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Unit information: Environmental Geoscience 1 in 2013/14

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Unit name Environmental Geoscience 1
Unit code EASC10002
Credit points 40
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Sherman
Open unit status Open
Pre-requisites

n/a

Co-requisites

n/a

School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description

This unit provides an overview of the natural environment that we inhabit, particularly the processes that shape the evolution of our environment, both past and future, the effect of the environment on society and the effects of human activities on our environment. This unit explores a range of issues in depth, from fundamental scientific principles to assessment of options for solving environmental problems. Practical classes provide an opportunity to examine environmental systems and problems in the field and laboratory, and students are introduced to a range of approaches to the quantitative study of environmental systems. Fieldwork includes day-trips during term-time.

Lectures provide an overview of the natural environment that we inhabit, particularly the processes that shape the evolution of our environment, both past and future, the effect of the environment on society and the effects of human activities on our environment. This unit explores a range of issues in depth, from fundamental scientific principles to assessment of options for solving environmental problems.

The unit starts with a discussion of the global geophysical and biogeochemical cycles that operate on the Earth and control the large-scale behaviour of the atmosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere and the cycling of energy, water, carbon and nitrogen. The theme of human society and environment is then explored by examining a range of natural hazards and how these can be monitored, assessed and their effects mitigated. Next, interaction of human society and the environment is examined via non-renewable mineral and fossil fuel resources, including issues ranging from their origin to environmental problems associated with their extraction and utilisation. Renewable resources are then discussed, focusing first on alternative energy sources and secondly on water resources. Finally, the unit concludes with an overview of natural and human-induced global environmental change, including analysis of ongoing changes and implications for the future.

The practical classes provide an opportunity to examine environmental systems and problems in the field and laboratory, and you will be introduced to a range of approaches to the quantitative study of environmental systems. You will collect data from your own laboratory experiments and work with numerical models to analyse quantitative environmental data.

Intended learning outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding of:

  • the natural environment that we inhabit, particularly the processes that shape the evolution of our environment, both past and future,
  • the effect of the environment on society and the effects of human activities on our environment.
  • a range of issues from fundamental scientific principles to assessment of options for solving environmental problems.
  • global geophysical and biogeochemical cycles that operate on the Earth and control the large-scale behaviour of the atmosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere and the cycling of energy, water, carbon and nitrogen.
  • natural hazards and how these can be monitored, assessed and their effects mitigated.
  • interaction of human society and the environment via non-renewable mineral and fossil fuel resources, including issues ranging from their origin to environmental problems associated with their extraction and utilisation.
  • alternative energy sources and secondly on water resources.
  • natural and human-induced global environmental change, including analysis of ongoing changes and implications for the future.

Able to:

  • critically evaluate arguments, assumptions, abstract concepts and data, to frame appropriate questions and make judgements, to achieve a solution - or identify a range of solutions - to a problem;
  • evaluate one's own progress and performance;
  • manage time and work to meet deadlines for independent and team work;
  • examine environmental systems and problems in the field and laboratory,
  • select appropriate approaches for quantitative study of environmental systems,
  • collect data from your own laboratory experiments and work with numerical models to analyse quantitative environmental data.

Teaching details

lectures, practicals and fieldwork

Assessment Details

20% from a January progress exam (1 hour), 80% from the summer exam (3 hours). Note that the summer exam will include material covered in the whole year including questions on material covered in practicals and local fieldwork as well as lectures.

Reading and References

Essential

  • Bryants, E. Natural Hazards. Cambridge University Press, 2005;
  • Henderson, P. and Henderson, G.M. The Cambridge Handbook of Earth Science Data. Cambridge University Press, 2009;
  • Kump, L.R., Kasting J.F. & Crane, R.G. The Earth System . Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2010;
  • Lambourne, R and Tinker, M. Basic Mathematics for the Physical Sciences.Wiley Blackwell, 2000;
  • Porteous, A. Dictionary of Environmental Science and Technology (4th ed.). Wiley, 2008;

Background reading

  • Alexander, D. Natural disasters. UCL Press-Chapman and Hall, 1993;
  • Bennett, M.R. & Doyle, P. Environmental Geology: Geology and the Human Environment. Wiley, 1997;
  • Miller, G.T. Jr. Living in the environment: principles, connections, and solutions (13th ed.). Brooks/Cole, 2003;
  • Skinner, B.J. & Murck, B.W., The Blue Planet: an introduction to Earth System Science (3rd ed.). Wiley, 2003.

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