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GEOL3030 Field Methods in Active Tectonics



Using field observation and analysis, application of geophysical methods, and evaluation of current issues in hazard and risk science; to develop an understanding of the tectonic processes that shape the surface of the Earth and present a hazard to its inhabitants.


  1. Students will become familiar with the application of practical geophysical field methods and complementary techniques in a region of active tectonics in southern-central Italy.
  2. Students will learn to make geophysical measurements in the field. They will learn how to analyze these data and synthesize the results using GIS (geographical information systems) with data from seismotectonics, satellite imagery, geological ad geomorphological field observations.


1.    8-day field course in an area of active tectonics in southern Italy: the Abruzzo range in the Apennines.
2.    Practical sessions supporting the analysis of field data.
3.    Follow-up work, addressing selected contemporary issues in hazard and risk science.


Using a range of geophysical and other methods, students will develop an understanding of the processes that shape the surface of the Earth through the field study of active faults. Students will have an appreciation of contemporary issues in hazard and risk science, in particular relating to seismic risk.

Transferrable Skills:

1.    Familiarisation with key concepts and principles in relation to geophysical field techniques, structural geology and earthquake engineering.
2.    Familiarisation with methods used in the analysis and synthesis of data for the recognition and evaluation of geological hazards.
3.    Understanding of the contemporary hazard and risk science landscape.



Italy is one of the most tectonically active regions in Europe. Deducing the tectonics of Italy has been subject to intensive research in recent year, through the full range of seismotectonic, geophysical, geological and remote sensing techniques. So the region offers the opportunity of studing active tectonic using an integrated and holistic approach. However its tectonics are complex and much disputed. Earthquakes and volcanoes are significant hazards and have major societal impacts in Italy. So there is urgency about deducing the tectonics of Italy.

We will investigate two areas of active tectonics: (i) the Abruzzo mountains in central-southern Italy, east of Rome, which are part of the Apennines; (ii) the Bay of Naples, where Vesuvius is located of course, but also the active volcanic caldera, the Campi Flegrei. We will use geophysical survey techniques to investigate the active tectonism. In the Abruzzo mountains there are glacial deposits from the last glaciation, which will allow us to deduce tectonic slip rates. We will use ground penetrating radar (GPR), refraction seismics and the magnetometer to survey the fault scarp of the Ovindoli-Pezza fault. We will also try to get a bigger picture of earthquake fault evolution through an appreciation of the tectonic setting. In the Bay of Naples we will run gravity and magnetic surveys across Vesuvius and the Campi Flegrei to compare and contrast their geodynamics. We will also introduce you to volcanic deposits: lava flows, pyroclastic surges and tephra.

Title Field Methods in Active Tectonics
UG Code GEOL3030
Coordinator Prof. Peter Sammonds
Other Contributors Dr. Ben Lishman, Dr. Joanna Faure-Walker, Mr. Neil Hughes (Technical Support)
Term 1
Credit 0.5 CU
Written Exam  
Coursework 60% report (3,500 words); 40% field notebook
Pre-Requisites Second year geology and geophysics courses: GEOL2014 Global Geophysics or equivalents.
Maths & Stats Content and Requirement To process geophysical field data, students are expected to be able to organize data in spreadsheets, apply simple formulae and plot out graphs and maps. This is mostly done with proprietary software which accompanies the instruments, although Matlab and ArcView will also be used. To use ArcView, GPS and regional scale maps, students need to understand transforming between latitude/longitude and grid co-ordinates systems. Students will use advanced filters and the Fast Fourier Transform for some data processing. The maths behind this module is taught in PHAS2246 Mathematical Methods III. However, it is not necessary for students to have this level of maths for the course.
Total Number of Hours of Student Work 188 hours
Hours of Lectures/Seminars 10 hours
Hours of Practicals/Problem Classes 10 hours
Hours of Tutorials As needed
Days of Fieldwork 8 days
Group Working
10 hours
Other None

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