• Class Number 6205
  • Term Code 3160
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Jochen Brocks
    • Prof Dorrit Jacob
    • Prof Jochen Brocks
    • Penny King
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 26/07/2021
  • Class End Date 29/10/2021
  • Census Date 14/09/2021
  • Last Date to Enrol 02/08/2021
SELT Survey Results

This course will explore frontier geoscience problems in a holistic manner. In this course you will develop skills needed to define and interpret Earth's history, and past and present environmental change. You will learn about the application of chemistry to the Earth Sciences. Major areas covered include elemental transport by water, the chemical composition of rocks and the use of isotopes as tracers of geological processes. This course will test your ability to synthesise course content and demonstrate an understanding of interactions between solid Earth materials and surficial processes.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, 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 the Earth.
  2. Learn to think of Earth chemistry in terms of interactions between reservoirs.
  3. Understand the major processes that form and modify the Earth's crust and mantle.
  4. Use isotopes to trace geological processes and age date specific events.
  5. Evaluate published geochemical and isotopic data.
  6. Understand the theory and applications of analysis of materials.

Research-Led Teaching

The practical components of this course will support students, alone and within team, to analyze and evaluate both geochemical data and geological materials. Students will synthesize their own observations with those of the literature, and apply the concepts and principles of geology and chemistry, in order to create their own geochemical and environmental reconstructions.

The lecturers are world experts and active researchers in their respective fields of geochemistry and will bring their enthusiasm and knowledge into this course, providing students with the most up to date and accurate information.

Field Trips


Additional Course Costs


Examination Material or equipment


Required Resources


Recommended student system requirements 

ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:

  • video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
  • two-way video conferencing for interactive learning (Zoom software required)
  • email and other messaging tools for communication
  • interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
  • print and photo/scan for handwritten work
  • home-based assessment.

To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:

  • A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
  • Webcam
  • Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
  • Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
  • Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
  • Printing, and photo/scanning equipment

For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements

Staff Feedback

10 of the practicals will involve an assignment or short quiz. In most instances, the assignments and correct (or wrong) answers to quiz questions will be discussed at the end of each practical (or latest in the next practical), providing instant feedback to each student.

  • The course comprises three short written examinations in weeks 5, 9 and in the exam period. The exams will be returned, where possible, within one week, and correct and wrong answers will be discussed in class.  

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 Introduction to geochemistry and geochemical cycles, composition of the universe and planets, origin of chemical elements Practical: Familiarization with minerals and their relationship with the properties of chemical elements
2 The chemical composition of minerals and their structure, fractionation of rocks and minerals Practical: How to use analyses to understand igneous processes, Harker diagram elements
3 Major elements in rocks and minerals, geodynamic setting of elements, continental crust formation Practical: Calculating mineral formulae, mineral analyses in practice
4 Trace elements in rocks and minerals, their distribution and partitioning Practical: how trace element are used in magmatic and metamorphic rocks and how to analyze them
5 Radiogenic isotopes as timekeepers and tracers Practical: Interrogating melting and metasomatism with major, trace elements and isotopes.
6 Element transport in Earth’s atmosphere, rainwater as a sampling system Practical: Rain is not the same: tracking variations in rainwater across continents
7 Weathering systems and principles of chemical reactions, soil horizons and biogeochemical cycling Practical: Geology’s influence on agriculture: why the buffering capacity of rocks matters
8 Redox reactions, transition metals, activity-activity diagrams Practical: Tracking Earth’s redox history using Eh-pH diagrams
9 Groundwater systems, residence time, flux, steady state and perturbations to steady state Practical: Understanding how groundwater influences urban sustainability and health
10 The fate of organic matter and the origins of coal, petroleum & gas, molecular fossils, organic geochemical indicators of climate and environments Practical: Group competition on reservoirs, fluxes and feedbacks
11 Reservoirs and their time scales, fluxes, fast and slow cycles of carbon and other elements through atmosphere, oceans, biosphere, crust and mantle Practical: Geochemical missions to early Earth and other planets: mockumentaries and panels discussions
12 The stability of our planet and punctuated equilibria: negative and positive feedback mechanisms, stable isotopes (C, O), kinetic and thermodynamic isotope effects Practical: how geochemical feedbacks control the biosphere, cause major climate perturbations and mass extinctions, and buffer or aggravate human impacts on the planet

Tutorial Registration

No registration required.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Group and individual assignments and quizzes in practicals 40 % * * 1,2,3,4,5,6
First Written Examination 20 % * * 1,2,3,4
Second Written Examination 20 % * * 1,2,3,4
Third Written Examination 20 % 04/11/2021 02/12/2021 1,2,3,4

* 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 is essential, and assessments or assignments associated with the practicals count 40% towards the final mark. Permission for absence will be granted e.g. if there is a clash with other courses or certificates/evidence is provided.


For students that can ONLY participate remotely:

Lectures: All lectures will be available on Wattle either after in-class lectures in the form of Echo recordings and slide shows, or before the lectures as pre-recorded 5 to 10 minute flipped-class room style video recordings, including questions for self-assessment.

Practicals: For laboratory-based tasks, a variety of alternative activities will be available.

Examinations for on-line only students: In place of the three written examinations, remote participants will be assessed in 10 minute oral examinations via Zoom with the lecturers. Questions, possibly including images and graphs, will be visually displayed during the oral exams to improve understanding for foreign language speakers.


Please note, that where a date range is used in the Assessment Summary in relation to exams, the due date and return date indicate the approximate timeframe in which the exam will be held and results returned to the student (official end of Semester results released on ISIS). Students should consult the course wattle site and the ANU final examination timetable to confirm the date, time and venue of the exam.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 40 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Group and individual assignments and quizzes in practicals

Due date: In most instances, assignments will be handed in at the end of weekly laboratory classes. Larger assignments are due one week later.

Details of Task: The course will include ten practicals/laboratory sessions with assessable components, including assignments and short quizzes. In most sessions, students will receive immediate feedback on their assignments or quiz results. The majority of assignments are individual, some are performed in groups. The best eight assessments flow towards the final mark.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

First Written Examination

Due date: The exam will be held in week 5.

Details of Task: For continued learning and early feedback of progress, the course will include three short written examinations, each covering 4 weeks of the course. The first written examination will cover the first 4 weeks of the course (high temperature geochemistry) and will be held in week 5. The total assessment time (reading and writing) will be 50 minutes.

Please check the course Wattle site and the ANU Examination Timetable to confirm the date, time and location of the exam.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Second Written Examination

Due date: The exam will be held in week 9.

Details of Task: The second written examination will cover the second 4-week block of the course (low temperature geochemistry and surface processes) and will be held in week 9. The total assessment time (reading and writing) will be 50 minutes.

Please check the course Wattle site and the ANU Examination Timetable to confirm the date, time and location of the exam.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 04/11/2021
Return of Assessment: 02/12/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Third Written Examination

Due date: The exam will be held in the examination period

Details of Task: The third written examination will cover the last 4 weeks of the course (ocean geochemistry and geochemical cycles) and will be held in the examination period. The total assessment time (reading and writing) will be 50 minutes.

Please check the course Wattle site and the ANU Examination Timetable to confirm the date, time and location of the exam.

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

No submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date will be permitted. If an assessment task is not submitted by the due date, a mark of 0 will be awarded.

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 and discussed in class during tutorials.

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

Is resubmission permitted? No

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).

Prof Jochen Brocks
02 6125 7946

Research Interests

Jochen Brocks is a palaeobiogeochemist in the Research School of Earth Sciences. To find clues about life and evolution in Earth's earliest oceans, he studies molecular fossils and other geochemical traces found in billion-year old sedimentary rocks.

Prof Jochen Brocks

Prof Dorrit Jacob
612 53406

Research Interests

Prof Dorrit Jacob

Prof Jochen Brocks
612 53406

Research Interests

Prof Jochen Brocks

Penny King
612 53406

Research Interests

Penny King

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