GV2QPE-Quaternary Palaeoecology

Module Provider: Geography and Environmental Science
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring 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:
The study of fossilised plant remains (e.g. pollen, charcoal) and amoebae are important components of research in the disciplines of archaeology, geography and environmental science. They provide information on the history of climate and environmental change due to natural processes, and human activities. This module will explore the past relationships between climate and environmental change, and human activities, using case studies from the Mediterranean and Ireland. The module will consider the relevance of palaeoecological data for present day and future environmental conservation and management. Using lectures and seminars, the module will consider the fundamental principles of studying fossilised remains, with an emphasis on the history of vegetation succession and climate change, and land-use history. In the field, we will look at issues of site selection, sampling strategies and techniques, and causes of landscape and environmental change. In the laboratory, we will look at the practice of pollen and amoebae analysis for the purpose of palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction.

To develop detailed knowledge and understanding of the theoretical framework and main practical approaches used to reconstruct vegetation history, climate change and land-use using sub-fossil biological remains.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that students will be able to:
•Understand evidence for natural vegetation succession, human interference in vegetation succession and climate change
•Understand evidence for human modification of the environment and land-use
•Evaluate relevant current theoretical issues and debates in Quaternary palaeoecological research, including the relevance of palaeoecological data for environmental conservation and management
•Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of appropriate methods through fieldwork, laboratory work and seminars
•Identify, describe, interpret, integrate and present information in the form of a scientific report.

Additional outcomes:
Laboratory analyses will require the students to familiarise themselves with specific scientific apparatus, technical identification guides and reference collections. Seminar presentations will provide additional training in communication and IT skills.

Outline content:
This module will outline the theoretical framework and main practical approaches used in the study of fossilised remains, and demonstrate how information generated from geological archives (e.g. peat bogs, lakes) can provide improved understanding of vegetation history, human interference in vegetation succession, climate change, and land-use. The module will also consider the relevance of palaeoecological data for present day and future environmental conservation and management. To illustrate these themes, case studies will be used from Ireland and the Mediterranean. The laboratory practical classes will focus on two classes of sub-fossil remains: pollen grains and spores, and testate amoebae. The classes will involve microscopy and statistical analysis (Detrended Correspondence Analysis and/or Principal Components Analysis) of the data. The one-day field trip will introduce the students to practical approaches used for studying the evolution of British heathlands and their archaeological importance. Seminars will involve discussion of key issues, including: (1) Pollen analysis of lakes; (2) Testate amoebae analysis of peat bogs.

Global context:
The module provides training in the theory and practice of Quaternary Palaeoecology. This will enable students to practice palaeoecology in the Mediterranean, and well as Britain and Ireland. It will also enable them to appreciate that the techniques can be applied to many different regions of the world.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module comprises 3 lectures (each lasting 3 hours), 2 seminars (each lasting 1 hour), and 16 hours of laboratory-based practical work, and a field class (6 hours). Each seminar will involve a PowerPoint presentation followed by a class discussion. In addition to the classroom and laboratory based teaching, the students will attend a one-day field visit (6 hours).

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 9
Seminars 2 2
Practicals classes and workshops 16
Fieldwork 6
Guided independent study 65
Total hours by term 98.00 2.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Report 50

Other information on summative assessment:

Formative assessment methods:
Seminar presentations and class discussions.

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:
    2 hours

    Requirements for a pass:

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Resubmission of coursework and examination 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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