Geoscience course details

The Greene’s Geoscience diploma course content comprises of six compulsory modules, two optional modules, at least three field trips and a number of local visits and external lectures.

The compulsory modules are:

Module 1: Organisms in context

Topic Summary of content Participants should be able to:
Biological classification of organisms How organisms are classified, Linnean nomenclature, The five main phyla Develop an understanding of the way that organisms are classified into major groups
Understand the principles of Linnean nomenclature
Recognise the main features of the five main phyla
Organisms and environments How organisms adapt to their environment Appreciate that different organisms can develop similar features to adapt to a given environment and that this occurs through genetic mutations over time
Evolution and ecosystems Evolutionary changes; extinction events Understand that genetic mutations over time can give rise to new species
Appreciate that major environmental changes lead to extinction events and that new species then evolve to fill ecological niches vacant as a result of those changes

Module 2: Earth processes, rocks and mineral formation

Topic Summary of content Participants should be able to:
Earth structure & earthquakes Earthquake waves (P, S ) and how these help to identify the structure of the earth Understand that earthquake waves travel in different ways through the different layers of the earth.
Plate tectonic processes Convection currents in the Mantle, how these relate to types of plate boundary; the rock cycle Understand how and why convection currents move in the Mantle and that this movement is expressed at the Earth’s surface through differing tectonic plate movements.
Igneous rocks and how they form The Rock Cycle; igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic processed and products Understand how the three classes of rocks form; igneous processes and products and links to plate tectonics; types of magma and how these relate to types of volcanic activity; living with volcanoes.
Introduction to crystallography and mineralogy The characteristics of the major rock-forming mineral groups, focusing on silicates Appreciate the different crystal forms, draw and explain examples, and explain how these relate to rock-forming minerals; geometry of crystal forms, where they might form.
Surface processes Erosion, transport and deposition; sediments and how they form; types of sediment (biogenic, clastic) Understand surface processes and how these relate to the deposition and occurrence of sediments, and how these later become compacted to form strata.
Sedimentary environments How different environments can be recognised from characteristic features in sediment sequences Recognise different sedimentary environments through identifying structures and graphic logs.
Metamorphic processes and products How rocks can be altered by heat and/or pressure to form metamorphic rocks Understand how heat and/or pressure can alter rocks which can undergo partial recrystallisation; types of metamorphism.

Module 3: Science and the Environment

Topic Summary of content Participants should be able to:
Environmental geology Energy resources, including oil and gas, metallic mineral mining; engineering geology; water supply Understand how and where sources of water and energy are found and extracted; appreciation of the environmental impact of energy extraction, mining and extraxction of building & construction materials.
Engineering geology Extraction of building & construction materials; dams & reservoirs; landslips and road construction; tunnelling; coastal erosion & defences Appreciate types of building materials, construction and impact on the environment; slope stabilisation techniques and coastal management.
Environmental chemistry Introduction to chemical and biochemical phenomena occurring naturally; introduction to atmospheric, aquatic, soil chemistry Understand how chemical processes are impacted by human activity
Environmental geophysics Geophysics and water, oil and gas exploration; radioactive decay and age-dating of rocks Understand how resistivity is used to detect rock types (gamma ray); how radioactive decay helps with age-dating of igneous and metamorphic rocks.

Module 4: Fossils and environments

Topic Summary of content Participants should be able to:
Formation and preservation of fossils How fossils form and the processes involved (petrification; amber; replacement; peat & coal)
Exceptional preservation
Trace fossils.
Understand the different types of fossilisation and the processes responsible.
Appreciate that exceptional preservation of fossils can occur and that this gives useful insights into evolutionary changes and “snapshots” of biological communities otherwise only found in fragmentary state.
Recognise trace fossils as palaeo-environmental indicators and evidence of former organic activity.
Modes of life and fossil assemblages Life modes of different fossil groups
Introduction to major fossil groups
Appreciate different ecological niches in continental shelf and deep ocean settings and understand how marine organisms adapt to these settings.
Recognise major fossil groups (including trilobites, brachiopods, bivalves, ammonites, microfossils, dinosaurs.
Applications of fossils Age-dating of rocks and use in correlating strata (oil & gas exploration); ecostratigraphy e.g. coastal changes; uses in analysis of archaeological sites Understand how different species and assemblages can be used to age-date sediments and the applications of this knowledge.
Physics for geologists Radiation, radioactive decay and dating of igneous rocks, wireline logging.
Geophysical analysis of reservoirs (water, oil, gas).
Understand isotopic decay and formation of daughter atoms, mass spectometry, application of wireline logs

Module 5: Practical techniques and data analysis

Topic Summary of content Participants should be able to:
Practical techniques in microscopy Laboratory based Develop the ability to recognise different organic features under the microscope, e.g. microbes; tissues; microfossils - such as foraminifera; prepare sediments and extraction of microfossils.
Practical techniques in environmental chemistry Laboratory, lecture and problem- solving Develop practical skills in environmental chemistry.
Practical techniques in ecology Field visit to FSC Field Centre - Dale Fort, west Wales has excellent coastal ecology/ geology and students can sample plankton. Apply practically the theory learnt in tutorials; recognise ecological zones and geological phenomena such as folding and faulting of strata; recognise different types of sedimentary rocks and fossils; collect data.
Statistical analysis of environmental data Follow-up from data collected at Dale Fort- initially at FSC centre and written up afterwards. Analyse the data collected and apply statistical methods e.g.. Chi-squared; Spearman's Rank and others; develop written communication skills through writing up reports.

Module 6: Independent Research Project

Topic Summary of content Participants should be able to:
Project Tutor assigned to advise and monitor progress. Develop research skills: i.e. initial research to identify an area of interest; hypothesis formulation and testing; collect data and analyse; interpret and apply findings in the context of previously published research.

Geoscience Diploma - Study visits and fieldwork

Summary of content Participants should be able to:
Study visits Visits proposed to: Oxford Natural History Museum;
Natural History Museum London;
Lapworth Museum Birmingham University (combined with taster lectures- suggested by Birmingham University);
Winchester Science Centre
See rocks, minerals and fossils discussed in tutorials and be able to identify them, via worksheets.
Hands-on work and study will help to reinforce learning.
Taster lectures will give students a flavour of life at university.
Fieldwork Fieldwork at classic U.K. fossil locations (Jurassic Coast, famous quarries around Oxford) and overseas: Oman Ophiolite, and Azores Visualise geological phenomena more easily through fieldwork, and see features in their natural settings; as well as provide opportunities for students to collect specimens for later processing and analysis (e.g. microfossils).

Geoscience diploma - Additional optional modules

Module Summary of content Participants should be able to:
Geopolitics of Energy and Governance The impact of oil and gas exploration, production and consumption and attempts to limit emissions (Kyoto Treaty, Paris Accord, etc) Understand the environmental impact of coal, oil and gas extraction and uses. To understand international attempts to limit the burning of fossil fuels, and the political issues involved.
Mineral structure and chemistry More advanced coverage of the different mineral groups, focusing on crystal structure and chemistry. Understand the structure and chemistry of the silicates; chain structures and relationship to crystal form and characteristics (e.g. orthosilicates, phyllosilicates, aluminium phosphates, zeolites).