GEOL40450 Environmental Geoscience

Academic Year 2022/2023

This online module introduces and explores several key concepts in Environmental Geoscience, linked to long-term Environmental Sustainability. The primary focus is on the quantification and management of Earth's finite and renewable resources. Resources considered include materials (ranging from water to strategically important metals), energy (traditional fossil fuel as well as renewable sources such as geothermal, wind and wave power) as well as the availability of materials and sites for long-term carbon sequestration (e.g. carbon capture and storage). The evidence from Earth's sedimentary rock archives for both natural and anthropogenic climate change on a range of timescales, and the likely impact of these changes on Earth's renewable energy resources (e.g. wind and waves) will also be reviewed in the module. The module also addresses geohazards such as flooding, landsliding, volcanic and earthquake activity. The module also explores the links between pollutant (heavy metal and persistent organics) behaviour and geoscience, particularly in the context of resource exploitation.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, students should:
(i) appreciate the extent to which Geoscience resource issues impact on models for Environmental Sustainability
(ii) know that Earth's resources are finite and require careful assessment and management in the context of sustainable development
(iii) understand that renewable energy resources are variably sensitive to climate change, depending on location and the time-frame under consideration
(iv) be able to explain the resource-related factors that must be taken into account when planning renewable energy installations such as wind farms, solar farms and wave energy convertor deployment
(v) appreciate the nature of geohazards and some of the links between geoscience and human/animal health

Indicative Module Content:

Earth’s Internal Cycles and Energy Flows:
• Earth’s internal structure and Energy
• Plate Tectonics
• Introduction to use of a learning diary
• Introduction, and some resources for Week 1 essay.
• Introduction to Earthquakes
• Introduction to Volcanoes

Earth’s External Cycles and Energy Flows:
• Shallow ocean Circulation
• Deep ocean circulation

Introduction to Earth’s Climate System:
• Past natural climate variability
• Climate forcing mechanisms
• Evidence for recent climate change
• Attribution of recent change (natural versus anthropogenic)
• Climate models; how do they work
• Climate Sensitivity, resolution and other issues in climate models

• Earthquakes and Induced Seismicity
• Landslides and bog bursts
• Natural Radioactivity and Radon gas

Renewable Energy:
• Geothermal Energy
• Water Resources and Hydropower Assignment 3 due end of week 9
• Wind Energy
• Wave and Tidal Energy

Earth’s Finite Resources and Sustainability:
• Earth’s hydrocarbon resources
• Earth’s metal and non-metallic resources

Pollutants in the Environment:
• Metals and organometallic compounds in the environment
• Behaviour of organic compounds in the environment

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning


Online Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This is an entirely online module. Moderated discussion boards are used to engender a sense of a class group. Learning is through the online material (recorded lectures), videos, links to online material and reading material provided by the module coordinator. The module is assessed using one mid-term MCQ exam (25% of marks) and one final written exam (75% of marks). 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Examination: End of trimester examination 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Multiple Choice Questionnaire: MCQ exam (30 questions in 30 minutes) on material presented in Weeks 1 to 3 inclusive. Week 5 n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will be given individually to students following the MCQ exam in Week 5.