GEOL40450 Environmental Geoscience

Academic Year 2023/2024

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 Earth systems are interconnected and how Geoscience resource issues impact on 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:

Online Sessions
1 Earth’s Internal Cycles and Energy Flows: Part 1
• Earth’s internal structure and Energy
• Plate Tectonics

2 Earth’s Internal Cycles and Energy Flows: Part 2
• Introduction to Earthquakes
• Introduction to Volcanoes

3 Earth’s External Cycles and Energy Flows: Part 1, The Oceans
• Shallow ocean Circulation
• Deep ocean circulation

4 Introduction to Earth’s Climate System: Part 1
• Past natural climate variability
• Climate forcing mechanisms

5 Introduction to Earth’s Climate System: Part 2
• Evidence for recent climate change
• Climate models; how do they work

6 Introduction to Earth’s Climate System: Part 3
• Climate Sensitivity, resolution and other issues in climate models
• Attribution of recent change (natural versus anthropogenic)

7 Geohazards: Part 1
• Earthquakes and Induced Seismicity
• Landslides and bog bursts

8 Geohazards: Part 2 • Natural Radioactivity and Radon gas

9 Renewable Energy: Part 1
• Geothermal Energy
• Water Resources and Hydropower

10 Renewable Energy: Part 2
• Wind Energy
• Wave and Tidal Energy

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

12 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. Learning is through the online material (recorded lectures), videos, links to online material and reading material provided by the module coordinator. Online class meetings will be scheduled to help peer-to-peer learning. The module is assessed using one mid-term MCQ exam (25% of marks) and one final written exam (75% of marks).

There is no single textbook that covers all of the module. You may find the textbook by Stephen Marshak (Earth: Portrait of a Planet) helpful for the material covered in the first couple of weeks. Throughout the module I will be uploading short research articles for you to read independently. 
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 In Module Component Repeat Offered
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.