skip to primary navigationskip to content

Introduction to Part IB Earth Sciences B

The Part IB Earth Sciences B course deals with the subsurface processes of the lithosphere and asthenosphere, tackling big topics such as the origin and composition of the rocky planets, the differentiation of the Earth and understanding the dynamic processes that change and transport material inside our planet such as melting, metamorphism and convection. Knowledge of Part IA Earth Sciences is assumed, although in exceptional cases it may be possible to read Part IB Earth Sciences without having read Earth Sciences at Part IA. This needs careful discussion with the course coordinator and your college Director of Studies.

Fieldwork consists of a trip to Southwest England around Easter, and if you intend to do third year Earth Sciences you will already have done the Cumbria Mapping Course before the start of your second year.

Full information for Part IB Earth Sciences B

For those considering Part II and Part III in Earth Sciences

The origins of the Earth

We'll find out how the Earth began through exploring its chemical history. When and how did the cocktail of elements that make up the Earth form? And how did this evolve into the planet we know today? These questions lead us to explore melting and crystallisation of rocks and to investigate how key elements give further clues to the origin of the mantle and the crust.

Mineralogy and Crystallography

Learning the processes at the atomic scale that underpin crystal structure is a vital tool for microscopic examination of rocks and minerals. The suite of minerals that compose igneous and metamorphic rocks is studied, and physical and chemical transitions between them explored.

Igneous processes and volcanism

Igneous rocks offer a window on processes going on below the Earth's surface. By understanding the genesis of igneous rocks from various volcanic settings, models for production of magma at spreading ridges, hotspots and subduction zones are devised.

The form and dynamics of Earth's interior

We investigate the evidence available to tell us about the form and nature of the different layers of our planet. We can reconstruct the composition, temperature and pressure structure of the core and mantle and in doing so understand the deep workings of mantle convection and plate tectonics.

Metamorphic processes and mountain-building

Crustal processes that form metamorphic rocks can operate during the evolution of mountain belts. By understanding the microscopic controls on mineral growth, reaction and deformation, we learn how to interpret rock textures, and diagnose the pressure and temperature conditions under which they formed.

Case studies

Throughout the course, igneous and metamorphic processes are illustrated in a series of case studies from different parts of the world. The Himalayas are used to explain the origins of mountain belts and the interaction of tectonics and metamorphism, while the western USA, including Mount St. Helens and the Cascades, provides an explanation of the relationship between active volcanoes and their underlying magma chambers.


All course materials can be found on the Earth Sciences Moodle course pages.

Log on to Moodle

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.

Safety Handbook

Do you need help with any aspect of writing from generating ideas, planning and structure, to clarity and editing? Our Writing Fellow can help.

Contact details