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GEOL251 Minerals and Rocks

Mineralogy, element distribution in rocks, x-ray techniques, silicate crystal structures, mineral and rock compositions. Crystal optics and mineral identification using the petrographic microscope. Introductory petrography, petrology and classification of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.

This paper introduces the physical and chemical principles that control the crystallisation of minerals. A practical and theoretical background to mineral optics, essential to identifying minerals, is provided using petrographic microscopes. Mineralogical knowledge is then applied to the classification of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. This is a compulsory course for all students intending to major in Geology at Otago, and is also a prerequisite to several of the optional 200-300 level papers.

Paper title Minerals and Rocks
Paper code GEOL251
Subject Geology
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,110.75
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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GEOL 112 or GEOX 112
Schedule C
Background requirements: A basic knowledge of high-school level chemistry will be helpful.
Teaching staff

Co-ordinator: Dr Marco Brenna
Professor David Prior

Paper Structure

Lectures will integrate the five themes of the paper:

  • Crystallography
  • Optical mineralogy
  • Igneous rocks
  • Sedimentary rocks
  • Metamorphic rocks

Assessment is approximately an even split between internal (on-going during the semester) and external (final exam).

Teaching Arrangements

Two 2-hour practicals each week.

Klein, C. & Philpotts A.R., 2017 Earth Materials. Cambridge University Press

Nesse, W. 2012. Introduction to Optical Mineralogy. Oxford University Press
Course outline

View the latest course outline

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Interdisciplinary perspective, Critical thinking, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper will have

  • Ability to identify a variety of common minerals and rocks in hand specimen
  • Basic understanding of crystallography and its relationship to optical mineralogy
  • Use of transmitted polarised light microscope to identify minerals and rocks in hand specimen
  • Basic understanding of mineral- and rock-forming processes

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 09:00-09:50 9-14, 17-22
Wednesday 12:00-12:50 9-14, 17-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 14:00-16:50 9-14, 17-22