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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

GEOG3895 Timescales of Global Change

20 creditsClass Size: 75

Module manager: Dr Graeme Swindles

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

Pre-requisite qualifications

None, but GEOG1045, GEOG1055, GEOG2085 and GEOG2090 are recommended, and a background in physical geography or another science subject is essential.

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module is split into three components to address different timescales of global change on Earth. [1] Planet Earth has undergone major changes during its long-term geological history including dramatic climatic and ecological shifts. This component of the module will examine the nature of long-term change including the development of the climate system and evolution of life on Earth. [2] Over the last 2.6 million years there have been extreme climatic changes, the rise and fall of continental ice sheets, and repeated collapse and reorganization of ecosystems. The evolution of perhaps the most important organism on the planet today (humans) also occurred during this time. This component of the module will examine Quaternary climatic and environmental change from Milankovitch to millennial and centennial time scales. [3] How have human activities affected Planet Earth? This section will examine how human activities have changed the environment since the industrial revolution and the challenges this presents for managing ecosystems today. In particular, this component will consider how climate change is one of the most pressing problems for humankind and will examine the science of recent climate change including the nature of human impacts on the atmosphere and management strategies. This module is suitable for geographers, ecologists, geologists, and others with an interest in the lessons we can learn by studying changes in the environment over different timescales.


1. To appreciate the nature of global environmental change over different timescales from billions of years to inter-annual.

2. To understand the dynamics of the natural Earth system including climate change and vegetation dynamics.

3. To understand anthropogenic impacts on the environment including climate change, pollution and landscape change.

4. To enhance students' skills in interpreting, analysing and synthesizing scientific data.

5. To enable students to apply scientific knowledge to problems in environmental management, conservation and restoration.

Learning outcomes
On completing this module, students will have knowledge of the following topics:

1. Global change over various timescales.

2. Past ecosystem responses to climate change.

3. The scope and nature of human interaction with the environment.

4. Data handling and analysis tools relevant to environmental change science (and other fields).

5. The application of scientific knowledge to environmental management, conservation and restoration.

Skills outcomes
Environmental data analysis
Field skills
Laboratory skills
Report writing


Content may include:
- Environmental change over geological timescales
- Ecosystem and species responses to major atmospheric/climatic changes
- Quaternary environmental change
- Changing ecosystems
- Climate change
- Human impacts on the environment
- Pollution of the natural environment
- Understanding change for conservation and management
- Case studies

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours160.00
Total Contact hours40.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Reading around each lecture: 12 x 7 hours
Seminar preparation: 8 x 2 hours
Essay/commentary and short presentation: 30 hours
Essay 2: 30 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Verbal feedback during practicals, field classes, seminars and some lectures.

Assessments will be staged along the module, with care taken to give feedback in both semesters (or early in semester 2) and well before submission of the next piece coursework.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Assignment1500 words; essay/commentary on a variety of topics (worth 75%) and short presentation on same topic in a mini conference format (worth 25%)50.00
Essay2500 words; essay on a variety of topics50.00
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: 23/09/2019


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