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Understanding Earth

Explore the principles of the geosciences and how different Earth processes are linked to each other.

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CIVIS focus area
Climate, environment and energy
Open to
  • Bachelor's
  • Master's
  • Phd
  • PhD candidates/students
Field of studies
  • Environment & Agriculture
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Social Science and humanities
  • Environmental sciences, Urbanism, Geography
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
6 May - 26 July 2024

The course aims to cover plate tectonics, magmatism, metamorphism, sedimentation, structural geology, 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

  • Plate tectonics
  • Climate
  • Volcanism
  • Sedimentology
  • Magmatism
  • Metamorphism
  • Surface processes
  • Geobiology

Learning outcomes

Students will be introduced to the basic principles of geosciences encompassing climate change, geodynamics 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: 6 May - 26 July 2024 Total workload: 162 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 22 to 26 July 2024. The 5-day field part will be held on the island of Utö, which is 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 plate tectonics, climate change, 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) together with Niki Evelpidou (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens), Todd Ehlers (University of Glasgow) and Christophe Glotzbach (University of Tübingen).

Virtual part

The virtual part will be running from 6 May to 28 June 2024.

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, the University of Tübingen and the University of Glasgow 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 4 professors.

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's and PhD students at CIVIS member universities with a background and/or interest in geosciences and climate. 

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

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

- Participants should also have a good level of written and spoken English (B2).

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.

Students from CIVIS’ strategic partner universities in Africa cannot apply for participation in this course.

Application process

Send your application by filling in the online application form by 25 February 2024, including:

  • CV
  • Motivation letter
  • Level of English (according to CEFR)

Applications will be evaluated based on the relevance of the CV, the strong motivation of the applicants and the level of English. 

Apply now


- Students' 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.

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 Glasgow
  • Christophe Glotzbach, Researcher at University of Tübingen