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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE5232M Biogeochemical Cycles of the Earth System

15 creditsClass Size: 6

Module manager: Oliver Moore

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is mutually exclusive with

SOEE3110Earth System Science: BGC Cyc

This module is not approved as an Elective


On completion of the module, students will have an understanding of the global biogeochemical cycles of the important bioelements, how these cycles have changed over time and how they can be used to understand the Earth System. Students will also see how feedbacks operate within these cycles and how these cycles are closely interconnected.

Students will develop an understanding of the general principles and science of biogeochemistry in relation to the Earth System, and then look in more detail at individual biogeochemical cycles.

Students will develop an understanding of numerical modeling of biogeochemical cycles through scenario testing to look at how changes to the biogeochemical cycles (past, present and future) affect the Earth System, and vice versa.

Skills outcomes
During this module, students will gain a knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms and processes involved in the global cycles of a range of important bioelements. Students will also learn about the concepts used to describe biogeochemical cycles.

Students will gain the ability to use numerical modelling to investigate the impact on the Earth System of simple past and future perturbations to the biogeochemical cycles. Associated skills of problem solving, numeracy and IT will be gained within the context of the numerical modelling. Students will then use this numerical modelling as the basis for a research report, focusing on a single biogeochemical cycle. Students will also gain the ability to research in depth a single biogeochemical cycle, or aspect of biogeochemical cycling, to produce a research essay drawing on relevant research literature.

Associated skills of written communication and information literacy will be gained within the context of the research report and the research essay, and in particular the research essay will provide students the opportunity to practise and develop their independent research skills.


Part 1: During part 1 of the course we will cover the general principles and science of biogeochemistry in relation to the Earth System, including: use of biogeochemical cycles to understand the Earth System; box models; numerical modelling.

Part 2: In part 2 of the course, we will cover the individual biogeochemical cycles, including: the global carbon cycle; the hydrological cycle; the nitrogen cycle; the phosphorous cycle; and the coupled sulphur-iron-oxygen cycles. In each case, we will cover the chemical forms of the element, the processes that control its transformations and finally its global cycle. We will look at various scenarios relevant to changing the cycles. Students will then choose an aspect of the global carbon cycle and develop a numerical model for that cycle. They will then produce a research report on this work.

Part 3: Students will choose a research essay title on global biogeochemical cycles from a selection provided. They will then produce an independent research essay on this topic

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent online learning hours24.00
Private study hours100.00
Total Contact hours26.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

Students will be expected to undertake reading after each lecture, based on reading lists that will be given out. Students will also be expected to undertake additional reading to support and augment their learning. In particular, students will be expected to undertake significant independent reading and research in order to complete the research component of the module. All reading and research should be undertaken during the private study hours that are detailed above. In addition, we will introduce numerical computing software, and students will be expected to practice using this software in their own time, detailed as independent online learning hours above.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress in numerical modelling and preparation of the associated research report will be supported by dedicated practical classes and help sessions during office hours. A first draft of the research report will be submitted for formative feedback ahead of the summative submission. The research report will be marked before the end of the module so that students gain marks and feedback before the research essay.

The research essay will be supported via a tutorial and students will have the opportunity to gain feedback as they prepare their research essay for the final part of the module assessment.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Computer ExerciseCarbon Cycle Modelling Report (2,500 words)53.00
EssayResearch Essay (2,000 words)47.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Re-sit is by an individual research essay for 100% of the module marks

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 31/08/2023


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