Search type

School of Environment, Education and Development

BSc Geography and Geology with a year abroad / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Geophysical Techniques

Unit code EART20271
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course teaches the basics of geophysical exploration techniques for studying subsurface structures (environmental, geological or man-made).

The fundamentals of how seismic waves are transmitted and refracted in earth materials is studied in order to understand how seismic refraction and reflection techniques have been developed to discover and explore subsurface structures.

The electrical resistance measured when electrical current is passed through the ground is used to understand resistivity survey methods.

Gravitational surveying is studied to understand how density contrasts in the subsurface give rise to variations in gravitational acceleration which can be measured and used to survey structures such as diverse as basins hosting hydrocarbon reservoirs and, at a smaller scale, caves.

Magnetic surveying is studied to understand how the magnetic properties of rocks and man-made features in the subsurface can produce local modifications in the Earth’s magnetic field, which may be used to determine the shapes and depths of those structures.

All methodologies are taught through lectures and followed by hands on practical explorations of subsurface structures using real geophysical instruments to understand the principles involved.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Planet Earth: Its Climate, History and Processes EART10111 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Earth Resources EART10262 Pre-Requisite Recommended


To provide an introduction to the main geophysical techniques used for investigation of subsurface structures for geo-environmental surveys, petroleum exploration, and archaeology.



Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students:

•       will be able to undertake geophysical measurements and small-scale geophysical surveys, and record them in technical reports.

•       will be able to understand how geophysical data are interpreted in terms of subsurface geology and other (e.g., man-made) structures.

Knowledge and understanding

- understand the basic principles of geophysical measurements and how properties of the subsurface can be interpreted.

Intellectual skills

- undertake calculations to analyse geophysical datasets collected in the laboratory and outside

- interpretation of numerical data.

Practical skills

- will become experienced in working with laboratory and field geophysical equipment as used in industry

- improve ability to write technical reports where measurement is the main objective.





Week 1:

Introduction to geophysics.

(Lecture only)


Week 2:

Principles of exploration seismology and field procedures.

(Lecture and instrument-based lab practical)


Week 3:

Seismic reflection 1: how an image of the subsurface is generated and how to interpret it.

(Lecture and practical)


Week 4:

Seismic reflection 2: how an image of the subsurface is generated and how to interpret it.

(Lecture and practical)


Week 5:

Seismic refraction: how seismic arrival times can be used to work out depth and velocity of subsurface layers.

(Lecture and instrument-based lab practical)


Week 6:

The theory, instrumentation and field procedure of the electrical resistivity techniques. How subsurface resistance structure is derived and interpreted.

(Lecture and practical)


Week 7:

The theory, instrumentation and field procedure of the gravity technique.

(Lecture and practical)


Week 8:

The reduction and interpretation of gravity data.

(Lecture and practical)


Week 9:

The theory, instrumentation and field procedure of the magnetic techniques.

(Lecture and practical)


Week 10:

Developing survey plans, which techniques are chosen for which problems.

(Lecture only)

Teaching and learning methods

10 lectures or lectorials (combination of lecture and exercises)

6 practicals involving hands-on experience with geophysical equipment

2 drop-in sessions (lecturers available to answer questions) for each week of practicals


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written exam 70%

Unseen written examination

- three sections. Section A contains short answer-type questions. Section B contains essay-type questions. Students expected to answer one out of four choices of questions in Section B. Section C contains questions based on datasets similar to those acquired in the practicals. Students expected to answer one out of a choice of two questions in Section C.- duration 3 hours.

- calculators permitted.

- examination forms 70% of unit assessment



- report on one laboratory session

- each duration of 2 hours


Recommended reading

Kearey, P., M. Brooks, and I. Hall, An introduction to geophysical exploration, 3rd ed., Blackwell, Oxford, 2002.

Reynolds, JM. (1997) An Introduction to Applied and Environmental Geophysics. Wiley.

Mussett, AE, and Khan, MA. (2000) Looking into the Earth: An introduction to geological geophysics, Cambridge University Press.

Dentith, MC, and Mudge, ST. (2014) Geophysics for the mineral exploration geoscientist. Cambridge University Press.






Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 16
Independent study hours
Independent study 74

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Neil Mitchell Unit coordinator

Return to course details