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Unit information: Environmental Geoscience Field Skills in 2020/21

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Unit name Environmental Geoscience Field Skills
Unit code EASC20018
Credit points 10
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Buss
Open unit status Not open

Successful completion of the first year of an Earth Sciences programme


EASC20037 Soils and the Critical Zone

School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


A one-week non-residential field class in Bristol. The city provides several woodlands and opportunities for the field study of soil development and plant ecology in the context of geology and land use history. This unit is available only to Honours Environmental Geoscientists.

The primary aims of this field class are to:

  • develop student's skills in the description and mapping of soils.
  • study soil formation in the context of local geology (parent material), vegetation, land use and land use history.
  • investigate relationships between soils, land use and plant diversity.
  • learn to collect and record detailed and useful field notes.
  • produce a webpage as a part of a group effort that records observations and experiences during the field class.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the field class you will be able to:

  • Record legible and useful field notes.
  • Describe the physical geography of a site.
  • Observe and describe physical properties of soils in profile.
  • Identify soil horizons and their boundaries.
  • Identify diagnostic subsurface horizons.
  • Perform field measurement of soil pH and texture.
  • Use a Munsell soil colour chart.
  • Name soil orders based upon field observations.
  • Describe the vegetation of a site and perform vegetation surveys.
  • Observe and describe vegetation succession in the context of land use change and time.
  • Produce a webpage.
  • Work effectively in a team to meet a strict deadline.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through a series of synchronous preparatory sessions in Bristol and through synchronous fieldwork and evening workshops. Students who either begin or continue their studies in an online mode may be required to complete fieldwork, or alternative activities in person, either during the academic year 2020/21 or subsequently, in order to meet the intended learning outcomes for the unit, prepare them for subsequent units or to satisfy accreditation requirements.

Assessment Details

Field notebooks and completed webpages must be submitted by 8 pm the final day of the field class. Coursework assesssment ratios are:

  • independent notebooks (50%),
  • group webpages (30%),
  • individual participation (20%).
  • Assessment will be based on faculty criteria and dept guidelines on field notebooks.

The participation mark is based upon individual student effort during the field class. This includes involvement in group activities and general willingness to follow field class guidelines that are described in detail in the course handout. A single participation mark is recorded at the end of each day by staff for each student based upon observations of their field work activities that day. General feedback about level of participation during the field class is given, in particular if the degree of effort is not considered satisfactory.

Reading and References

There is no formal recommend reading list for this field class, but students are encouraged to read widely on the topic of soil formation and more specially the subjects of soil, vegetation, geology, land use history and physical geography of Bristol. Students will be provided with a field guide which they are expected to read before the field trip, in addition to reviewing their Year 2 Soils and the Critical Zone course notes.