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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE3102 Isotope Geochemistry

10 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Dr Ivan Savov

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

Pre-requisite qualifications

Geology background and/or pre-requisite module


SOEE2010Chemistry of the Earth

Module replaces


This module is not approved as a discovery module


On completion of the module, students will be familiar with the application of stable isotope methods in the study of the Earth's major geochemical cycles.
On completion of this module students will be familiar with the principles of radioactive decay and their applications using geochemically important radioactive parent, and radiogenic daughter isotopes. They will be able to assess ages using the reduced activity of parent, the accumulation of daughters or progress toward secular equilibrium. They will learn to infer the chemical characteristic of long-lived geochemical reservoirs using radiogenic isotopes as tracers and also to use the latter to analyse mixing of materials from different reservoirs.


Basic principles of stable isotope chemistry. Types of isotopic fractionation and the mechanisms by which they occur. Stable isotope geothermometry.
Stable isotopes in the global carbon cycle. Photosynthesis and its isotopic effects. Uptake of CO2 by the oceans. Isotopic compositions of major carbon reservoirs. Balances between burial of carbonate and organic carbon.
Stable isotopes in the global sulfur cycle. Bacterial fractionation of S isotopes. Isotopic compositions of the major sulfur reservoirs. Evolution of S isotopes in sea-water and its relation to the origin of life. Properties of environmental reservoirs of S.
Essay on an aspect of the global carbon cycle (geological or environmental topic)

Basic principles of radioactivity and its geochemical applications; radiogenic isotopes and their use in dating geological processes and as tracers; Dating methods based on radioactive parent activity and uranium series dating; Cosmogenic isotopes in hydrogeology and palaeooceanography.
Essay on a geochronological or radiogenic isotope tracer application.

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
Private study hours86.00
Total Contact hours14.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Private study

Background reading; Literature research and essay preparation

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Tutorial sessions, e-mail consultations

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
Essay2 x assessed 2,000 word essays on topics selected from a choice of 3 or 4 for each100.00
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: 30/06/2021 16:25:48


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