• 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, Geography, Earth Physics, Geology

Mantle convection is the fundamental agent driving many of the geological features observed at Earth's surface, including plate tectonics and volcanism. However, many geologists have an incomplete understanding of the process, whilst there are many misconceptions about how it relates to surface processes. A broad background to the physics and fluid dynamics of mantle convection will be provided in this course, by explaining what it is, how it works, and how to quantify it in simple terms. It assumes no specialist background: mechanisms will be explained simply and the required basic physics will be fully reviewed and explained. The distinctive forms that convection takes within Earth's mantle will be described within the context of tectonic plates and mantle plumes, whilst the implications for geochemistry and Earth's tectonic evolution will be explored. Common misconceptions and controversies will be addressed, providing a straightforward, but rigorous, explanation of this key process. Emerging insights into the fundamental links between climate, surface processes (weathering, erosion and sediment transport), plate tectonics and underlying mantle flow will also be covered, thus providing a complete overview of Earth’s dynamic engine.

Learning Outcomes

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

Upon completion of this course, students will have the skills and knowledge to:
  1. Understand the principles of convection and demonstrate how these principles apply in the Earth’s mantle.
  2. Solve a range of geodynamic problems, including an understanding of uncertainties involved .
  3. Quantify the force-balance driving plate tectonics and the implications for the structure of Earth's interior,as imaged by seismology and illuminated via geodesy.
  4. Make robust inferences about mantle convection drawn from observations, thus connecting mantle convection to surface processes, geology and geochemistry.
  5. Formulate areas for their own future research, while critically reading and analysing scientific literature.
  6. Demonstrate effective written and oral presentation skills to a variety of audiences.

Indicative Assessment

Assessment will be based on:
  • In class assessment during practicals: 40% (LO 1-6).
  • Oral presentations: 10% (LO 6).
  • Written lay descriptions: 10% (LO 6).
  • Final examination: 40% (LO 1-6).

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2 hours of lectures and a 3-hour practical per week. An additional 65 hours is expected to be spent outside ofclass preparing for practicals and completing coursework.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have previously completed EMSC2022 and either EMSC2012 or EMSC2023.

Prescribed Texts

"Dynamic Earth: Plates, Plumes and Mantle Convection": Geoff Davies, Cambridge University Press.
"Mantle Convection for Geologists": Geoff Davies, Cambridge University Press.

Assumed Knowledge

Structure and composition of the Earth; Plate boundaries; Plate kinematics; Isostasy; Gravity; Seismology.



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
2019 $3840
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $5460
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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
8546 27 Jul 2020 03 Aug 2020 31 Aug 2020 30 Oct 2020 In Person View

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