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    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.

    About this paper

    Paper title Natural Hazards of NZ and Beyond
    Subject Geology
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $1,173.30
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    90 points including EAOS 111 and/or GEOL 112 and/or GEOG and/or ENVI papers
    GEOL 365
    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
     Associate Professor Caroline Orchiston
    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 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 laboratory 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, K. (2013). Environmental hazards: assessing risk and reducing disaster. (6th edition), Routledge, 478pp.
    Available at the University Bookshop for $99.50 and from the publisher as an ebook. A copy of this book will also be held on close reserve in the Science 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 gained understandings of the following:

    • The physical basis for natural hazards
    • How society approaches hazard management in terms of disaster risk reduction, response planning, and community-led preparedness measures.
    • The differences between hazard and risk
    • How hazards are quantified
    • Evaluating and communicating the nature of natural hazards through theoretical frameworks and case studies


    Semester 1

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


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


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    Attend one stream from
    A1 Monday 14:00-16:50 9-13, 17-22
    A2 Tuesday 09:00-11:50 9-13, 17-22
    A3 Tuesday 14:00-16:50 9-13, 17-22
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