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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Aquatic Systems (EASC10099)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryA study of the nature and functioning of aquatic systems, inlcuding ground waters, lakes, rivers, estuaries, oceans, soils, sediments and rocks. The emphasis will be on the physical, geochemical, and biogeochemical processes operating within these systems, by outlining the essential princples and concepts governing these processes.

The course rationale is to explain important aspects of aquatic systems essential for advanced studies in sedimentology, chemical sedimentation, petroleum geology and environmental geochemistry.
Course description L1 Introductions to Aquatic Systems
Essential aspects of the physical settings, and circulation patterns within lakes, rivers, groundwater, estuaries, oceans and soils; thermal, physical and chemical properties of water.

L2 Nature of Water
Water as a solvent and hydrogen bonding, solubility of gases and the carbonate system; buffering capacity of natural waters; acid-base base chemistry of rain water and lakes, ionic strength of natural waters; saline and alkaline lakes.

L3/4 Rates of Geochemical Processes
Definition of important terms. Reaction rates, orders of reaction and their determination, Temperature dependence of reaction rates.

L5/6 Oxygen as a Master Variable
Oxidation and Reduction, pE-pH diagrams and phase stability illustrated through Fe and Mn. Redox conditions in aquatic systems and their natural limits. Applications to soils and sediments and other key systems.

L7/8 Transformation of Substances in Natural Waters
Equilibria in aqueous systems: solubility products, saturation and precipitation of minerals. Complexation, speciation and chelation of metals with natural ligands; adsorption and desorption reaction.

L9 Autotrophic Processes
Photo- and chemosynthesis - reactions, governing factors (nutrient dependence and limitation etc) and global distributions (terrestrial and marine); Anabolism and biosynthesis: the major biochemical classes, their functions and distributions in different organisms/environments.

L10 Heterotrophic Processes
Respiration, catabolism, organic matter decay and nutrient release; trophic interactions and food webs microbial geochemistry: definitions, products, stoichiometry and tracers, Oxygen demand and redox zonation in natural environments. General patterns of organic matter decay: Early diagenesis and humification.

L11/13 Organic Matter Cycling in Natural Environments
Soil formation and processes; Freshwater organic geochemistry: groundwaters, rivers and lakes; Estuaries and coastal waters; Water-column and sedimentary processes in the ocean; A comparison of soil and sedimentary processes; Synthesis: an assessment of key reservoirs and fluxes in the global C cycle.

L14 Nutrients in Earth Systems
Nutrients and elemental composition of organic matter: Limiting nutrients. Nutrients in rivers and the terrestrial P cycle. Nutrients in soils and groundwater; Nutrient chemistry of lakes; N versus P limitation; eutrophic versus oligotrophic lakes. Nutrients in nearshore systems.

L15/16 Carbonate Chemistry of Water
Carbonate dissolution, controls on surface water carbonate chemistry and influence of anthropogenic CO2 on ocean chemistry.

L17/18 Stable and Radio Isotopes
Isotopes, stable and radioisotopes, Stable isotopes of O and H and their systematic illustrated through the hydrological cycle. Radioactive decay and half-life, 14C and U-series decay and their application to determination of particle flux, dissolution and sedimentation rates. Sediment mixing and bioturbation. The sedimentation rates characteristic of Earth Systems.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. This course is intended to provide students with a broad and integrated understanding of the range of aquatic environments as well as to develop a critical understanding of the processes governing the reactivity of natural and man-made substances.Students will gain an appreciation of how these ultimately determine the sensitivity of these systems to environmental change.
  2. Students will be introduced to key principles and concepts governing aquatic processes and will develop a detailed knowledge of aquatic environments. In the exam assessment, students are expected to be able to synthesise their ideas and draw on a range of sources when making judgements.
  3. Enhance specialist knowledge and understanding, including a range of established techniques and research methodologies.
  4. Interpret, use and evaluate a wide range of specialist data.
Reading List
Berner & Berner, Global Environment, Prentice Hall
Drever, The Geochemistry of Natural Waters, Prentice Hall
Langmuir: Aqueous Environmental Geochemistry, Prentice Hall (our of print but we have short loan library collections to be used.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements None
Course organiserDr Bryne Ngwenya
Tel: (0131 6)50 8524
Course secretaryMiss Sarah Thomas
Tel: (0131 6)50 8510
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