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2022/23 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE5627M Structural Geology for the Future

15 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Laura Gregory

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Pre-requisite qualifications

Completion of level 2 MGeol Geology
Completion of level 2 MGeoPhys Geophysics having taken the option SOEE2955 Deformation Processes of equivalent

This module is mutually exclusive with

SOEE3451Structural Geology for the Future

Module replaces

SOEE3450 Structural Geology

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module will delve into advanced structural geology to understand tectonic hazards and generating green energy. We will explore the nature of faults, earthquakes, and deformation on different scales in time and space. You will learn practical skills in earth observation, quantitative microstructural analyses, and modern analysis techniques to determine the subsurface geology. This module will equip you with the fundamental knowledge to apply structural geology to global challenges of the future.


By the end of this module, students will:
- Have an understanding of the mechanics of earthquakes and faulting from an active tectonics perspective, from shallow to deep, and be aware of the existing controversies in the literature on how and why earthquakes occur.
- Be able to interpret complex geological structures present at a large range of scales using a variety of modern techniques and critically understand the uncertainty of these techniques.
- Be able to recognize deformation mechanisms, including those influenced by fluids, that are active at different timescales, alongside their microstructural signatures and rheological and permeability effects.
- Be able to use knowledge in structural geology to forecast potential earthquake hazard, and knowledge of remote sensing techniques to monitor potential hazards related to natural and human-made active tectonics. Be able to communicate hazard and risk to various audiences.
- Have an understanding of how to apply structural geology to current global challenges such as geothermal energy, carbon capture, and risk management industries.

Learning outcomes
Upon successful completion of the module, students should be able to:
1. Convey a systematic understanding of brittle deformation during earthquakes, and be able to critically discuss the literature on why they happen where they do, and how the magnitude, timing, and mechanism relates to the evolution of faulting in different tectonic settings.
2. Convey a systematic understanding of ductile deformation in the crust, and be able to formulate a history of deformation based on the rock record of microstructures and changes in rheology, and conceptually relate this to a wide range of processes acting from the micro- to macro- scale.
3. Accurately deploy techniques in remote sensing to analyse active deformation in a range of tectonic settings, and relate observations to theory on how brittle and ductile deformation in the lithosphere relates to the earthquake cycle, commenting on the limitations and uncertainties of these datasets.
4. Appreciate the uncertainty in quantitative structural geology techniques, and how the discipline is pushing the boundaries of observational techniques.
5. Bring the theory together to apply advanced structural geology techniques to solving problems of high societal impact, focusing on how to communicate techniques to different audiences (from the public to academic).
6. Formulate testable hypotheses of how deformation can be observed and quantified, and discuss these within the context of current literature.

Skills outcomes
Project planning and execution
3D spatial thinking through time
Geophysical Analysis
Earth Observation
Thinsection Description and Analysis
Ability to interrogate and synthesise complex datasets


Blocks of 3 to 4 lectures and associated practicals will focus on the following concepts reinforced and explored via weekly practical classes:
- Brittle tectonic faulting and earthquakes
- Ductile deformation mechanisms and the earthquake cycle
- Structural geology applied to global challenges
Topics covered within each block can include
- Tectonic geomorphology - the effect of active tectonics on the landscape (e.g. locating faults in the morphology, rivers, mountain building)
- Earthquake mechanics (friction, weird and wonderful fault movements, stress transfer, clustering)
- Satellite observations of active deformation - earthquakes, the earthquake cycle, creep
- Strain in the lower crust and how this influences the occurrence of earthquakes
- How does strain localise on shear zones? Mechanisms, microstructural signatures, and feedbacks
- Fluids in the shallow and the deep
- Earthquake hazard - hazard assessment, risk vs hazard, how to build a hazard map, science communication, where will the next big earthquake happen?
- Structural geology applied to the climate crisis - how can we use structural data in emerging industries that will deal with the carbon problem?

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours113.00
Total Contact hours37.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

Private study will be
- independent reading of recommended text books and journal articles,
- independent research in the topics of assessment and that covered in the lectures
- independent revision of lectures and practical notes,
- reviewing work from practical classes
- further practise on practical elements such as google earth exploring in their own time.
- plan and execute the individual in course assessments
- analyse data provided for completing assessment

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Formative assessment:
During lectures there are opportunities for students to ask questions, and we will also use tools such as polling and neighbour discussions to give feedback on the lecture material.
In practicals, staff and demonstrators provide continuous formative feedback, with occasional exercises run as small class tests under exam conditions with feedback provided afterwards. While a portion of the work will be quantitative and practical, the theory taught in lectures will also be questioned and discussed in the context of the work conducted during practicals. Practical worksheets will include questions that will spark students to reflect on theoretical material learned during previous weeks. Model answers and solutions will be provided for some practical work. Scheduled practicals may also include literature discussion in small groups with staff and demonstrators participating and summing up discussions at the end.
Formative feedback will be provided on the assessed poster, presentation, and essay before the exam.

In addition to formative assessment provided as above for the 3451 level module, 5627M students will have several tutorials introducing their poster/essay topic that will involve analysing some original data. During these tutorials the students will be guided through processing of the data, and get small group feedback on their initial work and on how to draft the poster.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayEssay critically introducing and discussing a current controversial topic30.00
Poster PresentationConference-style poster and presentation on the topic of their essay - introduction and background, prelim data analysis30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)60.00

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

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc) (S1)2 hr 00 mins40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)40.00

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 14:15:16


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