GEOG30780 Quaternary Environmental Change in Ireland

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module examines the evidence for the glaciation of Ireland in the Quaternary Period and assesses the applicability to Ireland of global models of glaciation based on oxygen isotope variability in both ocean sediment cores and ice cores, the planet's longest, most complete and most reliable environmental surrogates. The module begins with an investigation of key glaciological processes and their reflection in both glacigenic geomorphology and sedimentology, before moving on to a survey of Ireland's Quaternary evolution through its geomorphology.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion students should be able to: (1) demonstrate an appreciation of the development of our understanding of Ireland's Quaternary environmental evolution; (2) demonstrate an understanding of key concepts in Quaternary geoscience and glacial geomorphology; (3) explain the linkages between geomorphology, glaciation and broader environmental stimuli, especially in the formation and evolution of environmentally sensitive landscapes and landforms.

Indicative Module Content:

Broadly, we will be studying the following eight themes. If you do this effectively, you should gain insights to a very wide range of research questions from first principles and from examples.
1. The development of Quaternary studies in Ireland since the beginning of the nineteenth century. You must study the relationships between developments in Quaternary studies and those in geomorphology and geology, both in Ireland and internationally, in particular key paradigms, actors and techniques. You must be familiar with a broad literature.

2. The significance of cryosphere-ocean interactions in the Quaternary, including in the context of near-future climate change, and the importance of the Irish landscape as an indicator of likely environmental and landscape changes imparted by deglacial processes modulated by sea level change.

3. Evidence from ocean sediments (including ice rafted debris, IRD), ice cores and terrestrial stratigraphies concerning the drivers of climate, sea level change and glaciation – and the timescales over which these phenomena operated and interacted, especially around the North Atlantic Ocean and the Irish-British region.

4. The evolution of Ireland’s ice sheets, ice domes and glaciers, from accumulation areas to terminal and recessional limits – especially their characteristic terrestrial and/or marine margins and the controls operating at those margins. You should be able to contextualise and describe the varying geography of these glaciological components (ice systems and their margins) and explain the varying environmental controls operating upon each component during both expansion and contraction. You must read and be able to cite the theoretical literature too.

5. The spatial and temporal relationships among the various components of Ireland’s Quaternary geomorphology, including insights gained from glaciated landscapes elsewhere. This is the shortest point – but it covers a large set of issues and involves a very large literature.

6. The significance of sea level in producing distinctive glacigenic geomorphology and sediments - and why researchers regard this as significant in the context of understanding the response of Ireland’s landscape to the broader glaciation of the Atlantic periphery.

7. The incision of glaciofluvial valleys adjusted to spatially and temporally variable relative sea levels and extreme discharges – and the relationship between the present rivers of Ireland and these valleys.

8. The evidence of glaciation on the Irish continental shelf beyond our present coastline. You must be familiar with recent research off Ireland and other landmasses – again, this is a complex issue with a growing literature.

In studying for this module, make sure you can do the following.
ANSWER THE QUESTION(S) posed in your essays. Do not write an answer to a question that has not been asked or one that you had hoped would be asked.
SHOW EVIDENCE OF READING by referring to textbooks and research articles as appropriate.
Be able to refer to research done both in Ireland (or the general region) and elsewhere that has a bearing on our understanding of events and processes in the Quaternary of Ireland and surrounding areas.
AVOID RELYING ON WEBSITES for your information - those that you do refer to must be cited in the text. Please be aware that there are no websites of appropriate standard relevant to the Quaternary of Ireland – do not use Irish websites to study.
USE MAPS, e.g. of Quaternary landforms and sediments – e.g. maps and aerial photography of Quaternary landforms available at may be useful; learn from them and learn how to reproduce them as sketch maps. Familiarise yourself with the maps and diagrams shown in the articles and books you use to study.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Autonomous Student Learning


Online Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Recorded lectures, through Brightspace; weekly live online tutorials; monthly face-to-face tutorials dealing with topic overviews (studied in detail through the recorded lectures) and data resources; reflective learning; enquiry & problem-based learning; case-study learning; topic-based reading; active/task-based learning; critical writing. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

GEOG10080 - Dynamic Earth

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
GEOG20150 - Quaternary Env. Change

GEOG30170 - Glaciation and the Quaternary

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: Essay to be submitted in Week 7 of Spring Trimester Week 7 n/a Graded No


Assignment: Essay to be submitted in Week 12 of Spring Trimester Week 12 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31, 32, 33 Fri 10:00 - 10:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 15:00 - 15:50