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    Study planetary differentiation, composition and tectonic processes to learn how Earth has evolved from the formation of the Solar System to modern-day plate tectonics.

    This paper explores tectonic systems and how these have shaped Earth, from the beginning of Earth to the modern day. They will bring together data from different geological disciplines to address topics such as planetary accretion, planet differentiation, mantle convection, the origin of subduction, mountain building, formation of continental and oceanic crust, and Zealandia tectonics.

    About this paper

    Paper title Earth Evolution and Plate Tectonics
    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.
    EAOS 111 and/or GEO112, and 72 200-level points from Science Schedule C
    Schedule C
    Students must be prepared to attend field trips outside of regular semester time.

    Teaching staff

    Coordinator;  Professor David J 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
    Teaching Arrangements

    Two lectures and one lab per week
    Optional tutorials
    One fieldtrip


    Textbooks are not required for this paper.

    Course outline

    GEOL353-Tectonics-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, 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


    Semester 1

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Wednesday 10:00-10:50 9-13, 16-22
    Thursday 08:00-08:50 9-13, 15-16, 18-22


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Thursday 09:00-11:50 9-13, 16, 18-22
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