EOSC 310 · The Earth and the Solar System

Three major questions are explored in this course:

I. How did the origin and evolution of the universe, matter and the solar system ultimately produce the world we know today?

II. How has Earth and its biosphere evolved over time?

II. How do humans fit into the story of planetary evolution? Specifically, how has our species impacted our planet and what possibilities exist for the migration of our species to other places in the universe?

Course Requirements

  • Only for credit for non-science majors (Not for credit in the Faculties of Science and Applied Science)
  • Must have at least second-year standing
  • Cannot have taken EOSC 110


Course Availability & Schedule

Course Syllabus

 Distance education offered

 Non-specialist course

Learning goals: 

Through EOSC310 it is hoped students will be able to .....

  • Gain familiarity with the contributions of various scientists and effectively utilize scientific terminology introduced throughout the course.
  • Provide an account, supported by examples, of the present condition and substantiate the origins and development of the Universe, Solar System, Earth, and the biosphere.
  • Analyze and interpret scientific data and proxies to draw meaningful conclusions.
  • Explain the progression and consequences of Homo sapiens' evolution on the Earth System.

Learning online can be both rewarding and challenging at the same time. It allows you the flexibility to tackle course material at your own pace and where ever you happen to be, but requires a great deal of self-discipline to stay up-to-date with readings, quizzes, and assignments. Please note that the assignments and quizzes do have specific deadlines. In addition, unlike all other assessment pieces, the final exam is written at UBC and NOT online.

The course includes a complete set of lecture notes supported by pre-recorded videos of the lectures. Each topic also includes materials that will enable you to test your understanding as you progress through the course.

The course is divided into three modules, modules are divided into units and units into various lecture topics

Module 1: Building the Solid Earth
Unit 1: Structure, Scale and Organization of the Universe
Unit 2: Earth’s Fractured Surface - Plate Tectonics
Unit 3: Online Lab 1: Interpreting Earth’s Surface

Module 2: Building a Home for Life
Unit 4: The Precambrian Earth; 4.54 billion years ago - 538.8 million years ago
Unit 5: The Historical Geologist
Unit 6: The Phanerozoic Earth - 538.8 million years ago to the present
Unit 7: Online Lab 2: Classifying Life

Module 3: Modern Earth and Beyond
Unit 8: The Human Story
Unit 9: Humans and Environmental Change
Unit 10: Online Lab 3: Earth System Science
Unit 11: The Future and the search for other Homes

In EOSC310, we will start the story with the Big Bang, followed by the origin of matter, the solar system, the structure of Earth and plate tectonics. We will then explore the history of Earth including the origin of life, and the co-evolution of ocean, atmosphere and the solid Earth. In the final module we consider the impact of Human beings on the Earth system and possible futures beyond today.

Module 1:

Building the Solid Earth
In this module, you will explore the nature and origins of the Universe, Solar System, and our planet. You will examine the Earth as a system comprised of interconnected components, focusing on the Earth's interior and Plate Tectonics.

Module 2:

Building a Home for Life
Module 2 equips you with essential tools used by historical geologists to interpret the evolution of our planet throughout time. Following this, the module delves into the 4.54 billion-year history of our planet.

Module 3:

Modern Earth & Beyond
In module 3, we focus on “modern” geological times, including the evolution of our own species and its impact on the Earth System. We will also explore the potential existence of life elsewhere in the solar system, the concept of "other Earths" in the universe, and contemplate the ultimate destiny of our planet, solar system, and the universe.


section 99A, Term 1: Dr. Stuart Sutherland

section 99C, Term 2: Dr. Stuart Sutherland


There is no textbook. Students will be directed to specific readings as the course progresses.