Petrology, Volcanology and Geochemistry


This module begins with an investigation into the physical and chemical makeup of the primitive solar nebula the solar system, asteroids/meteorites and planets – with emphasis on Earth. Focus then moves onto the planet Earth where the major planetary reservoirs are examined. The discussion begins with the crystals and minerals that represent the 'basic building blocks of rocks'. Time is spent learning about basic theory about crystallography and mineralogy. The properties of all classes of minerals (including structure and composition) are discussed so that mineral identification can be accomplished in hand specimen. However, particular reference is given to the main rock-forming mineral groups. The module then moves on to the introduction of the petrological microscope whereby the principles of basic petrography are undertaken. This enables the rock-forming minerals to be studied in thin section. After the principles of petrography have been introduced the skill is developed throughout the rest of the module alongside the discussion of basic rock analytical techniques and igneous rock classification. This leads on to the introduction to metamorphism and magmatic processes with an emphasis on the larger impacts of volcanological hazards.

The basic knowledge acquired in the first part of the module is now used to understand the mechanisms of magma production across global tectonic settings. Geothermal gradients, decompression, volatile release and high temperature processes are discussed for generating magmas and volcanic products. Basic information about magma ascent and processes operating in magma chambers is also given. Introduction to metamorphic rocks and development of metamorphic textures and metamorphic minerals follows on from knowledge of igneous processes. Major and trace element geochemistry; the use of one- and two-component phase diagrams in understanding magma origins and evolution; applications of radiogenic isotopes are finally used to understand more complex concepts in petrology. 


  • Lectures and practicals


  • One 1.5-hour multiple choice question exam (60% of the module)
  • One 2-hour practical in-class test (40% of the module)