Ancient Weather Stations of Australia:Field Course on Carbonate Environments


This course is an intensive, field-based experience. Lectures and laboratories will take place in the field, to ensure a hands-on learning

experience grounded on theory and supported by professional methods. The course will also provide scientific and professional reporting of research and field activities and techniques for presentation of research results. The course introduces students to continental environments that preserve Earth and human history: carbonate rocks, karst, caves, cave morphologies, cave sediments, stalagmites and stalactites. The transmission of climate and environmental signal from surface through soil and underground is explored. Students will discover how cave formations preserve Earth and human history, but also how they function as ancient weather stations. They will also learn to reconstruct the evolution of an Australian landscape by observation of surface and underground morphologies. This course involves an intensive 6 day field study in one of the most beautiful karst areas of NSW. During the field study students will conduct practical measurements used in environmental monitoring (pCO2 of atmosphere, water pH, water quality, discharge of stalactites, temperature of the cave) and will carry

out a geologic and environmental mapping focused to recognise how rocks influence soil and morphologies. On campus, students will learn to use petrographic methods to reconstruct rainfall variability.



  • Semester 2 - 2016

Learning Outcomes

1. Develop a knowledge relative to the theoretical and analytical tools needed to solve field based problems

2. Demonstrate the capability to carry out field work independently

3. Demonstrate the capability to use simple analytical techniques, notes and illustrative material to draw interpretations;

4. Demonstrate capability to compile a wellwritten, synthetic scientific report based on group and personal field work and laboratories that discusses the results incorporating theory and literature hypotheses to formulate conclusions;

5. Demonstrate capability to present scientific information orally


GEOS3260 is conducted in a karst area of NSW with easily accessible caves. The syllabus consists of a six (6) day field study, with most lectures and laboratories conducted in the field. On campus, students will be involved in self-learning research, acquisition of scientific writing skills and scientific presentation of research results.

In the field, activities will cover:

  1. Principles of karst geomorphology, geology and mapping;
  2.  Principles of environmental monitoring: surface and cave air, surface and cave waters, discharge;
  3.  Principles of carbonate formation in relation to environment and climate;

 On Campus, lectures, laboratories, workshops and self learning activities will cover:

  1. How to write a scientific and/or professional report;
  2. How to present a research, including tips for professional job interviews;
  3.  How to write a risk assessment;
  4.  Carbonates as archives of human evolution and dramatic environmental changes.
  5.  Basic concepts of carbonate geochemistry applications

Assumed Knowledge

GEOS1040 or GEOS1050, CHEM1010, GEOS2161, GEOS2200 or GEOS2050

Assessment Items

Presentation: Individual Presentation

Written Assignment: Field Report

Contact Hours


Field Study

Face to Face Off Campus 43 hour(s) per Term

11 hours of lectures, 6 hours of laboratories and 26 hours of self directed learning whilst in the field.


Face to Face On Campus 6 hour(s) per Term


Face to Face On Campus 6 hour(s) per Term

Self-Directed Learning

Self-Directed 12 hour(s) per Term

On campus


Face to Face On Campus 4 hour(s) per Term