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Semester 1

Geological Evolution of the British Isles (EASC10124)


Earth Science





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Course Summary

This course provides students with an up-to-date overview of the main controls on the tectonic, sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic history of the British Isles. The lecture series provides a broad overview of the rock record of the British Isles within its global paleogeographic context. The practicals investigate individual case studies of particular events in the geological history of the British Isles, using specialist datasets or recent research literature. The course also integrates a variety of knowledge from previous courses and UK fieldtrips.

Course Description

The British Isles have a remarkably varied geological history for such a small fragment of continental crust, with a extraordinary rock record back stretching through three billion years of Earth History. This geological evolution would have been interesting enough if it had been played out on relatively stable continental crust. However, the British Isles have developed at a tectonic crossroads, on crust once traversed by subduction zones and volcanic arcs, continental rifts and mountain belts. The resulting geological complexity is instructive, fascinating and perplexing. This is further enhanced by the northwards drift of the province throughout its geological history, meaning that the majority of the geological history of the planet is represented within the stratigraphy of the British Isles. Syllabus Lectures 1. Introduction to course objectives, revision of the principles of stratigraphy (bio, chrono and litho) and basin analysis along with a summary of the Lewisian rocks of NW Scotland within their palaeographic context 2. Summary of the stratigraphy and depositional controls on Torridonian and Moine rocks of Scotland, and Precambrian of the remainder of the British Isles 3. Controls on deposition and metamorphism of the Dalradian rocks of Scotland and the Caledonian Orogeny 4. The Early Palaeozoic of British Isles: Cambrian-Ordovician-Silurian rocks within their palaeographic context 5. The Late Palaeozoic of British Isles: Devonian-Carboniferous-Permian rocks of the British Isles 6. The Mesozoic of British Isles: Triassic-Jurassic-Cretaceous rocks of the British Isles 7. The Cenozoic - Tertiary and Quaternary events in the British Isles Practicals 1. Stratigraphy of British Isles through Earth History - Examining a selection of hand specimens representing the paleogeography of UK through time through each period with a focus on their depositional environment and climatic controls. 2. The Stac Fada Member of the Torridonian Stoer Group: Ash fall or meteorite Impact deposit? - An introduction into how to get the most from an academic paper - Group presentation of a critical summary written during the class of a given research paper on the Stac Fada Member Please bring your laptop to this practical if you have one. 3. Snowball Earth - One snowball or several slush balls? - An in-depth look at the Snowball Earth hypothesis, including the triggers, duration and record of Neoproterozoic glaciation in the Britain and beyond Group presentations to be prepared in advance of the practical (papers to study will be provided at the end of the previous weeks practical) 4. Controls on Devonian and Carboniferous sedimentation in Britain - An in-depth study of the stratigraphy, depositional environment and controls on sedimentation acting in Britain during the Devonian and Carboniferous Periods 5. Episodes of extensional magmatism in the British Isles - Examination of the rock record of intra-plate volcanism which occurred in the British Isles during the Carboniferous and Permian Periods and at the outset of the Cenozoic Era, when the British Isles and continental Europe rifted away from North America. 6. Backstripping of the Conoco 15/30-1 Well - Using the back stripping technique to determine the tectonic subsidence and uplift in the Central North Sea - Understand the tectonic controls on Jurassic sedimentation in the North Sea Please bring a laptop to this practical if you have one.7. The record of Quaternary climate change from ocean sediments and exam revision session - Introduction to Foraminifera paleoclimatology in North Atlantic ocean sediments - Exam revision session will outline the exam format and how to answer the questions effectively as well as an opportunity to ask about any aspect of course. ***One day field trip scheduled for Saturday October 30th 2021. Location and logistics to be confirmed in light of Covid-19 restrictions in place at the time*** The preferred field trip option is a one day trip to Stonehaven to examine the Highland Boundary Fault and Highland Border complex. We will study the rock types and settings related to the genesis and emplacement of oceanic crust (ophiolite) along the contact between the metamorphic rocks of the Highlands to the north and the Old Red Sandstone (here Silurian) of the Midland Valley of Scotland to the south. A traverse through the Pentlands hills or excursion within the south Edinburgh area are backup locations should Covid19 restrictions require it.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

Additional Assessment Information

Course Work: 100% Coursework 1. A single A4 page synoptic event diagram summarising the major geological events shown by the rocks observed on the fieldtrip. (50%)2. A 4 page fully referenced essay chosen from a selection of topics provided for students to choose from at the end of Week 8. (50%)Assessment Deadlines - Synoptic Event Diagram 12 noon, Wednesday 3rd November 2021 (Week 7 - Semester 1)- 4 page fully referenced essay 12 noon, Wednesday 24th November 2021 (Week 10 Semester 1)

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