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Earth Systems Science



[BSc], EES, S

Admission Requirements

None. The course is not intended for students who previously enrolled in Global Challenges: Earth with Hudson (Block 2, 2013).


The primary goal of this course is to examine the formation and processes that shape the Earth’s surface, with a focus on understanding the interaction between Earth’s four major spheres: The lithosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere. A secondary course goal is to examine how humans modify Earth’s surface, particularly from the perspective of managing environmental change and natural hazards. The course adapts a systems and process approach, and students will also be introduced to fundamental concepts in Earth science that serve as a foundation for advanced courses.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course the student should be able to or can;

  • identify and characterize Earth’s four major spheres;

  • understand and characterize the Earth as a complex system, that includes interactions and feedbacks between different phenomena;

  • critically evaluate environmental issues portrayed in the media through the lens of Earth science;

  • identify and characterize fundamental ways in which humans impact the Earth,

  • identify and characterise ways in which Earth sciences is important to environmental management and sustainability.

Mode of Instruction

The course format is dynamic lecture style, with questions and discussion which engage the instructor and students. The educational approach of the course is to introduce and review fundamenal processes and then link these to broader environmental problems and management. Class discussion requires that students have read prior to coming to class so that they can constructively participate in structured and ad-hoc discussion.


In-class participation: 10% (continuous)
Short quizzes: 2 @ 10% each = 20% (Friday of weeks 2 and 6)
Media critique: 15% (due Friday week 7)
Mid-terms: 25% (Friday week 4)
Final exam (Week 8): 30% (tbd)


The required textbook for this course is:

Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology. Prentise Hall. Authors: Tarbuck, E.J., Lutgens, F.K, and Tasa, D.G. 2014 (

Please note: save yourself some Euro! You may use the 8th, 9th, 10th, or 11th edition of this book, but not older!

Online readings distributed via LUC Blackboard (technical materials and resources not available in text), including a variety of outlets (newspaper, magazine, Internet, etc…) that pertain to Earth Science in the mainstream media and popular culture.

Contact Information

Weekly Overview

  • Week 1 Course overview and introduction

  • Week 2 Plate tectonics and the rock cycle

  • Week 3 Volcanism, Field trip to Naturalis

  • Week 4 Soils, weathering, and land degradation, Midterm exam (Friday)

  • Week 5 Mass wasting, Groundwater resources

  • Week 6 Rivers, flooding and climate change

  • Week 7 Coastlines, deltas and sea level rise; Field trip to Delta Works and coast, Integration of topics and course wrap-up

  • Week 8 Reading Week: Final Exam\