• Class Number 8546
  • Term Code 3060
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Rhodri Davies
    • Dr Rhodri Davies
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 27/07/2020
  • Class End Date 30/10/2020
  • Census Date 31/08/2020
  • Last Date to Enrol 03/08/2020
SELT Survey Results

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:

  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.

Research-Led Teaching

There will be numerous opportunities for research-led teaching in the course. These include: (i) oral presentations and lay descriptions associated with recent research articles and reports (and their data); (ii) a summary of the research frontiers in global geodynamical research, in week 12; (iii) python exercises in the practicals and associated computational models of mantle flow.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments.
  • verbal comments.
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc.

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Origins & Overview -
2 Foundations: Viscous Flow Practical (10%)
3 Foundations: Heat and Convection Practical (10%)
4 Essence: Plate Mode of Mantle Convection Practical (10%)
5 Essence: Plume Mode of Mantle Convection Practical (10%)
6 Synthesis & Stocktaking: Mantle as a Dynamical System -
7 Mantle Heterogeneity through Oceanic Basalts: Principles Practical (10%)
8 Mantle Heterogeneity through Oceanic Basalts: Observations & Implications Practical (10%)
9 Linking Earth's Surface to it's Deep Interior: Australian Volcanism -
10 Linking Earth's Surface to it's Deep Interior: Dynamic Topography and Deep Mantle Structure -
11 Oral Presentations Oral Presentations (and associated Lay Descriptions - 30%)
12 Research Frontiers: Reconstructing the Past Final Quiz (20%)

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Practicals - 50% 50 % 05/10/2020 12/10/2020 1,2,3,4,5,6
Oral presentations - 15% 15 % 19/10/2020 26/10/2020 5,6
Written lay descriptions - 15%. 15 % 19/10/2020 26/10/2020 5,6
Final Quiz - 20%. 20 % 28/10/2020 30/10/2020 1,2,3,4,5,6

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using 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. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Integrity . In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Participation in the practicals, the oral presentations and final quiz are required.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 50 %
Due Date: 05/10/2020
Return of Assessment: 12/10/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Practicals - 50%

Straightforward quantitative examples that highlight the key physics involved in mantle convection and plate tectonic processes, and the associated observational constraints. The course will include 6 assessed practicals, but I will take your top 5 grades (10% each), amounting to 50% of the course, in total.

Pracs will be delivered on site and simultanously via Zoom.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 19/10/2020
Return of Assessment: 26/10/2020
Learning Outcomes: 5,6

Oral presentations - 15%

Each student will deliver a 10-15 minute oral presentation on a specific topic, followed by ~5 minutes of questions. Topics will be closely related to course content, but several aspects will not have been covered in lectures – you will be teaching (and marking/questioning) your classmates. This task assesses professional presentation skills and an ability to quickly interpret something and present clearly and concisely to others.


Assessment Task 3

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 19/10/2020
Return of Assessment: 26/10/2020
Learning Outcomes: 5,6

Written lay descriptions - 15%.

Students will write a short lay summary, that summarises the topic of their oral presentation. This tests their ability to write in a way that is accessible to a non-specialized audience.


Assessment Task 4

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 28/10/2020
Return of Assessment: 30/10/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Final Quiz - 20%.

 In session quiz based on material presented in lectures and practicals.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission permitted for Tasks 1 and 3. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item.

Late submission is not accepted for ALL other tasks.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

Assignments will be returned through Wattle as annotated pdf files on request.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

Resubmission is not permitted.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Dr Rhodri Davies

Research Interests

Dr Rhodri Davies

Dr Rhodri Davies
612 53406

Research Interests

Dr Rhodri Davies

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions