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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE1020 Ice Age Environments

10 creditsClass Size: 70

Module manager: Dr Philip Murphy

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module aims to provide an overview and critical insight on the major changes that have impacted the landscapes of the British Isles during the Quaternary, i.e. the last 2.6 years, a time interval that has witnessed the establishment of high amplitude glacial/interglacial cycles. The module concentrates on the Quaternary record as understood from the contrasting landscapes and deposits and year significance in palaeoclimatic reconstruction and the practical implications for society’s exploitation and habitation of the land. It will provide practical skills and background knowledge for dealing with the results of glacial, periglacial and paraglacial processes both through undergraduate study and in professional practice.The field trip will act as an introduction to the human as well as physical geography of the Leeds area as the development of Ilkey as a Victorian resort is intimately bound up in the landscape. The use of the museum collection will introduce students to one of the major visitor attractions of Leeds and make them aware of the proximity of the University to the historical and cultural centres of Leeds.


-To explore, analyse and understand the changes in the environment brought about by the Quaternary Ice Ages with respect to the evolution of the British Isles and surrounding continental shelf.
-To provide practical training in the methodologies and techniques used to characterise and understand Quaternary deposits
-To give a background knowledge of the Quaternary history and resulting landscapes of the British isles
-To show how important an understanding of such deposits can be for practicing environmental scientists and geologists.

At the end of this module, you will have acquired a theoretical knowledge of the major changes and their forcing that occurred during the Quaternary and how these have produced the landscape we inhabit today. You will be familiar with landscapes and products of these processes from around the British Isles and be able to describe and characterise them on a variety of scales.
You will also have acquired knowledge of and practical experience in description and mapping of landforms and the practical application of this to engineering geology and mineral exploration.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
- Identify key concepts and understanding in the fields of Quaternary Studies and in linked areas of geomorphology;
- Understand the key principles of the palaeoenvironmental work;
- Interpret landscapes of the British Isles in terms of past processes that were responsible for their creation
-understand the implications for development and planning of the products of glacial and associated processes.

They should have:
- An understanding of the nature and timing of major environmental changes over the last 2.6 million years. (both regional and global) and how and where these are expressed in the British Isles
- An appreciation of how the mid-latitude setting and (pen)insularity of the British isles have affected the paleontological record including human occupation.
- Be familiar with the history of growth and decay of the last British and Irish Ice Sheet (BIIS)
- Become acquainted with a variety of methods of palaeoenvironmental reconstruction used for different systems.
- A knowledge of the range of methods used for dating Quaternary deposits and there short comings.
- An understanding of glacial, periglacial and paraglacial processes which have shaped the geomorphology of the British Isles
- An understanding of the practical applications of Quaternary geology in mineral exploration, resource evaluation, development planning considerations, hydrogeology and engineering geology with examples from the British Isles

Skills outcomes
This module will introduce the students to the basic skills of geomorphological mapping.


This module examines how climate acted on the biophysical landscape over the last 2-3 million years. It explains the magnitude of the changes and how we can reconstruct the past from sedimentary and fossil evidence. After a review of the various types and sources of sediments, their stratigraphy and dating, we explore the stratigraphy of the Quaternary in the British Isles and the environments of both cold and warm stages. Case studies illustrate the practical considerations for geologists and environmental scientists when dealing with the products and effects of glacial and allied processes using case studies from the UK.
The lecture course will cover the following topics:
- Understanding Quaternary environmental change
. Orbital forcing
. Short-term climatic variations
. Evidence from ocean sediment cores (e.g. Heinrich layers)
. Evidence from ice cores (D/O oscillations; GRIP)

- The character, duration and framework of the Quaternary, with emphasis on :
. The Quaternary record in the British Isles
. The stratigraphic framework of the British Isles and how this relates to mainland Europe, the marine isotope records, ice core records
- The geology and geomorphology of glaciated terrains
- The geology and geomorphology of periglaciated terrains
- The geology and geomorphology of paraglacial terrains
. Sediments and landforms
. Character and distribution
. Origin, processes
. Techniques to characterize sediment-landform assemblages

- Dating methods
. Radiometric dating techniques (e.g. 14C, K-Ar, OSL, cosmogenic dating)
. Incremental dating methods (Dendrochronology, varve chronology)
. Age-equivalent stratigraphic markers (e.g. palaeomagnetism,

-Highland processes and landforms

-Lowland processes and landforms including the Thames Valleys sequence

-Palaeontological record including an overview of the human occupation record and the Holocene fauna and flora as an example of controls on biodiversity.

-Practical considerations of dealing with Quaternary deposits
- aggregate resource characterisation and volume estimation
- risks and hazards
- hydrogeological effects

The Ipswichian deposits of the Leeds area and their significance for ice margin delineation of the last BIIS
-this will involve a visit to the Leeds Museum to utilise the display of the Leeds hippopotamus and the Victoria Cave collection. This will be undertaken as a self-led trail with a question sheet similar to the campus trail developed for module 1560. A specified two week period will be given during which the students need to complete the trail and submit the question sheet to the Taught Student Office.

- The course will also include a one day field trip to some of the landforms around Leeds. This will be undertaken using public transport to lessen the environmental impact of the activity. By Rail to Ilkley viewing the U shaped valley of Wharfedale and the engineering considerations of building the railway on a lateral moraine. By foot to visit the paraglacial land slip including back scarp and other features upon which Ilkey is built, the valley side tors of the Cow and Calf rocks and the esker deposit of Lanshaw Delves. The students will see first-hand glacial, periglacial and paraglacial landforms. They will map the extent of a major paraglacial landslip. See evidence of the interaction of engineering and infrastructure with the landforms and be able to reconstruct a palaeoenvironmental history covering the Last Glacial Maximum and subsequent de-glaciation for the area from field evidence. Consideration of the risks and hazards posed by possible future development in the area.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent online learning hours10.00
Private study hours72.00
Total Contact hours18.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Private study

Students will have two online (hosted on the VLE) MCQ quizzes to complete, these will be based on that week's lecture material. One of the quizzes will relate directly to information from the BRITICE compilation as the student will be expected to familiarise themselves with this major web based resource.
Private study:

Students will be expected to read relevant chapters from course texts that will be recommended to them, and to independently consolidate and review material covered in lectures. Students will also be introduced to up to date summary literature from appropriate journals to familiarise themselves with scientific journals as a resource as part of their transition to university learning.

Students will be expected to undertake a self-guided visit to the Leeds Museum to familairise themselves with the displays of Pleistocene megafauna and local glacial geology. This can be undertaken at any time during semester 1.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Online quizzes: will help to consolidate learning from week to week, as well as test the students' knowledge of material covered and provide formative assessment.

Museum Visit: This will involve application of the lecture learning and provide an opportunity for formative assessment.

Mid-term optional tutorials: short one-to-one meetings which students will be invited to attend to discuss any course issues.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
In-course MCQIn Course MCQ0.00
FieldworkField Report50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

The resit for this module is normally by examination only.

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)1 hr 00 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

The resit for this module is normally by examination only.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 17/01/2020


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