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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE2900 Petrology and Geochemistry

20 creditsClass Size: 60

Module manager: Graham McLeod (igneous petrology)

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

Pre-requisite qualifications

L1 core modules from the new Geology programme.

Module replaces

Partial replacement of former SOEE 2590 Mineralogy and Petrology, with some elements from SOEE 2010 Chemistry of the Earth, and some elements from SOEE 2620 Explosive Volcanism.

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module will consider the chemical behaviour in and between gases, aqueous solutions, solids and melts, and how chemical processes involving these components have operated on timescales from a human lifetime to the age of the solar system. Students will learn to “read the rock record” to constrain geological processes. Students will also learn how the 'earth-air-water factory' operates at present and to set this in the context of long-term geochemical evolution over the 4.5 Ga of Earth history.Minerals are a vital consideration for the geologist – all that Earth is made of, can be considered as part of the remit of mineralogy. All ores and resources extracted from the Earth occur as minerals, the existence, location, and enrichment of which connect at a fundamental level to the chemistry of the elements. Mineralogy is the understanding of mineral structures and the means by which we study them, including crystallography, mineral stability, and thermodynamics.Metamorphic geology is concerned with how minerals replace each other as conditions of pressure and temperature change within the Earth. Tectonic processes, whilst slow, will subject crustal rocks to extremes of pressure and temperature that will fundamentally change their mineralogy. Each recrystallisation of a rock is accompanied by shifts in texture (how minerals grow together) and mineralogy, which reflect the conditions under which they formed. In addition, many industrially useful minerals are formed via metamorphic processes, and understanding the conditions that lead to their formation is the key to locating viable deposits. Igneous petrology is concerned with magmas and the rocks which they form. In some sense, these are the engine by which other processes occur; as igneous processes drive plate tectonics, and are responsible for the fluxes of mass and heat that drive tectonics. Igneous processes move heat around and trigger metamorphism, but also concentrate metals, produce fluids and promote conditions appropriate to mineralisation. The study of volcanic environments and phenomena can provide detailed understanding of the processes involved in the eruption, transport and deposition of effusive and explosive deposit, and the subsequent reworking of these as by volcaniclastic processes. A good understanding of these processes can show how eruption parameters can be reconstructed from the geometry, distribution and depositional characteristics of volcanic units.


By the end of this module, students will:
• Have an understanding of mineral structures, behaviours & chemistries that builds upon level 1 knowledge.
• Be able to apply the knowledge of mineral structure, chemistry, and formation behaviours to understand solid-melt, solid-fluid, and solid-solid equilibria.
• Be able to place igneous and metamorphic rocks into a tectonic framework from practical observations
• Be able to determine rock histories and the sequence of processes to which igneous and metamorphic rocks have been subjected from hand specimen and thin section analysis
• Be able to use geochemical data to understand samples in terms of tectonic, igneous and metamorphic processes, and to design analytical strategies to recover such information if given an unknown sample.
• Have an understanding of the environments of formation, and transformation, for igneous and metamorphic rocks, and the processes that operate in them.

Learning outcomes
1. Be able to appropriately analyse a sample of an igneous or metamorphic rock, combining hand specimen and thin section observations with geochemical data to place that sample in context according to the environment in formed in, the processes it has undergone, and their sequence.
2. Be able to work as part of a group to pool observations across a suite of samples to understand regional tectonic and geologic evolution, in combination with a geological map, and to present that sequence of geological events
3. Be able to demonstrate your understanding of the principles of mineralogy and geochemistry and the theoretical underpinnings of igneous and metamorphic petrology, illustrated with relevant case studies or examples as appropriate.

Skills outcomes
• Ability to interrogate and synthesise complex datasets
• Ability to model complex natural systems involving spatial-temporal controls and deep time
• Ability to think in 3D


Lectures will focus on the following concepts, which will be reinforced and explored via weekly practical classes:
• Basic Crystallography, mineral groups, their structures and their classification, including isolated, sheet, chain, framework silicates, and clays.
• Analytical methods in geochemistry and petrology, the use of whole rock and mineral major and trace element chemical analyses.
• Phase petrology and mineral stability, including concepts in crystal structure and the interdependence of chemical behaviour, mineral structure and elemental partitioning.
• Applied phase petrology in understanding the conditions in which rocks form and equilibrate.
• Kinetics in geoscience and how kinetics can moderate the attainment of mineral equilibrium.
• Geochemical processes in geochemical cycles
• High-temperature and deep Earth fluids.
• Metamorphism from phase petrology, kinetic, tectonic and thermodynamic viewpoints.
• Igneous systems from phase petrology, kinetic, tectonic and thermodynamic viewpoints.
• Metamorphic environments of formation and governing processes.
• Igneous environments of formation and governing processes.
• Volcanic and plutonic environment and central complexes.
• From magma to tephra; fragmentation processes linked to magma properties; transport and deposition of pyroclastic density currents.
• Landscape responses to explosive volcanism: volcaniclastic processes, deposits and hazards.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Case Study12.002.00
Case Study42.008.00
Independent online learning hours105.00
Private study hours0.00
Total Contact hours95.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Private study will be a mixture of:
• independent reading of recommended text books,
• independent revision of lectures and practical notes
• completing any unfinished work from practical classes
• research related to the students’ individual components of the synoptic group work assessment

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

In practicals, staff and demonstrators provide continuous formative feedback, with occasional exercises run as small class tests under exam conditions with feedback provided afterwards. Model answers and solutions provided for some practical work.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Group ProjectSynoptic group assignment:40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

Resit for this module will comprise a single mark from a dedicated resit open book examination. The group poster will not form part of the resit.

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Open Book exam2 hr 60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/06/2021 16:25:48


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