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Unit information: Mapping, Tectonics and Remote Sensing in 2018/19

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Unit name Mapping, Tectonics and Remote Sensing
Unit code EASC20045
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Matthew Watson
Open unit status Not open
  • Successful completion of the mandatory year 1 units of an Environmental Geoscience, Geology, Geophysics or Palaeontology and Evolution programme at Bristol.
  • EASC20029 Introduction to Field Mapping


School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


The overarching aim of this unit is for students to learn how to acquire, process and visualise spatial data at a range of scales with applications to all fields of Earth Sciences. There is a focus on geological expressions of dynamic tectonic regimes, including the analysis of active stress and strain fields, geomechanics, 3-D interpretation of geological maps, geospatial data analysis in GIS and state-of-the-art satellite remote sensing.

  1. Plate tectonic framework including the scientific evidence for plate tectonics, the use of Euler poles for understanding current and past plate motions, and the link to earthquakes and faults in active tectonic regions.
  2. Geomechanics covering the fundamental principles of stress, strain and rock mechanics and the use of Mohr circles to understand fault structures.
  3. Geological Mapping including the interpretation of subsurface geology and structures, visualising 3-D structures through constructing cross sections, and understanding the geological history of an area.
  4. Geological Information Systems (GIS) focussing on analysing geospatial data, including an introduction to digital data structures and ArcGIS.
  5. Satellite Imagery introducing the principles of remote sensing, the capabilities of state-of-the-art satellite systems and applications across the Earth Sciences.

As this is an integrated unit, each session starts with a short introductory lecture covering fundamental principles, followed by practical exercises. This gives students the opportunity to learn through manipulating real-world data and problem solving.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit you will be able to:

  • understand the evidence underpinning the theory of plate tectonics and use of relative plate motions to understand modern plate boundaries and reconstruct past positions of plates
  • use seismic and geodetic data to describe the tectonics of actively deforming regions and understand the relationship to faulting and earthquake activity.
  • describe the principles of stress and strain analysis and show how these can be applied in understanding rock deformation;
  • apply Mohr circle analysis to determine the state of stress of a rock and calculate the stress required for brittle failure;
  • understand the difference between brittle and ductile rheological regimes and the implications for crustal deformation and global tectonics
  • interpret 3-D structures using 2-D geological maps and interpret the causal deformation process and tectonic regime in which they formed;
  • understand the physics of remote sensing, and the application of different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • describe Earth Observation systems as a function of spatial and temporal resolution and relate their spectral sensitivity to different targets
  • understand the principles of GIS, including the underpinning data structures (objects, including points, lines and polygons; fields, raster, vector) and their relationship to real world examples
  • use industry standard software (ArcGIS and ENVI) to interrogate and process digital images

Teaching details

Combined lectures and practicals

Assessment Details

100% coursework

  • Assessment 1, week 7 (50%). A 3-hour open book practical based on the skills acquired in weeks 1-5.
  • Assessment 2, week 12 (50%). A typed report (maximum 2,000 words), digital map and digital cross-section based on the fieldwork undertaken in EASC20029 Introduction to Field Mapping.

Reading and References


  • Lillesand, T., Keifer, R., and Chipman, J., (2007), Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation (VIth edition), Wiley.
  • Heywood, I., Cornelius, S., Carver, S., (2006), An Introduction to GIS, Prentice Hall.
  • Kearey, P., Klepis, K.A., and Vine, F.J., (2009), Global Tectonics, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Fossen, H. (2016 or 2010), Structural Geology, Cambridge University Press.