Geoscience Diploma: Course Details

Module 1: Organisms in context
TopicSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Biological classification of organismsHow organisms are classified
Linnean nomenclature
The five main phyla
Develop an understanding of the way that organisms are classified into major groups

Understand the principles of Linnean nomenclature

Recognise the main features of the five main phyla
Organisms and environmentsHow organisms adapt to their environmentAppreciate that different organisms can develop similar features to adapt to a given environment and that this occurs through genetic mutations over time
Evolution and ecosystemsEvolutionary changes; extinction eventsUnderstand that genetic mutations over time can give rise to new species

Appreciate that major environmental changes lead to extinction events and that new species then evolve to fill ecological niches vacant as a result of those changes
Module 2: Earth processes, rocks and mineral formation
TopicSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Earth structure & earthquakesEarthquake waves (P, S ) and how these help to identify the structure of the earthUnderstand that earthquake waves travel in different ways through the different layers of the earth.
Plate tectonic processesConvection currents in the Mantle, how these relate to types of plate boundary; the rock cycleUnderstand how and why convection currents move in the Mantle and that this movement is expressed at the Earth’s surface through differing tectonic plate movements.
Igneous rocks and how they formThe Rock Cycle; igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic processed and productsUnderstand how the three classes of rocks form; igneous processes and products and links to plate tectonics; types of magma and how these relate to types of volcanic activity; living with volcanoes.
Introduction to crystallography and mineralogyThe characteristics of the major rock-forming mineral groups, focusing on silicatesAppreciate the different crystal forms, draw and explain examples, and explain how these relate to rock-forming minerals; geometry of crystal forms, where they might form.
Surface processesErosion, transport and deposition; sediments and how they form; types of sediment (biogenic, clastic)Understand surface processes and how these relate to the deposition and occurrence of sediments, and how these later become compacted to form strata.
Sedimentary environmentsHow different environments can be recognised from characteristic features in sediment sequencesRecognise different sedimentary environments through identifying structures and graphic logs.
Metamorphic processes and productsHow rocks can be altered by heat and/or pressure to form metamorphic rocksUnderstand how heat and/or pressure can alter rocks which can undergo partial recrystallisation; types of metamorphism.
Module 3: Science and the Environment
TopicSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Environmental geologyEnergy resources, including oil and gas, metallic mineral mining; engineering geology; water supplyUnderstand how and where sources of water and energy are found and extracted; appreciation of the environmental impact of energy extraction, mining and extraxction of building & construction materials.
Engineering geologyExtraction of building & construction materials; dams & reservoirs; landslips and road construction; tunnelling; coastal erosion & defencesAppreciate types of building materials, construction and impact on the environment; slope stabilisation techniques and coastal management.
Environmental chemistryIntroduction to chemical
and biochemical phenomena occurring naturally; introduction to atmospheric, aquatic, soil chemistry
Understand how chemical processes are impacted by human activity
Environmental geophysicsGeophysics and water, oil and gas exploration; radioactive decay and age-dating of rocksUnderstand how resistivity is used to detect rock types (gamma ray); how radioactive decay helps with age-dating of igneous and metamorphic rocks.
Module 4: Fossils and environments
TopicSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Formation and preservation of fossilsHow fossils form and the processes involved (petrification; amber; replacement; peat & coal)

Exceptional preservation

Trace fossils.
Understand the different types of fossilisation and the processes responsible.

Appreciate that exceptional preservation of fossils can occur and that this gives useful insights into evolutionary changes and “snapshots” of biological communities otherwise only found in fragmentary state.

Recognise trace fossils as palaeo-environmental indicators and evidence of former organic activity.
Modes of life and fossil assemblages
Introduction to major fossil groups
Life modes of different fossil groups
Introduction to major fossil groups
Appreciate different ecological niches in continental shelf and deep ocean settings and understand how marine organisms adapt to these settings.

Recognise major fossil groups (including trilobites, brachiopods, bivalves, ammonites, microfossils, dinosaurs.
Applications of fossilsAge-dating of rocks and use
in correlating strata (oil & gas exploration); ecostratigraphy e.g. coastal changes; uses in analysis of archaeological sites
Understand how different species and assemblages can be used to age-date sediments and the applications of this knowledge.
Physics for geologistsRadiation, radioactive decay and dating of igneous rocks, wireline logging.

Geophysical analysis of reservoirs (water, oil, gas).
Understand isotopic decay and formation of daughter atoms, mass spectometry, application of wireline logs
Module 5: Practical techniques and data analysis
TopicSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Practical techniques in microscopyLaboratory basedDevelop the ability to recognise different organic features under the microscope, e.g. microbes; tissues; microfossils - such as foraminifera; prepare sediments and extraction of microfossils.
Practical techniques in environmental chemistryLaboratory, lecture and problem- solvingDevelop practical skills in environmental chemistry.
Practical techniques in ecologyField visit to FSC Field
Centre - Dale Fort, west Wales has excellent coastal ecology/ geology and students can sample plankton.
Apply practically the theory learnt in tutorials; recognise ecological zones and geological phenomena such as folding and faulting of strata; recognise different types of sedimentary rocks and fossils; collect data.
Statistical analysis of environmental dataFollow-up from data collected at Dale Fort- initially at FSC centre and written up afterwards.Analyse the data collected and apply statistical methods e.g.. Chi-squared; Spearman's Rank and others; develop written communication skills through writing up reports.
Module 6: Independent Research Project
TopicSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
ProjectTutor assigned to advise and monitor progress.Develop research skills: i.e. initial research to identify an area of interest; hypothesis formulation and testing; collect data and analyse; interpret and apply findings in the context of previously published research.

Study visits and fieldwork include:

Geoscience Diploma - Study visits and fieldwork
Summary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Study visitsVisits proposed to: Oxford Natural History Museum;
Natural History Museum London;
Lapworth Museum Birmingham University (combined with taster lectures- suggested by Birmingham University);
Winchester Science Centre
See rocks, minerals and fossils discussed in tutorials and be able to identify them, via worksheets.

Hands-on work and study will help to reinforce learning.

Taster lectures will give students a flavour of life at university.
FieldworkFieldwork at classic U.K. fossil locations (Jurassic Coast, famous quarries around Oxford) and overseas: Oman Ophiolite, and AzoresVisualise geological phenomena more easily through fieldwork, and see features in their natural settings; as well as provide opportunities for students to collect specimens for later processing and analysis (e.g. microfossils).

Optional modules include:

Geoscience diploma - Additional optional modules
ModuleSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Geopolitics of Energy and GovernanceThe impact of oil and gas exploration, production and consumption and attempts to limit emissions (Kyoto Treaty, Paris Accord, etc)Understand the environmental impact of coal, oil and gas extraction and uses. To understand international attempts to limit the burning of fossil fuels, and the political issues involved.
Mineral structure and chemistryMore advanced coverage of
the different mineral groups, focusing on crystal structure and chemistry.
Understand the structure and chemistry of the silicates; chain structures
and relationship to crystal form and characteristics (e.g. orthosilicates, phyllosilicates, aluminium phosphates, zeolites).