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GEOL365 Natural Hazards of NZ and Beyond

Investigate the physical basis, impact and mitigation of natural hazards associated with earthquakes, tsunami, volcanoes, mass movement, floods, severe storms and environmental change.

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 NZ and Beyond
Paper code GEOL365
Subject Geology
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023, expected to be offered in 2024 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,141.35
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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EAOS 111 and/or GEOL 112 and/or GEOG and/or ENVI papers, and 72 200-level points from Science Schedule C
Schedule C

GEOL 265 is for students in their second year of a geology, geography or other degree.
GEOL 365 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 James White
Dr Caroline Orchiston

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 GEOL 265/365 is split between internal (60%) and external (40%) assessment. GEOL 365 includes an extra assignment to the number required for GEOL 265. Students in GEOL 365 will be expected to demonstrate greater background knowledge and abilities than students in GEOL 265.

Teaching Arrangements

Two lectures and one lab per week.

Fieldwork: Local 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)
Course outline

Course outline (previous syllabus indicative of content next time the paper is taught)

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

Students who successfully complete this paper will have:

  • 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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Not offered in 2023, expected to be offered in 2024

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system