Skip to content

Understanding Earth

Learn the basics about geoscience!

← Back to courses
CIVIS focus area
Climate, environment and energy
Open to
  • Bachelor's
  • Master's
  • Phd
Field of studies
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Environmental sciences, Urbanism, Geography
Course dates
8 May - 4 August 2023

This blended learning programme covers basic principles of the geosciences and how different geosystems such as tectonics, magmatism, climate, surface processes, and geobiology are linked to each other.

The course covers magmatism, metamorphism, tectonics, structural geology, sedimentation, geobiology, earthquakes, surface processes (glacial, river, wind, and hillslope environments), climate, water cycle, and ocean circulation. It is based on the course book "Understanding Earth" by John Grotzinger and Thomas H Jordan.

The course consists of an online part (virtual mobility) and a field part (physical mobility).

Main topics addressed

  • Tectonics
  • Sedimentology
  • Magmatism
  • Metamorphism
  • Climate
  • Surface processes
  • Geobiology

Learning outcomes

Students will be introduced to the basic principles of modern geosciences and the relevant geodynamic, climate, and biologic processes.

They will learn about the origin of the Earth and different rock types, and how different processes in the Earth sciences interact with each other over both human and geologic timescales.

Dates: 8 May - 4 August 2023 Total workload: 152 hours
Format: Blended ECTS: 6
Location: Stockholm, Sweden Language: English (B2) 

Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university. 

Physical mobility

The physical mobility part will be running from 31 July to 4 August 2023. The 5-day field part will be held on the islands of Utö, Öja and Sandön which are in the Stockholm (Sweden) Archipelago.

The entire area is a post-glacial landscape with spectacular examples of post-glacial rebound, esker systems, varved clays and glacial landforms such as roche moutonée and crag-and-tails. The bedrock is equally spectacular and provides a natural laboratory to explore back-arc basin tectonics, explosive volcanism, early life and the rise of oxygen on Earth.

In this spectacular setting, students will learn the basics of rock description and identification, of working with sediments and landforms, of taking field notes and of piecing it all together to write geological histories. The field trip will be led by Alasdair Skelton (Stockholm University) and Niki Evelpidou (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens) providing expertise on geology and geomorphology.

Virtual part

The virtual part will be running from 8 May to 29 June 2023.

The online part uses online learning material (recorded lectures, activities) created by the University of Tübingen and hosted by CIVIS as well as online instructor-led discussions offered by Stockholm University, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the University of Tübingen to make sure that students have understood the online learning material.

The online part of the course will be led by Todd Ehlers (University of Tübingen) with online discussions held by all 3 applicants.

The virtual component of the program comprises 14 online sessions which include a pre-recorded lecture, reading material and online activities. There are also instructor-led online discussions twice each week.


This course is open to Bachelor's, Master and PhD students at CIVIS member universities with a background/interest in geoscience.

This course does not require any university level prerequisites, or discipline specific requirements from high school.

Good written and spoken English skills are a requirement.

A good level of physical fitness is required for participation in the field.

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

Application process

Interested students should apply by filling in the online application form by 28 February 2023.

Applications will be evaluated based on the CV, the motivation letter and the level of English. 

Selection will be made on the basis of the order in which fully complete application are received.

Apply now


Assessment of the virtual part of the course is based on an online written exam.

Assessment of the physical part of the course is based on a written field assignment.

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

GDPR Consent

The CIVIS alliance and its member universities will treat the information you provide with respect. Please refer to our privacy policy for more information on our privacy practices. By applying to this course you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

  • Alasdair Skelton, Professor of Geochemistry and Petrology at Stockholm University
  • Niki Evelpidou, Professor of Geomorphology and Geoinformatics at National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
  • Todd Ehlers, Professor of Geology at University of Tübingen