Micro to Macro: From Rock Properties to Plate Tectonics

Module code: GL1102
Module co-ordinator: Dr Stewart Fishwick

How does the Earth work? This is one of the fundamental questions in geosciences, whether we are considering the continued search for natural resources or investigating spectacular phenomenon such as earthquakes and volcanoes.

To answer this question, geoscientists must link observations made at the surface with an understanding of the processes that occur at depth. This module will provide you with the background necessary for geophysical investigations of the sub-surface. Which techniques can be used to study the Earth's interior? Which physical properties of rocks and minerals are important? How can we link these measurements with our observations and processes?

This module will develop your numerical and analytical skills, providing core knowledge and understanding for later modules.

Topics covered

  • Seismology: earthquakes and imaging the Earth's interior
  • Earth structure: crust, mantle, and core
  • Heat transport: conduction and convection
  • Magnetism: Earth's magnetic field, palaeomagnetism, sea-floor spreading
  • Gravity: linking topography with the subsurface density
  • Fluid flow: porosity and permeability
  • Plate tectonics: from ocean ridges to subduction zones


  • 18 hours of lectures
  • 45 hours of lectures
  • 87 hours of guided independent study


  • Practical (20%)
  • Multiple choice questions (10%)
  • Exam, 1½ hours (70%)