (10th ed). McGraw-Hill, New York, 580 pp.

8. Skinner, B.J., Porter, S.C. and Botkin, D.B. (1999). The Blue Planet: An Introduction to Earth System Science (2nd ed). John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 552 pp.

9. Tarbuck, E.J. and Lutgens, F.K. (2005). Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology (8th ed). Pearson Education Inc., New Jersey, 684 pp.

Learning Opportunities

During practical sessions, students will learn to use basic scientific skills to study course-related subjects and processes.