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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

GEOG3877 Global Environmental Cycles

20 creditsClass Size: 18

Module manager: Prof. Emanuel Gloor

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

Pre-requisite qualifications

GEOG2085 or GEOG2090 or equivalent


GEOG2085Ecosystems: process, pattern, and change
GEOG2090Climate Systems

This module is mutually exclusive with

SOEE3110Earth System Science: BGC Cyc

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The Earth System is comprised of the atmosphere, oceans, rocks and biota, linked by the constant movement and transformation of biologically important elements, such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous. The interactions and feedbacks within and between these cycles determine climate and underpin life. In this module you will gain an understanding of the processes involved in the global cycles of the key bioelements, and how they have changed over time. You will learn how to use a simple numerical model to overcome complexity and look at future scenarios. You will examine the impact of human activity on the cycles, and thus gain an understanding of key modern environmental issues.


To teach a knowledge of the global cycles of the important bioelements (including carbon, nitrogen, phorphorous, oxygen, iron and sulphur),
To foster an understanding of how global cycles have changed over time.
To foster an understanding of how humans have perturbed global cycles, and the environmental issues arising from that perturbation.
To develop the ability to debate and discuss possible future courses of action.
To develop critical reading and information synthesis skills.
To develop written and verbal communication and teamwork skills.
To develop an understanding of numerical modelling of biogeochemical cycles.
To showcase skills in data collection, analysis and interpretation.

Learning outcomes
Students will gain a knowledge and understanding of:
The mechanisms and processes involved in the global cycles of a range of important bioelements, including C, N, P, S, Fe and O.
The ways in which humans have impacted those cycles, and the future implications of this.
An understanding of the numerical modelling of global biogeochemical cycles, and the ability to manipulate a simple model to explore future scenarios.
An understanding of how the different global cycles have evolved through time alongside the evolution of life.
An understanding of selected environmental issues.
Collecting and interpreting isotopic data in order to understand past environmental change.
Practical experience how to display and analyse global datasets related element cycling.

Skills outcomes
This module will develop skills in critical reading, and synthesising information from multiple sources. Group discussions, debates and presentations will develop communication, presentation and teamwork skills, and the ability to construct a persuasive argument. Practical activities will develop numerical modelling, sample analysis, data handling and interpretation skills.


The module will be taught in three blocks as follows.
Block 1: Introduction to global biogeochemical cycles
Block 2: Field and laboratory work - Earth's catastrophes
Block 3: Hands on analysis of global datasets (ocean and atmosphere)

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours156.00
Total Contact hours44.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Private study will include reading of set material after each lecture, and in preparation for class discussions. Additional reading and writing will be required for the two reports, which will arise out of practical sessions and a one-day field trip. Further private study will be required in preparation for the assessed presentation.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Assessments will be spaced out through the year, with assignments set in both semesters. These will provide some scope for progress monitoring and feedback. In addition, tasks on which formative feedback will be given will be set in both semesters.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Report2000 words40.00
Report2500 words40.00
Oral Presentation10 minutes20.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/04/2019


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