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Academic year
Didactic period
Secondo Semestre

Training objectives

The course represents the first and only teaching of Geology and Geomorphology and it includes several topics of the Earth Sciences.

The main aim of the course is to provide the students with the fundamental knowledge of the Earth Sciences and to favour the comprehension of the processes that constitute their basis. Specifically, the primary scope of the course is to favour the learning of the mechanisms of the Earth formation, endogenous processes, formation and modification of rocks, exogenous processes and how they are able to shape the landscape, major natural risks and the climate change. Theoretic information will always be introduced side by side to examples. Examples are useful to understand the theory that was, in fact, derived from direct observations of natural processes and/or of their effects on the territory and, therefore, they are important to learn the complexity and interconnection of natural phenomena.

The main achievements will be:

Basic knowledge of endogenous processes and how they led the Earth formation, the past formation and modification of rocks and how they still continue to evolve;
Main methods for the macroscopic identification and recognition of rocks;
Knowledge of major natural processes that shaped the landscape in the past and how nowadays they are able to model the territory, on the land surface and in the underground, at the boundary between the land and the sea and, finally, on the ocean floor.
Knowledge of the key techniques and technologies to study, observe and monitor earth-surface phenomena and the processes that occur deep into the Earth structure;
Basic information to deal with climate change topics.
The key skills (i.e. how to apply the obtained knowledge) will be:

Capability to identify the rocks from a macroscopic point of view, how the rocks are related to the paleo-environment of formation and to the present endogenous and exogenous processes;
Understanding the interconnection between the numerous phenomena that are responsible of the Earth formation. Comprehension of the present natural processes that are capable to influence the environment we live in;
Capability to observe the territory from a point of view that is competent and critical at the same time, to deeply understand natural processes and how much they are in close relation to each other;
Acquire a better awareness of which are the drivers of political decisions with respect to environmental themes;
Comprehend the main natural risks and how much they are linked to human actions.


None. However, it is beneficial to know some basic concepts of inorganic chemistry as well as physics. The course is not suitable for students outside the careers of Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering

Course programme

Elements of Geomorphology (30 hours)-Prof. P. Ciavola

1. General geology, mechanisms of rocks formation and modification, macroscopic rocks characteristics (7.5 hours)

Mechanisms of Earth formation, volcanism, plate tectonics, folds and faults, igneous rocks (intrusive and effusive) and sedimentary rocks. Macroscopic identification of rock samples and application of the methodologies to identify and recognise each type of rock.

2. Landscape evolution and soil production in different climatic contexts (2.5 hours)

3. The rivers and their evolution (2.5 hours)

Definition and formation of rivers, sediment transport operated by rivers, landscape evolution determined by the rivers and landforms associated with them. Deltas and estuaries, their classification and some examples.

4. Low-sandy beaches and shore protection (5 hours)

Definition of low-sandy coasts, the morphodynamic classification and definition of the main parameters associated with the waves and the characteristics of the beach. The tides. Spits and barrier islands, salt marshes. Methods for shore monitoring and protection.

5. Elements of marine geology and oceanography (2.5 hours)

Marine geology, with particular reference to the mechanisms of formation of submerged landforms, slope and submarine canyons. Elements of Oceanography (thermohaline circulation, the Ekman spiral, upwelling and downwelling).

6. Elements of remote sensing (5 hours)

Definitions of the key remote sensing techniques, examples of practical applications in different environmental contexts and for different purposes. Specific examples of application to the monitoring of the coastal area.

7. Glaciers (2 hours)

Definitions, movement of glaciers and their capability of shaping the territory, observation of landscape forms to reconstruct the movements of the glaciers at the time of the glaciations.

8. Climate change (2.5 hours)

Components of the "Earth system" that affect the climate, el Nino and La Nina, the ice ages, human action that control the climate change, ozone depletion, acid rain and the carbon cycle. Sea level rise and estimates of the last IPCC report. The risks associated with climate change.

Elements of Applied Geology (30 hours)-Prof. M. Ghirottti

1. Introduction (1 hour)
The role of Engineering Geology in the mitigation of geological risks; geology applied to surface and underground civil engineering works.
2. Characteristics and properties of soils, rocks and rock masses (19 hours)
Physical characteristics of soils and rocks. Main soil classification systems: index properties; particle sizes analyses; Atterberg limits. Mechanical characteristics of the rock matrix: uniaxial and triaxial compression tests in rock. Hoek & Brown criterion for the rock matrix; the shear strength of discontinuities: the Patton criterion, the Barton-Bandis criterion; rock masses: definition, behavior, geomechanical classifications (RMR, Q-system, GSI); the generalized criterion of Hoek & Brown. Examples of application of geomechanical classification to underground excavations
3. Geognostic investigations (4 hours)
Purpose and principles. In situ geological exploration: surveys, on-site tests, monitoring. Introduction to STP, CPT, CPTU tests.
4. Landslides (6 hours)
Landslides, predisposing and triggering factors; classification of landslides (Cruden & Varnes); presentation of some significant examples. Thematic mapping of the Emilia-Romagna region.

Didactic methods

The course is organized as follows:
lectures on all subjects.

If the COVID-19 pandemic with require online teaching, the practicals will be given remotely.

Learning assessment procedures

The scope of the examination is to test the level of achievement of the learning objectives described above. The exam aims also at verifying the student's ability to relate the acquired information into an overview.

The exam consists of a written test.

The written test is divided into two parts:

A part of recognition and description of a rock sample. The test will be evaluated in terms of pass or not passed, which means that, if the sample recognition will be done properly, the student will be assigned a pass, otherwise the test will be considered as not passed.
The pass evaluation will be assigned to the student who will fulfill all the three below requirements:
1) Able to identify the name of the rock sample;
2) Describe in detail the macroscopic characteristics of the rock sample;
3) Define and describe in detail the probable environment of formation of the rock sample.

A second written test with five questions on all the other course contents (point 1 to 10 of the "course contents" section). The maximum grade is 30/30. The test is passed if the student achieves the minimum grade of 18/30.

Conditions to pass the exam

To pass the exam the student must obtain both a pass and a minimum score of 18 out of 30 in the second part of the written test. The final grade is the grade obtained in the second written test, if sufficient.
In the correction phase, the professor will assign the laude if, and only if, the student gets 30/30 in the second part of the written test, fulfills in an excellent way the three requirements to get the "pass" in the recognition of the rock sample and, simultaneously, demonstrates that he/she fully understands the course topics and how they are in relation to each other. Therefore, it will be rewarded with the laude the student who, in addition to demonstrating the acquisition of the basic knowledge, will be able to provide examples and reasoning to make cross-connections between the topics covered during the course, as highlighted in the learning objectives section.

If the student refuses the grade obtained in the written test albeit sufficient, he/she will have to take again the exam including the recognition of a rock sample.

Upon request, the exams can be taken in English.

In the case of restrictions to take the exam in person due to the pandemic COVID-19, it may be replaced by an oral exam.

Reference texts

Notes provided by the teacher (pdf files of the lessons) and notes taken during classes. The most updated references in the scientific literature will be provided in order to deepen specific topics.

G. SAPPA (2019) Geologia Applicata, CittàStudi Ed.

L. GONZÁLEZ DE VALLEJO (2005), Geoingegneria, Pearson Italia Ed.

These books can be found on the market in their original version in English.