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GEOL265 Natural Hazards of New Zealand and Beyond

2021 information for papers will be published in early September. 

The nature of environmental hazards related to earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, mass movements, hydrology and severe storms; the physical basis for such hazards; and the investigation of an interactive case study of the impacts of extreme hazard events.

This is a paper that will be both interesting and relevant to a wide variety of students: interesting because it will expose students to all aspects of natural hazards (i.e. physical basis, recognition, quantification, management and mitigation); relevant because students will acquire skills and insights that will make them more employable. Teachers will bring a wide range of experience from the Departments of Geology and Geography and from academia and industry.

Paper title Natural Hazards of New Zealand and Beyond
Paper code GEOL265
Subject Geology
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period First Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,080.30
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $4,858.95

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EAOS 111 or GEOL 112 or GEOG 101 or ENVI 111
GEOL 365
Schedule C

GEOL265 is for students in their second year of a geology, geography or other degree.
GEOL365 is for students in their third year of a geology, geography or other degree.

Teaching staff

Co-ordinators: Professor Mark Stirling and Professor Sean Fitzsimons
Professor Michelle Thompson-Fawcett
Professor James White

Paper Structure

A laboratory programme will run concurrently with the formal lectures. Labs will be arranged to enable practical investigations of various hazards and provide students with a more hands-on understanding of the subject matter presented in the lectures. The lecture topics are as follows.

Part 1: Nature of natural hazards

  • Paper introduction and scope
  • Hazards and social science
  • Social construction of hazards
  • Conceptual frameworks for understanding and mitigating hazards
  • Extreme event statistics
  • Risk, risk acceptance and risk avoidance
  • Engineered approaches to hazard mitigation
  • Societal responses to hazard mitigation

Part 2: Physical basis of natural hazards

  • Earthquake hazards
  • Tsunami
  • Volcanic hazards
  • Mass movement hazards
  • Hydrological hazards: floods
  • Hydrological hazards: droughts
  • Severe Storms
  • Environmental change

Part 3: Case study

  • Antecedent conditions
  • Anatomy of the event
  • Emergency management
  • Mitigation, avoidance and social adaptation

Part 3 will be collaborative classes that involve several lecturers present at the same time to provide multiple perspectives on the hazard and enhanced staff-to-student collaboration. The purpose will be to demonstrate system componentry and complexity by way of a case study approach. While a New Zealand case study (e.g. Canterbury earthquake sequence) would be the logical choice in this respect, an international case study would also be appropriate if there is clear relevance for New Zealand in the legislative/regulatory context.

Assessment for GEOL265/365 is split between internal (60%) and external (40%) assessment. GEOL365 includes an extra assignment to the number required for GEOL265. Students in GEOL365 will be expected to demonstrate greater background knowledge and abilities than students in GEOL265.

Teaching Arrangements

Two lectures and one 3-hour laboratory per week.

Fieldwork: Local one-day weekend field trips will be undertaken to observe natural hazards. Dunedin is close to a number of significant natural hazards, so students will get to see these without having to go on multi-day excursions.

Smith, Keith. Environmental hazards: assessing risk and reducing disaster. Routledge, 2013. (6th edition; also available online through University Library)
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong Learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Environmental Literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
  • Knowledge of the social construction of hazards, conceptual frameworks for understanding and mitigating hazards, social and engineered approaches to hazard mitigation, and the time-dependent adaptation of humans to the threat of future hazard events
  • Understanding of cause, recognition and quantification of the natural hazards of earthquakes, tsunami, volcanoes, mass movements, hydrology, severe storms, and the environment
  • Knowledge in the recognition, quantification and mitigation of a natural hazard by way of case studies

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First Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 11:00-11:50 9-12, 14-15, 17-22
Friday 11:00-11:50 9-12, 14, 17-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
A1 Monday 14:00-16:50 9-15, 17, 19-22
A2 Wednesday 14:00-16:50 9-12, 14-15, 17-22