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GEOL353 Tectonics

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Plate geometry and kinematic derivations; tectonic history reconstructions; integrated understanding of sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic, and structural associations in various tectonic settings; implications for climate, fauna, earth evolution, and society.

Students will gain a comprehensive knowledge of  tectonic systems and how these have shaped Earth. They will bring together data from different geological disciplines to address topics such as planetary accretion, mantle convection and the formation of continental and oceanic crust.

Paper title Tectonics
Paper code GEOL353
Subject Geology
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,092.15
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $5,004.75

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GEOL 251 and GEOL 252
Schedule C
Students must be prepared to attend field trips outside of regular semester time.
Teaching staff

Coordinator: Associate Professor James Scott
Professor David Prior

Paper Structure

Topics covered include:

  • Earth origins:
    • Earth's elements and age
    • Earth differentiation and the Late Heavy Bombardment
    • Earth from petrological and geophysical perspectives
    • First continental crust and subduction initiation
  • Plate tectonics on a sphere
  • Mantle melting: 
    • Oceanic lithosphere and mid-ocean ridges 
    • Do mantle plumes exist?
    • Ocean island basalts 
    • Large igneous provinces
  • Thermal evolution of orogenic belts
  • Fault friction and slip
  • Subduction zone faults
  • Changing oceans, continents and biotas
  • New Zealand tectonics

Assessment is 40% internal (ongoing during the semester) and 60 % external (final exam).

Teaching Arrangements
Two lectures and one 3-hour laboratory per week.
Kearey, P., Klepeis, K.A., & Vine, F.J. 2009. Global tectonics. Wiley Blackwell. Third edition 2011. 482 pages
Course outline

GEOL353-Tectonics-outline.pdf (latest syllabus indicative of content next time the paper is taught)

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Environmental literacy, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Specific learning outcomes are:
  • Integrated and quantitative understanding of tectonic systems and tectonic processes
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Quantitative skills
  • Teamwork skills

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 08:00-08:50 9-13, 15-22
Wednesday 10:00-10:50 9-13, 15-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Thursday 09:00-11:50 9-13, 15-22