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Monash University

Monash University Handbook 2010 Undergraduate - Area of Study

All areas of study information should be read in conjunction with the relevant course entry in the Handbook. The units listed for this area of study relate only to the 'Requirements' outlined in the Faculty of Science component of any bachelors double degrees.

Managing facultyFaculty of Science
Offered bySchool of Geosciences
Course coordinatorListed below for each level.


Geosciences is a multidisciplinary science that seeks to understand the Earth's dynamic systems. The geosciences program provides students with an insight into both present-day processes and how the Earth has changed over geological time, including an understanding of how its chemical, physical and biological systems (eg plate tectonics, volcanoes, mountain belts, ocean basins, earthquakes, groundwater and surface water, the biosphere and the atmosphere) are interrelated, and how they have shaped the planet on which we live. Additionally, units in environmental geosciences, mineral and petroleum exploration, and geophysics provide applied geosciences applications relevant for sustainable use of the Earth's resources. Speciality streams within the geosciences include geology, environmental geosciences, geophysics, geochemistry, volcanology and palaeontology. In addition, the discipline draws on, and has links with, numerous allied sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, geography, information technology, mathematics and atmospheric science.

The core geosciences program examines the major geological processes on planet Earth within a plate tectonic framework. All units are multidisciplinary and reflect both the broad scope and the interaction between the different Earth systems. Further, the units develop transferable skills such as logical thinking, data manipulation, problem solving, team building, research and communication. Careers in geosciences are varied and include mineral and petroleum exploration, marine science, groundwater and surface water resources, teaching, geological engineering and geotechnical surveys, environmental consulting, and resource evaluation. There are also opportunities for geosciences research and development in the university, government, and private sectors. Additionally, the transferable skills developed are in wide demand within the science and non-science sectors of the economy.


On completion of the sequence in geosciences, the student will have gained a basic understanding and appreciation of the major disciplines in Earth sciences, including: plate tectonics and mountain building; erosion, weathering and sedimentation; igneous and metamorphic processes; palaeontology and biostratigraphy; hydrogeology; environmental geosciences; geophysics; radiometric dating; and the composition and origins of the solar system.

In addition the students will gain a detailed understanding of:

  • the main geological processes, and how they have controlled the evolution of the Earth's core, mantle, crust, landforms, biosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere throughout its history
  • geological timescales, and the various rates at which natural processes operate
  • the major geological hazards (volcanoes, earthquakes, mass wasting) and the nature and limitations of hazard prediction and monitoring
  • the Earth's natural resources (minerals, fossil fuels, water), their nature and origin and techniques for exploration
  • physical and chemical hydrogeology in both natural and impacted groundwater systems
  • how the fossil record helps constrain major past environmental changes
  • natural vs anthropogenic impacts to climate and the global environment
  • the applications geophysics, remote sensing, and geographic information system techniques to mineral exploration, environmental change, and hazard monitoring.

Fieldwork is a key part of this sequence. Most units incorporate some fieldwork and it is a significant component of ESC2111, ESC2122, ESC2192, ESC3170 and ESC3180. The field component leads to a direct understanding of the workings of the Earth, and how different processes (eg tectonics, volcanology, sedimentation, and environmental change) are all linked.

Studies in geosciences include lecture, practical, and field-based teaching and the student will also gain training in a number of generic skills such as:

  • researching topics and presenting data / arguments in oral and written form
  • integration of lecture material with laboratory and field data
  • group learning
  • objectivity in analysis, and separating science from politics in addressing contentious issues
  • integration of research and teaching in the curriculum
  • generic field-based observational skills.

Completion of an appropriate program of study will prepare students for both post-graduate studies and employment in earth science or related science fields.


Level one

  • ESC1011 Planet Earth and its environment: The cosmic connection
  • ESC1022 Planet Earth: Dynamic systems, environmental change and resources

Level two

  • ESC2032 The dynamic biosphere: Changing fauna through geological time
  • ESC2111 The dynamic Earth I: Building of continents and the environment
  • ESC2122 The dynamic Earth II: Global processes
  • ESC2132 Field geology

Level three

  • ESC3162 Ore deposit geology and global metallogeny
  • ESC3170 Field geology of New Zealand
  • ESC3180 Field mapping
  • ESC3190 Hydrogeology
  • ESC3200 Earth sciences project
  • ESC3201 Deformation and metamorphism of the crust
  • ESC3232 The dynamic biosphere: Changing fauna and flora through geological time
  • ESC3311 Geophysics: Regional mapping
  • ESC3332 Global dynamics and crustal evolution
  • ESC3340 Geophysics: Special topics
  • ESC3410 Earth sciences special studies 1
  • ESC3411 Sediments, basins and resources
  • ESC3420 Earth sciences special studies 2
  • ESC3421 Volcanology and igneous petrology

Sequence requirements

Minor sequence in geosciences (24 points)

Major sequence in geosciences (48 points)

Note: Students in course 2340 Bachelor of Environmental Science (only) may use ENV1011 (Planet earth and its environment: The cosmic connection) and ENV1022 (Australian physical environments: Evolution, status and management) as a level one ESC sequence for a major or a minor sequence in geosciences. Students wishing to undertake honours in geoscience must complete at least 24 points of ESC units at level three including two of ESC3201, ESC3411 and ESC3421.


Level one

Coordinator: Ms Marion Anderson (School of Geosciences)

First-year students studying geosciences should include the 12-point combination ESC1011/ENV1011 and ESC1022 along with SCI1020 (Introduction to statistical reasoning) or STA1010 (Statistical methods for science), and at least one of chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, computer science or physical geography. Students aiming to specialise in palaeontology should also take units from biological sciences. Similarly those with interests in environmental science are advised to take two of biology, chemistry and geography, while those with interests in geophysics are advised to take physics and/or mathematics.

ESC1011 is of interest to students seeking a broad overview of earth and environmental sciences. ESC1022 provides a continued overview of geosciences, in particular the processes that have shaped the Earth's crust through its evolution.

Level two

Coordinator: Dr Jonathan Castro (School of Geosciences)

Students planning to complete a major in geosciences are required to complete ESC2111 and ESC2122.

Level three

Coordinator: Dr Andy Tomkins (School of Geosciences)

The level-three program in geosciences consists of several 6-point units in geology, geophysics and environmental geosciences that may be taken in any combination depending on the student's interests and the units completed at level two. Students interested in continuing with geosciences at honours or masters level or becoming professional geologists, geophysicists or environmental geoscientists should take 48 points of level three geoscience units. Students wishing to undertake honours or course 0054 Master of Science Preliminary (MScPrelim) in geosciences must complete at least 24 points of level three ESC units, including at least two of ESC3201, ESC3411 and ESC3421. Students wishing to complete a major in geosciences but not to progress to honours or MScPreliminary may take any combination of level three ESC units. Students should choose units with regard to their interests, experience and future aspirations. Advice on suitable combinations of units for various geosciences streams is available from the School of Geosciences and all students are urged to seek advice before choosing sequences of units. Students interested in the geosciences project unit (ESC3200) must obtain permission from the third-year coordinator before enrolling.

Students interested in geophysics should combine the level three units (ESC3410, ESC3311, ESC3332) with other level-three units from geosciences, mathematics or physics.

Level four

Coordinator: Professor Ray Cas (School of Geosciences)

At fourth-year level, students may choose to do either a one-year honours program or the Master of Science preliminary (MSc Preliminary) program. Both programs involve coursework, seminars and a major research project. Entry into the honours program or the MSc Preliminary requires completion of 24 points of third year ESC units, including two of ESC3201, ESC3411 and ESC3421.

Full details regarding entrance requirements and course structure for honours is described in the course entry in this Handbook for the course 0051 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science.