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Monash University

Monash University Handbook 2011 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 coordinatorMs Marion Anderson (Level one); Ms Marion Anderson (Level two); Dr Andy Tomkins (Level three); Professor Ray Cas (Honours)


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 training in applied geosciences, teaching students about sustainable use of the Earth's resources. Specialty 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, geographical science, 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 mining and mineral exploration, petroleum exploration, marine science, groundwater and surface water resource management, teaching, geological engineering and geotechnical surveys, environmental consulting, and geological survey work. 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 major 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, ESC2132, ESC3170, ESC3180 and ESC3411. 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:

  • generic field-based observational skills
  • effective communication
  • quantitative literacy
  • information and communication literacy
  • inquiry and critical thinking, and ethical, social and international understanding.

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
  • ESC3411 Sediments, basins and resources
  • ESC3421 Volcanology and igneous petrology

Sequence requirements

Minor sequence in geosciences (24 points)

Major sequence in geosciences (48 points)

Double major sequence in geosciences (72 points)

Requirements for honours in geosciences

Additional information

See coordinator details in table above.

Level one

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.

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 geographical science. 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 geographical science, 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.

Both ESC1011/ENV1011 and ESC1022 have one day field trips to sites of geological significance.

Level two

Students planning to complete a major in geosciences are required to complete ESC2111 and ESC2122. Other units offered at level two are paleontology unit ESC2032 and the Buchan field trip ESC2132.

In the second year of the geosciences curriculum, students will gain a firm understanding of global-scale geological processes, including plate tectonics, mountain building and sedimentation, mineral science, and volcanism. In addition to lecture and laboratory-based exercises, students will participate in several field-based activities that will sharpen their skills of data collection and interpretation of both small and large-scale geological structures.

In ESC2111, students will learn to interpret past geo-tectonic environments by deciphering stratigraphic and structural elements preserved in mountain belts and sedimentary basins. Because most of our planet is made of minerals, students will delve increasingly into the relationships between the structure, chemistry, physical and optical properties of minerals in ESC2122. Students will explore these concepts through laboratory exercises on crystal morphology and symmetry, optical mineralogy, and electron microscopy. An introduction to groundwater movement and quality emphasising its use and abuse by humans is also treated in ESC2122. Groundwater topics include predicting flow patterns, interactions with surface water, well drilling and pumping, groundwater contamination and remediation, and distribution of groundwater resources throughout Australia. In ESC2132, students will study the principles and practices of geological field mapping. They will quantify the deformation that occurs within Earth by measuring a variety of rock structures and discuss interpretations of the deformation patterns in the context of plate tectonics. Students may also elect to study how life on Earth has changed with time in the course: ESC2032. In this class students will learn to think in terms of the time scale of the Earth, which is more than 4.5 billion years old.

Students planning to complete a major in geosciences are required to complete ESC2111 and ESC2122; ESC2132 is also strongly recommended. Geoscience students enrolled in the Bachelor of Environmental Science are advised to complete the major in environmental geosciences to complement their other areas of study.

At least one other coherent package of 12 points at level two from another area of study (chemistry, physics, mathematics and statistics, biological sciences, computer science, geographical science) should be taken.

ESC2032, ESC2111, ESC2122, ESC2132 are also available to students wishing to take them as independent units to support other studies. Students not intending to proceed to level-three studies in geosciences may take any combination of level-two geosciences units.

Geophysics involves the application of physics, mathematics and computer methods to the investigation of the Earth's interior. Students who intend to major in geosciences are strongly advised to discuss their program with relevant members of staff.

Level three

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 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 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.


In addition to the requirements listed above, students must meet the entry requirements for the Science honours program relevant to their course of enrolment. See the entries for:

  • 2340 Bachelor of Environmental Science
  • 3520 Bachelor of Science Advanced with Honours
  • 0051 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science
  • 2188 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science (Science Scholar Program)

Full details regarding the course structure for honours in this area of study are outlined in course 0051 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science.

Relevant Courses

Single degrees

  • 2340 Bachelor of Environmental Science
  • 0050 Bachelor of Science
  • 3520 Bachelor of Science Advanced with Honours
  • 1120 Bachelor of Science (Science Scholar Program)

Double degrees

  • 0530 Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science
  • 3537 Bachelor of Arts (Global) and Bachelor of Science
  • 1469 Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Science
  • 3517 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Computer Science
  • 3711 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education
  • 1633 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education
  • 3278 Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering and Bachelor of Science
  • 4609 Bachelor of Environmental Engineering and Bachelor of Science
  • 3282 Bachelor of Mechatronics Engineering and Bachelor of Science
  • 0085 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Engineering
  • 0086 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Laws

Honours degrees

  • 0051 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science
  • 2188 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science (Science Scholar Program)