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Sample courses

Courses in Dalhousie’s Earth Sciences Department start from the ground up. You’ll learn the basics of how geologic structures were formed, and how changes are still happening deep within the geosphere—the solid part of the Earth.

Our Earth Sciences profs are passionate about their areas of specialization, from igneous petrology (the study of volcanic rocks) to sedimentary petrology (the study of rocks formed from layers of sediment deposited along riverbeds).

Some Earth Sciences courses are mandatory to fulfill your degree requirements. But you’ll also be able to take a variety of electives—so you can explore and find the aspect of geology you’re most interested in.

ERTH 1060
Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Natural Disasters

Earthquakes, meteorite impacts, rapid climate change, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, landslides, solar flares, and floods—all are natural disasters that affect our economy, public policy, and safety. Where, why, and how frequently do natural disasters occur? Are predictions possible? Are media portrayals of risk and damage realistic? In this class, aimed at the non-specialist, you’ll investigate these intriguing questions. Excerpts from disaster films, as well as lectures and discussions, will help identify the causes, consequences, and sometimes erroneous perceptions of natural hazards. Examples from Atlantic Canada and other contemporary disasters will help you assess local risk and real-time events worldwide.

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites.

ERTH 3000
Earth Sciences Field School

This course provides two weeks of geological mapping in the field and entails: (1) Research and preparation of preliminary report prior to field school; (2) identifying, measuring and localizing rocks and geological structures; (3) drawing geological maps from field observations and (4) writing a report describing and interpreting the data.

NOTES: The class is held at the end of summer before regular classes in the fall term and required for BSc Major and Honours programs.

Prerequisites: ERTH 2002.03, ERTH 2110.03, ERTH 2203.03

ERTH 2001
Earth Materials Science I

Materials from the Earth—including minerals, petroleum, water, and soil—form the basis of our industrial society and are vital to the Canadian economy. In this class, and its companion, ERTH 2002, you’ll be introduced to the origin, distribution, and chemical and physical properties of some important Earth materials. Special attention will be paid to the fundamental structure and composition of common rock-forming minerals such as quartz, feldspar, and mica, and to materials with special value to society, including iron, copper, and gemstones. In the lab, you’ll learn practical skills, including how to identify minerals in samples, elements of crystallography, and some important analytical techniques using the petrographic microscope. You may also take a weekend field trip or visit analytical facilities at Dalhousie.

This class is a prerequisite for ERTH 2002.03 and most third-year Earth Sciences classes. If you have not already taken CHEM 1010 or its equivalent, you are strongly encouraged to take it concurrently.

Prerequisites: ERTH 1080 and one other first-year Earth Sciences class (ERTH 1090 recommended); or SCIE 1502, 1504 or 1510; and CHEM 1011/1012, or CHEM 1021/1022; chemistry majors should consult the department.

ERTH 2205
Introduction to Paleontology

You’ll need to take this class if you’re doing an honours or advanced major degree in Earth Sciences—or if you’re just curious about the paleobiology of invertebrate animals. You’ll learn about all major invertebrate life forms that leave a fossil record from the earliest Pre-Cambrian to modern times. The class will also cover geologic time scale, principles of stratigraphy, radiometric dating, and the early history of paleontology. Your labs have two components: a regular lab to look at the various animal fossils discussed in class, and a lab project comprising a class field trip, sample collection, fossil extraction (in the lab), and a written report.

Prerequisites: ERTH 2203 or ERTH 1080, BIOL 1000, or permission of the instructor

ERTH 3010
Igneous Petrology

This upper-level class introduces you to the study of the field relations, mineralogy, texture, and geochemistry of volcanic and plutonic rocks. In lectures, you’ll discuss the classification, graphical representation, means of production, differentiation, and emplacement of igneous rocks, and their grouping into co-magmatic provinces (areas of igneous rock that are the same type and age). To enhance lectures and discussions, you’ll go on field trips and participate in related laboratory investigations.

Prerequisites: ERTH 2001 and ERTH 2002