The Rock Cycle – Our Dynamic Earth

Module code: GL1101

Earth is a dynamic planet. The constituents of its various layers are in motion and subject to continuous changes with numerous interconnected and interdependent components. Earth’s rocks are forced to change as they encounter new environments. These dynamic transitions have recurred through geological time and form a fundamental concept in geology referred to as ‘The Rock Cycle’. This concept illustrates and explains how the three main rock types, namely igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks, are related to each other and how processes change from one rock type to another over time.

In this module, you'll explore Earth’s dynamic system, looking at the processes responsible for the formation and transformation of the three main rock types. You'll learn about the formation of our solar system, the origin of elements and the evolution of our planet through time. This module provides an introduction to the internal structure of our planet, the formation of magma and the parameters that control these processes. Exposure of rocks to the atmosphere leads to weathering and the formation of sedimentary rocks which in turn, like volcanic rocks, transform with increasing pressure and temperature to metamorphic rocks.

This module offers a practical introduction to the rock cycle using specimens and thin sections from our extensive undergraduate teaching collection. You'll be expected to contribute to practical and seminars individually and as part of a team.

Topics covered

  • Learn about the formation of the solar system, the origin of elements and evolution of our planet Earth over time
  • Define, interpret and link the main processes responsible for the formation and transformation of the three principal rock types and understand the holistic relationship and interplay between Earth’s various layers 
  • Learn how to identify common igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks in hand specimen and thin section, and produce illustrated technical descriptions and interpretations
  • Use simple mathematical equations to calculate physical conditions in the Earth, mineral properties and interpret igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary processes
  • Work effectively as part of a small team and reflect on the experience of developing transferable skills
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