GV1QS-Introduction to Quaternary Science

Module Provider: Geography and Environmental Science
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Dr Nick Branch

Email: n.p.branch@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
This module provides students, who have an interest in physical geography, human geography, archaeology and environmental science, with an introductory knowledge and understanding of the interaction between human activities, climate change and environmental change over the last c. 20,000 years (since the final stages of the last glaciation). Drawing upon a global set of case studies, the module seeks to illustrate the use of different types of evidence for reconstructing climate and environmental change and evaluating its impact upon human societies, as well as the evidence for the impact of human groups on the environment (e.g. burning, deforestation, farming).

To develop knowledge and understanding of the theoretical framework and main practical approaches used to reconstruct climate and environment change, and to examine the relationship between environmental change and past human activities.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that students will be able to:
•Demonstrate an understanding of the principal scientific methods used to reconstruct long-term climate and environmental change
•Describe the key stages in macro-scale climate and environmental (sea level, soil, vegetation and faunal) change over the last c.20,000 years
•Critically evaluate the relative contribution of human activity and natural factors in driving environmental change, and the extent to which human actions are influenced by the environment.

Additional outcomes:
This module aims to enhance the problem solving skills of students by encouraging them to consider the relative merits of conflicting interpretations of data.

Outline content:
The module will begin with consideration of the principal methods used to reconstruct and date past climate change and environments, including the analysis of marine and terrestrial sediments (lakes and peat bogs, river terraces), ice cores, and plant and animal remains. These will be examined within the framework of environmental change over the last c. 20,000 years within three broad geographical areas: (1) Mediterranean Europe, (2) Britain and Ireland, and (3) South America. To illustrate these themes, a set of case studies will be used. The module will then focus on practical methods, and will include the analysis of three main biological indicators: (1) fossil pollen; (2) fossil testate amoebae, and (3) fossil plant remains. This will provide an important insight into the practice of reconstructing past climate and environmental change.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module comprises 15 lectures (each lasting 1 hour), 4 hours of field and laboratory-based practical work, and 4 hours of presentations at a module mini-conference. Each lecture will involve the use of PowerPoint and video footage (of geological and archaeological archives). The practical classes will involve the identification of plant and animal fossils under the microscope (transmitted and reflected light), and hand specimens. The mini-conference will involve small group presentations, each lasting 15 minutes.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 15
Demonstration 4
Practicals classes and workshops 3
Fieldwork 1
Guided independent study 77
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 50
Oral assessment and presentation 25
Practical skills assessment 25

Other information on summative assessment:
The written assessment is a 1500 word essay (choice of 6 questions) [50% of the module].
The practical assessment involves the identification of fossil specimens and short answer questions (25 questions) [25% of the module].
The oral presentation is a 15 minute small group presentation (10 minute presentation, 5 minutes for questions) [25% of the module].

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Resubmission of coursework in August.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 21 December 2016

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