Accessibility statement

Our Dynamic Earth - ENV00001C

« Back to module search

  • Department: Environment and Geography
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Mark Hodson
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

From the 'Big Bang' to the rise of human civilisation, and the consequences of our over exploitation of natural resources, this module draws on physics, chemistry, geology and biology to develop an understanding of how our planet works and how humankind has influenced, and is influenced, by it.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

The purpose of this module is to teach students where our planet came from, how it “works” and how human activities impact on and are impacted by natural processes. The module will provide an integrated view of how the earth works as a system considering how the different spheres of our planet, the geosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere and atmosphere have interacted in the past to create an environment suitable for human life and the energy transformations that have accompanied this. The module will go on to consider humans as part of the system and the consequences of human activities on how the planet functions. Topics covered in the module include an introduction to systems and scale, the big bang and the formation of the universe and planets, the differentiation of the earth into different layers, controls on the earth’s temperature, plate tectonics, the origins of life, evolution and extinction, oxygen and the evolution of the atmosphere, natural climate change, the emergence of humans, human impacts on the planet, the impacts of natural processes on humans and the sustainable use of the earth’s resources. The module will also include several practicals including geological dating methods, rock identification and carbon and water footprinting.

Module learning outcomes

On completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the evolution of the planet Earth
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the dynamic nature of our planet
  • Explain the causes and consequences of extreme events and catastrophes
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of the interactions of different components of the Earth system
  • Explain the impacts of human behaviour on the habitability of the Earth
  • Demonstrate knowledge of basic Earth processes
  • Identify rock types
  • Demonstrate an understanding of systems and positive and negative feedbacks


Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
Closed Exam
2 hours 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
Closed Exam
2 hours 100

Module feedback

Formative feedback includes online quiz feedback that will be provided immediately after completion of the quiz and real time feedback during practical sessions. Feedback on assessments and reassessments will be timetabled to occur after the exams have been held. Ongoing verbal feedback throughout the module.

Indicative reading

Marshak, S. (2015) Earth: Portrait of a Planet. 5th edition. Norton & Co.

Langmuir, C. H., & Broecker, W. (2012). How to build a habitable Planet. In How to Build a Habitable Planet. Princeton University Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.