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Undergraduate courses: GLG1-GLG3

First Year BSc: GLG1

Geology 1 is made up of two semester credits: Introduction to Earth Science (EAR) 101 and Geology (GLG) 102. The EAR101 course may be taken on its own and it is also a prerequisite for GLG102, GOG 102 (Geography), and Environmental Science.

INTRODUCTION TO EARTH SCIENCE 101: 1st semester (February - June)

This is a stand-alone semester credit offered jointly by the Departments of Geology and Geography. The course consists of lectures, tutorials, practicals, essays and a field trip and offers a broad introduction to Earth Science. Details of the EAR101 course are in a separate handbook. Please refer to it.

Students wishing to proceed to the second year of Geology (and/or Geography) must have passed both Earth Science 101 (EAR101) and Geology (GLG) 102 (Geography, GOG102). An aggregate pass in Geology 1 may be awarded provided that all subminima in both credits have been obtained. NB: Earth Science 101 can be aggregated with either Geology 102 or Geography 102 to obtain credit in Geology 1 or Geography 1, but not both. Please refer to the related student handbooks in the Online Resources section for details of the course contents and rules.

GEOLOGY 102: 2nd semester (July - October)

This course gives a more in-depth introduction to solid Earth Science, building on the material covered in EAR101. The course examines, in more detail, the building blocks of the Earth – rocks, their classification, and the processes responsible for their formation. The course looks at how these materials deform and change when subjected to stresses within the Earth. The course also examines the concepts of geological time and stratigraphy and the formation of mineral deposits, particularly with reference to southern Africa.


Second and Third Year BSc: GLG2 and GLG3

The second and third years of the BSc program are devoted to completing the formal undergraduate education in the fields of mineralogy, geochemistry, igneous petrology, sedimentology, hydrogeology and structural geology/tectonics, and palaeontology. Although these topics might only be formally encountered again at Honours level, the knowledge gained at this level underpins much of the material covered in the third year.

By the end of the year you should be able to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the theory, principles and practice of mineralogy, palaeontology, sedimentology and igneous petrology. You should be able to describe, identify, and interpret minerals and sedimentary and igneous rocks using microscopic and field techniques and explain genetic processes that led to their formation. You should be able to demonstrate through fieldwork, both on your own and in teams, that you can map and interpret geological features.

You also should be able to process data, use all available library and information sources to analyse and evaluate a wide range of information, and present the results in logical verbal and written forms in seminars, essays and reports.

Knowledge and skills will be assessed by means of written theory and practical assignments, seminars, field reports, tests and examinations.

By the end of the third year you should be able to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the theory, principles and practice in core subjects of Geology. You should be able to describe, identify and interpret igneous and metamorphic rocks and minerals, deformed rocks, ore deposits and economic minerals, and show competence in working with geological and structural maps. It is important too that you recognise and understand the interrelationship among the various fields of geoscience.

You should be able to work independently and in teams in fieldwork and to demonstrate basic research-, creative problem-solving- and critical thinking-skills. At this level you should show well-developed communication skills and be able to structure logical arguments in both verbal and written forms in seminars, essays and reports.

The Teaching Plan‌ in the Online Resources section shows when different modules are offered in our undergraduate program.


Optical Mineralogy: An essential tool in geosciences is the examination of rocks and minerals using the polarising microscope. A two-week module covers the behaviour of light in crystalline solids, the optical properties of rock-forming minerals (colour, refractive index, birefringence, optic sign, etc.), and their identification under the microscope. The main emphasis is on the practical aspects of mineral identification.

Mineralogy/Geochemistry: This is essentially a “tools” course and covers a wide spread of topics fundamental to many aspects of geology. The lectures cover the systematic mineralogy (structure and chemistry) of rock-forming silicate minerals, basic geochemistry (why do particular minerals attract particular chemical elements?), an introduction to phase diagrams, petrological calculations and geochronology (the dating of rocks). The accompanying practicals deal with the identification of common minerals using the transmitted-light polarising microscope. The lectures will be supplemented with a series of problems to be solved in the student’s own time.

Palaeontology: Palaeontology is the study of life, in its many varied forms throughout geological history. This course complements the study of sedimentary rocks and emphasises how fossils can be used as tools to solve geological problems and understand ancient depositional environments. An introduction to the evolution of life from the earliest of time is presented and followed in more detail by a review of the fossil record from 600 million years to present. Topics covered include the study of invertebrates, vertebrates, plants, trace fossils and extinctions. The course includes a compulsory weekend Field Course.

Sedimentology: The sedimentology courses provide an overview of the principles of sedimentology and facies analysis, studied in relationship to sedimentary processes, products and environments. The ability to identify various properties of sediments and sedimentary rocks with respect to their depositional environment is vital in many fields of geology, particularly in environmental and mining geology. The first part of the course includes petrographic analysis of siliciclastic sedimentary rocks and reconstruction of their depositional environments, while the second part deals with carbonate rock petrography and facies analysis.

Hydrogeology: In this usually two-week course you will be exposed to the study of source, occurrence and movement of groundwater. The course will have a special focus on the evaluation of groundwater resources in southern Africa where management on this fresh water source is increasingly important. This short course will present the factors influencing the dynamics of groundwater flow, water table fluctuations and the evolution of drainage basins from geological point of view.

Igneous Petrology: This course covers the composition and classification of igneous rocks, the petrology of mantle and crust, and the processes by which magmas are generated and differentiate. This is followed by discussion of the systematics of major igneous rock associations such as basalts, arc volcanism, and granites and rhyolites.

Metamorphic Petrology: This course covers the fundamental “what, why, how and where” concepts of metamorphism. The content includes definitions; limits; types of metamorphism; classification of metamorphic rocks and textures; controlling factors of metamorphism; progressive metamorphism of common rock types; grades and facies of metamorphism in contact, regional and burial metamorphism; determination of metamorphic temperatures and pressures; tectonic settings of metamorphism. Weekly practicals involve metamorphic mineral identification, description and interpretation using the petrographic microscope.

Structural Geology and Tectonics: There are two courses of 3-4 weeks each. The module in the second semester of the 2nd year (GLG202) we cover the characteristics and origins of geologic structures in the brittle, semi-brittle and plastic fields of deformation and cover all scales in which structures may form. The second course in GLG301 deals structural processes in larger scale, discussing effects caused by plate tectonics (erosion, sedimentary basin formation, magmatic activity, metamorphism, ore formation, lithospheric plate interactions, etc.). Practical sessions may include map work, field exercises, stereographic projection techniques, hand specimen examination, and case study work.

Low-Temperature Geochemistry/Isotope Geochemistry: This is a three-week course (with two or three practicals) presenting an introduction to the main principles and applications of light stable isotope and trace element geochemistry in (near-)surface environments. The main emphasis of the course is on the use of such geochemical “proxies” towards understanding low-temperature ore-forming processes and the evolution of palaeoenvironments.

Economic Geology: This course deals with the processes and environments of formation of mineral deposits, and covers the following topics: introduction and geochemical classification of the elements; classification, stabilities and textures of the ore minerals; classification of mineral deposits; mineral deposits related to various rock types, processes and environments including: mafic-ultramafic igneous rocks, felsic intrusions, subaerial volcanism, submarine volcanism, volcanism and sedimentation, clastic sedimentation, weathering, regional metamorphism and solution-remobilisation. Southern African examples are emphasised.

Last Modified: Mon, 03 Feb 2020 20:41:08 SAST