Fundamentals of Earth Science I

Marc HUMBLET Associate Professor

Department: G30

Class Time: 2014 Fall Monday
Recommended for: 1st year 1st semester

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Aim of the course

The study of planet Earth embraces a wide range of topics, from the formation of rocks to the evolution of life. In this course, we will talk about plate tectonics, the fundamental theory underlying all geological processes which have shaped the environment in which we live and continue to modify the landscape, from the slow and progressive uplift of mountain chains to violent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The students will learn how the Earth recycles matter and how minerals and rocks form and are transformed. One chapter of the course is dedicated to the issue of time, central in earth science, and tackles the question of how the age of rocks and geological events can be determined. We will then take a step back and look at Earth’s 4.5 billion year history to see how the Earth’s geography has changed and how life has evolved. Besides providing a basic and up-to-date knowledge of the essential concepts of earth sciences, the aim of this course is to stimulate the interest and curiosity of the students for the study of planet Earth and provoke questions, comments, and discussions about issues related to earth sciences.

Key Features

The students are encouraged to ask questions during the class. Active participation in class is welcome as it makes the lectures livelier and promotes exchanges of ideas and opinions. I am also available outside lecture time and students should not hesitate to contact me if they need clarifications.

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close Syllabus

Content of the course

  1. Earth Sciences: an introduction
  2. The solar system
  3. Plate tectonics
  4. Minerals: rock’s elementary building blocks
  5. Rocks and rock cycle I: igneous rocks
  6. Rocks and rock cycle II: sedimentary rocks
  7. Rocks and rock cycle III: metamorphic rocks
  8. The age of rocks
  9. Earth history I: paleogeography
  10. Earth history II: origin and evolution of life

Practical classes

The students will examine hand-size rock samples and rock thin sections chosen to illustrate the different rock types and geological structures seen during the course. In addition, the students will also participate in a one-day field trip to examine the geology of Mizunami area (Gifu Prefecture), examine Miocene fossils and sediments (20-15 million years old), and learn how geologists collect data in the field.

Notice for Students

Handouts of lecture notes and slides will be distributed during the class. Students can refer to the reference books indicated if they wish to have complementary information about the subjects covered by the course. The books are available at the science library.

Reference Books

  • John Grotzinger, Understanding Earth 6/e (ISBN:9781429240031 or 9781429219518)
  • Diane Carlson, Physical Geology International Edition (ISBN:9780071221849)


  • Two quizzes (multiple choice): 20% (10% each)
  • Mid-term exam: 40%
  • Final exam: 40%
  • Students will be graded following the five-step S-A-B-C-F grade evaluation system.
  • S: 90-100%, A: 80-89%, B: 70-79%, C:60-69%, F: 59-0%

A student will be given an "Absent" grade if he or she submits a Course Withdrawal Request by the 15th of November. This deadline does not apply to students who drop the class part-way through for an exceptional reason (e.g. illness, accident).

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Lecture Handouts

Full Documents
Full Documents (PDF, 3795KB)
Session #1
Introduction (PDF, 353KB)
Session #2
Formation of the solar system (PDF, 358KB)
Session #3
The Earth system (PDF, 246KB)
Session #4
Minerals: rock’s elementary building block (PDF, 308KB)
Session #5
Introduction to rocks (PDF, 214KB)
Session #6
Igneous rocks (PDF, 278KB)
Session #7
Sedimentary rocks (PDF, 409KB)
Session #8
Metamorphic rocks (PDF, 243KB)
Session #9
The age of rocks (PDF, 555KB)
Session #10
Continents: structure and history (PDF, 223KB)
Session #11
Origin and evolution of life (part 1) (PDF, 320KB)
Session #12
Origin and evolution of life (part 2) (PDF, 355KB)

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Page last updated December 8, 2015

The class contents were most recently updated on the date indicated. Please be aware that there may be some changes between the most recent year and the current page.

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