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Earth: Evolution of a Habitable World

, http://www.ithaca.edu/hs/depts/physics/facstaff/bclark/
Ithaca College
Course Type:

Course Size:
large (~70 students)


This is Earth history taught from a planetary science perspective, comparing it to its neighboring planets. Using a systems approach, students determine how and why the atmosphere and the climate have changed over time and examine the effect that humanity is having on the system.

Course Context:

This is an introductory planetary science class.

Course Goals:

This course will enable students to:
  • Understand the development of the Earth system within the context of the Solar System
  • Improve their public speaking and teamwork skills

Course Content:

This course emphasizes climate history and biogeochemical cycling and focuses on the Precambrian and the Late Quaternary. The instructor reviews basic physics, geochronology, and plate tectonics, before going on to cover the formation of the Solar System, the climate evolutions of Mars and Venus, then Earth's Hadean, Archaean (emphasis on Oxygen Revolution), Proterozoic, and Phanerozoic Eons. She concludes with 4 lectures on human activity.

Teaching Materials:


  • 4 exams (worst is dropped, 60% of grade)
  • Reading quizzes (10%) plus extra credit
  • Team report (10%)
    • 5-person teams
    • Topics like the search for other planetary systems or human origins
    • Each person presents for five minutes
    • Graded on clarity, content, and style
  • Attend a seminar (extra credit)

References and Notes:

The textbook for this course is Lunine, 1999 .