• Offered by Research School of Earth Sciences
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Earth and Marine Science
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Geology

This Course will cover:

  • The origins of the elements, and their absolute and isotopic abundances in the solar system.
  • Meteorites and the formation of planets.
  • The chemistry of the Earth-Moon system.
  • Fundamental geochemical controls of the distribution of elements within Planet Earth.
  • Minerals as chemical compounds and the behaviour of elements in various mineral structures.
  • The composition of the major chemical reservoirs in Planet Earth (crust, mantle and core), and the processes that formed those reservoirs and changed their compositions through time.
  • The principles of stable and radiogenic isotope geochemistry applied to understanding the time scales of evolution of different reservoirs in Planet Earth and tracing the processes that exchange materials between those reservoirs.
  • The principles and applications of radioisotope geochronology.
  • The theory and analytical methods for determining the chemical and isotopic compositions of terrestrial and extra-terrestrial materials.

Practical classes will emphasise methods for the collection, presentation, quantitative evaluation and interpretation of geochemical data. They will include the use of calculators and computers, and a visit to analytical laboratories. An optional one-day field trip to study igneous and metamorphic rocks will be run if requested by the majority of the class.

Honours Pathway Option
Additional reading of greater conceptual difficulty requiring a more advanced scientific understanding is recommended for students enrolled in the Honours Pathway Option. About 20% of the marks available in the exams will be answers to alternate questions for HPO students. It is expected that all graduate students (EMSC6015) and undergraduates enrolled in advanced degrees will complete the HPO. 

Proposed Assessment: Two theory examinations and assignments with additional HPO components based on weekly practical exercises.

NOTE: Graduate students will attend joint classes with undergraduates, but will be assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

On satisfying the requirements of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
  1. Understand the behaviour of elements in a geochemical context and relate this to how elements redistribute within planetary systems and the Earth.
  2. Distinguish the main chemical domains in Planet Earth, and think of Earth chemistry in terms of chemical and isotopic interactions between reservoirs.
  3. Understand the major chemical and petrological processes that form and modify the Earth's crust and mantle.
  4. Plot and compare geochemical data from different rock types and reservoirs.
  5. Use radiogenic and stable isotopes to trace geological processes.
  6. Plot and interpret a range of isotopic data in terms of the timing of geological processes.
  7. Evaluate published geochemical and isotopic data.
  8. Understand the theory and applications of the main methods for the chemical and isotopic analysis of rock and mineral samples.

Indicative Assessment

Assessment will be based on theory exams and practical exercises.
  • Theory exam consisting of multiple choice and essay questions to be held in place of the first practical exercise after the mid-semester break (35% LO 1–4).
  • Theory exam consisting of multiple choice and essay questions to be held during the examination period at the end of the semester (35% LO 1, 5–8).
  • Seven best assignments based on the 10 practical exercises held weekly throughout the semester. These assignments will focus on the evaluation, representation and interpretation of geochemical data (30%, LO 1–8).

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130 course hours, including a maximum of 36 hours of lectures, 33 hours of laboratory classes (including tutorials), and an optional 12-hour local field trip.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 6 units of 1000 level EMSC or CHEM courses. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed GEOL2015 or EMSC6015.

Preliminary Reading

John Grotzinger and Thomas Jordan "Understanding Earth", 7th edition (2014), Freeman and Company, New York, contains background information for students with a limited familiarity with geology.

Assumed Knowledge

Senior high school mathematics. CHEM1101 is highly desirable. EMSC2017 is strongly recommended.




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $3444
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $4590
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
7726 24 Jul 2017 31 Jul 2017 31 Aug 2017 27 Oct 2017 In Person N/A

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