Advanced Field Course: Urban Geology

Module code: GL4106
Module co-ordinator: Professor Jan Zalasiewicz

Towns and cities are now home for more than half of the seven billion people on Earth. Analysing the geology of urban areas is hugely important, not only in terms of potential resources and their management, but also as part of the management of actual and potential environmental problems. The geology itself is made complex by combining solid and drift geology units, albeit largely hidden under man-made constructions. Additional complications stem from geometrically complex masses of artificial ground, from underground constructions such as metro systems, and from concentrations of geochemical anomalies caused by various pollutants. Its analysis relies on a mixture of classical field analysis, novel field- and lab-based techniques such as GIS, and the interrogation of geological databases.

This module introduces some of the major features of urban geology with specific reference to Leicester, introduced through fieldwork and seminars, and outlines the ways in which the geology of urban areas may be systematically analysed.

Topics covered

  • The Anthropocene concept
  • Growth of megacities and their geological consequences
  • Field techniques to analyse solid, drift, and anthropogenic geology in urban areas, including the use of shallow geophysics
  • Practical aspects of urban geology, including building stones
  • GIS techniques applied to towns and cities
  • Use of geological databases in analysis of urban areas


  • 5 hours of lectures
  • 4 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 32 hours of fieldwork
  • 109 hours of guided independent study


  • Field assessment (15%)
  • Report (85%)