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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE1640 Earth Through Time

20 creditsClass Size: 60

Module manager: Dr Jacqueline Houghton

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Pre-requisite qualifications

Sufficient qualifications to be admitted to any of the programmes to which this module is core content are assumed sufficient.

This module is mutually exclusive with

SOEE1690Shaping the Earth

Module replaces

Some components of SOEE1570SOEE1020

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module uses the geological history of Britain and Ireland as an integrated example of how plate tectonic, palaeontological and geological processes shaped the Earth. It covers the principles of plate tectonics and stratigraphy, the evolution of life on Earth through the palaeontological record, and the Quaternary archive of glacial-interglacial cycles.


- To introduce the principles of stratigraphy and the concept of geological/deep time.
- To review the theory of plate tectonics and the structure of the Earth.
- To use the present day morphology and processes at plate boundaries to understand how these processes operated in the geological past and are preserved in the rock record.
- To explore the geological history of Britain and Ireland and to use this to provide a timeframe for modern day processes.
- To explore, analyse and understand the changes in the environment brought about by the Quaternary glacial-interglacial cycles with respect to the evolution of the landscapes of Britain and Ireland and surrounding continental shelf.
- To provide practical training in the methodologies and techniques used to characterise and understand Quaternary deposits.
- To explore major events in the development of the biosphere.
- To understand the basics of invertebrate palaeontology and be able to identify and describe major fossil groups and their importance in the evolution of life of Earth.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Identify how global-scale processes (plate tectonics, evolution of life and glacial-interglacial cycles) illustrate and affect regional-scale geological histories.
2. Synthesise tectonic, palaeontological and stratigraphic data to build simple regional-scale geological models.
3. Discuss models for the tectono-stratigraphic evolution of Britain and Ireland and the techniques (stratigraphic, geophysical etc) used to establish these.
4. Effectively communicate scientific concepts to diverse audiences.


- Principles of stratigraphy including lithostratigraphy, chronostratigraphy and biostratigraphy.
- Modern day plate tectonic settings: ocean ridges, oceanic transform faults, subduction zones, continental rifts, continental transforms, passive margins and orogenic belts.
- The concept of isostacy, its mechanisms and effects (e.g. deposition and erosion of sediments).
- How the global processes of plate tectonics, sea-level change and climate change are evidenced in the rock record.
- Evidence used to construct palaeogeographic maps including palaeomagnetism, palaeoclimatology and geological environments.
- Major terranes and sedimentary basins of Britain and Ireland.
- Geological history of Britain and Ireland: the early supercontinents; the opening of the Iapetus ocean; break-up of the Gondwanan supercontinent; closure of the Iapetus; formation and subsequent rifting of the Pangaean supercontinent; and the opening of the North Atlantic.
- Climate of the Quaternary: Milankovitch cycles, glacial-interglacials, sub-orbital cycles, ice cores.
- The offshore realm.
- The Last Glacial Maximum and deglaciation (including modelling examples).
- Sea-level change.
- Quaternary landforms of Britain and Ireland: glacial, peri/paraglacial and fluvial.
- Interglacial environments - climate, landscape, fauna and flora.
- Evolution of humans and the Anthropocene.
- A one day field trip to Ilkley (NW Leeds) to look at glacial, periglacial and paraglacial landforms, and to see evidence of the interaction of engineering and infrastructure with these landforms.
- Introduction to palaeontology: concepts and techniques - taphonomy, systematics, cladistics, biostratigraphy, palaeoecology, biomechanics, ichnology.
- Palaeozoic major transitions, diversification and extinction events: The Cambrian explosion and the origins of complex life, the Ordovician and Devonian mass extinctions, the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, transition to life on land.
- Mesozoic major transitions, diversifications and extinctions: recovery from the Permo-Triassic mass extinction, life in the time of Pangaea, the Mesozoic Marine Revolution, the origin and evolution of the dinosaurs, the evolution of angiosperms, the K/Pg mass extinction.
- Cenozoic major transitions, diversification and extinction events: the rise of mammals, climatic cycles - Eocene thermal maximums, Neogene cooling and impacts on biosphere, microfossils, Pleistocene megafauna, hominid origins.
- Anatomy, evolution and ecology of major invertebrate fossil groups including trilobites, graptolites, corals and other reef builders, brachiopods, molluscs (bivalves and cephalopods), microfossils.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent online learning hours38.00
Private study hours110.00
Total Contact hours52.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Self-assessment online quizzes.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Self-assessed MCQs will allow students to test their understanding of the module material.
Formative feedback will be given on work done during practicals.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Report3000 word report synthesising the geological history of an area including a plain English summary.70.00
Poster PresentationPalaeontology poster30.00
ReportReport Outline. Outline the basis structure of geological history report.0.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

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: 26/05/2022 14:15:14


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