skip to primary navigationskip to content

General Information


The Earth Sciences Library is the main resource for Part II and III students. For the IA and IB courses, most textbooks are held in college libraries. Students from all years are nevertheless welcome to make full use of the department library, and to seek advice from the librarians. 

Internet-based learning

Relevant reference material for all Earth Sciences courses are available on Moodle including:

  • Lecture notes
  • Practical handouts
  • Practical answers
  • Question sheets
  • Supplementary material eg. video demonstrations
  • Course handbooks
  • Tripos exam papers
  • Explanation of marking criteria and classing procedures

Students taking a course should be routinely registered on the relevant Moodle site at the beginning of the academic year. If you are not registered but would like to be, you should contact the appropriate course coordinator.

Health & safety

Whether in the lab or out on fieldwork, you need to be aware of your health and safety, and what responsibilities you have to look after yourself and your colleagues.

Please refer to the Safety Handbook, in particular the sections:

Read the Code of Safety and Good Conduct for Teaching Laboratories, to see the guidelines for everyday teaching in Cambridge.


Fieldwork safety is taken very seriously by the Department. Before taking part in any field work organised by the department, students should read the information given in the Fieldwork Code of Safe Practice and Good Conduct in the Safety Handbook


For the Part II Mapping Project, all students should have read and acted on the safety information contained in the Part II Project Guide which includes but is not limited to: 

  • Arranging your own travel, medical and personal accident insurance.
  • Preparing a hazard assessment for the fieldwork. (Please also refer to the page no. 30 of the Safety Handbook:Field Risk Assessment.)
  • Arranging a local contact and notifying your supervisor and the Department Administrator of their contact details.
  • Read page no. 29 of the Safety Handbook: Fieldwork.

Full details of Departmental health and safety guidelines are in the Health & Safety section of the website, and in the Safety Handbook.

Transferable skills

Transferable skills are generic skills that can be applied across academic subject boundaries and beyond. Transferable skills contrast with subject-specific skills, although the boundary is naturally blurred.

In the Earth Sciences Department we think that many transferable skills are best taught, learned, practiced and assessed if they are embedded in subject-specific courses. We monitor the opportunities that our courses provide to acquire transferable skills (Table 1) and ensure that our graduating students are well prepared for further study or work, whether in or beyond Earth Sciences.  There are, however, some specific skills courses, listed in Table 2.

Table 1. Overview of the transferable skills acquired in Earth Sciences

transferable skills

some relevant course components

Intellectual: criticism, analysis, synthesis, problem-solving, evaluation.

lectures, practical classes, small-group supervisions, seminars, field courses

Communication: speaking, listening, reading, writing, presenting (oral/written/graphic), giving and receiving feedback.

supervision written work and discussion, project work and evening presentations on field trips, 3rd year field mapping project, 4th year research project

Organizational: self-assessment, working independently, responsibility, initiative, time-management, career awareness.

weekly supervision work, field work exercises, 3rd year field mapping project, 4th year research project, external speaker lectures

Interpersonal: teamwork, leadership, negotiating, networking, managing people and resources.

teamworking on field course exercises and project work, involvement with student Geology society and outreach work

Research: collecting and recording data, processing, interpreting and presenting data, bibliographic skills.

practical classes, project work on field trips, 3rd year field mapping project, 4th year research project, literature review

Numeracy: mathematical, statistical and quantitative analysis, solving numerical problems, error analysis.

exercises in practical classes and small-group supervisions, project work

Computer literacy: word-processing, spreadsheets, graphics packages, geological software, Email, WWW, bibliographic searching, GIS

computer-based practical classes, 2nd year GIS course, 3rd year computer skills course, bibliographic skills sessions

Safety: navigation, assessing risk, urban first aid, wilderness first aid

field mapping exercises, 2nd year risk assessment seminar, 1st and 2nd year first aid course by external provider.

Table 2. Dedicated transferable skills courses in Earth Sciences

transferable skills



IA Field safety and first aid


 basic field safety and first aid

IB Library skills


catalogues and literature searching



Geographic information systems, ARCGis

IB Risk assessment


field risk assessment

IB Field safety and first aid


wilderness safety and first aid

II Skills


report writing, presentation, drawing programs, reading primary literature, bibliographic skills

Part III exam skills


revision and exam skills


NST Approved Calculators

For Natural Sciences Tripos examinations Parts IA, IB, II and III (where a calculator is allowed), you will be permitted to use only the standard University calculator: CASIO fx 115 (any version, CASIO fx 50 (any version) or CASIO fx 991 (any version).  Each such calculator must be marked in the approved fashion.

Approved calculators for the Natural Sciences Tripos can be purchased from the following locations (Note: these will be marked in the approved fashion:

Department of Chemistry

Faculty of Economics

Department of Physics, Bragg Building, Cavendish Laboratory

Approved calculators bought elsewhere will need to have the approved marking applied by the relevant Department. You are strongly advised to purchase a calculator at the beginning of term.


Laboratory Safety and Conduct

General safety

  • Food or drink must not be consumed in any laboratory with the exception of water in a capped bottle.
  • All bags, coats and cycle helmets are to be kept off the benches.
  • To allow unobstructed passage around laboratories all students’ personal possessions must be stowed under the benches or in the cubby holes provided.    
  • If the fire alarm sounds, you will hear a very loud continuously ringing bell. On the instructions of the demonstrator in charge of the class, you must leave the building and assemble on the lawn by the Department of Archaeology & Anthropology. Do not stop to collect personal belongings and do not re-enter the building until the fire brigade has given the all-clear.

Equipment and practical material

  • Keep a minimum number of possessions on the bench tops, and try to keep them in order so that the risk of knocking samples onto the floor is minimised.
  • Bench lamps must be lifted by their bases, not by the arms. Lifting by the arms can damage the pivoting mechanism.
  • You will be instructed in the use of microscopes, and these instructions must be followed. Do not drag microscopes across the bench top; move them by safe lifting. Dragging the microscopes causes severe vibration, which leads to the optics becoming misaligned.
  • When using microscopes and computers, check your seating position to ensure that you are at the correct height and, to avoid eye strain, look across the lab to allow your eyes to change focus every 20 minutes or so.
  • Glass microscope slides must be treated with care. They are easily broken; some are irreplaceable, and all are expensive to replace.
  • Handle ALL specimens with care. Many, especially the palaeontological material, are of museum display quality and are irreplaceable. Do not mark or scratch them unless you are specifically told you may do so.
  • Ensure that all specimens, microscope slides, etc. are returned to the correct tray or drawer after use, and that any microscopes and bench lights are turned off before you leave the lab.


Copying someone else's work and passing it off as your own is unacceptable in the academic world, whether in exams, project work, published papers, or in any other medium. Our Plagiarism Guidance makes clear the rules to obey, and the subject-specific conventions for properly citing the work of others. The University reserves the right to assess any submitted written work suspected of plagiarism using software called Turnitin. The Turnitin Guide explains how this works within Earth Sciences.


Student Complaints Procedure

If you are in difficulty in relation to your course, you should discuss the problem in the first instance with your Supervisor or Advisor. If your difficulties are not specifically related to your course, you should contact your College Tutor.

The Student Complaints Procedure allows a student to express dissatisfaction about the standard of service provided by the University.

Further advice is available from Student Complaints