Undergraduate Course: Volcanoes, Environment and People (GEGR10103)
|School||School of Geosciences
||College||College of Science and Engineering
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||The course addresses the origins, dispersal and environmental/cultural impacts of volcanic ash (tephra) and how tephrochronology, the identification, dating and mapping of these ash layers, can help us to understand both environmental change and human interactions with the environment.
***PLEASE NOTE FIELD COURSE LOCATIONS MAY CHANGE FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS, INCLUDING SECURITY RISKS, INCREASED COSTS OR INABILITY TO ACCESS FIELD LOCATIONS. ANY CHANGES TO THE MAIN DESTINATION OF THE FIELD TRIP WILL BE ANNOUNCED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE***
Global assessments of volcanic activity and the production of tephras provide the underpinning to a discussion of the principles of tephrochronology and its application in the 3-D environmental reconstruction. We discuss the local and global impacts of volcanic eruptions and how the tephra layers they generate can be geochemically analysed, correlated and dated within environmental records and archaeological sequences. Iceland provides the focus for the course, as the island contains examples of virtually every type of volcanic activity known on Earth and world-class tephrochronologies. Case studies of both the use of tephrochronology to understand environmental change and the impact of volcanic activity on both the environment and people are considered in lectures and discussed in tutorials; theoretical understanding is married with a practical ┐hands-on┐ experience with tephras in the classroom and a field excursion to assess geological exposures of Carboniferous tephra in East Lothian.
We will explore the consequences of the interaction of volcanic activity and glaciers in Iceland and the dispersion of tephra. We will also discuss how tephrochronology can be used as a tool to date glacial geomorphological features and aid our understanding of past climatic fluctuations. Tephrochronology can be applied to studying cultural and environmental change through chronology and landscape reconstruction. Iceland provides a superb natural laboratory to study these interactions between the environment and people. Precisely dated tephra layers also enable the rates of change to be calculated, which is very difficult to measure elsewhere. The Norse migration and settlement of a pristine environment (Iceland) in the mid to late 9th century allows, us the rare opportunity to study the impact of human activities over the past 1200 years. Using tephrochronology we can accurately and precisely date archaeological evidence of settlement and subsequent societal development and also investigate rates and directions of environmental change, both natural and human-induced. We are able to explore notions of changing resilience, threshold crossing events and catastrophe cusps. In many different areas of research important distinctions have to be made as to the significance of extreme events (low frequency-high magnitude), gradual change (high frequency-low magnitude) and conjunctions (when a combination of circumstances leads to a step-wise change). We also discuss how tephra layers can contribute to understanding early warning signals of environmental change by comparing modern day environments to the sediment record accurately dated through tephrochronology. The extraordinary chronological framework that tephrochronology provides, allows us to study these concepts.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
|Additional Costs|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 22,
Fieldwork Hours 6,
Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2,
Summative Assessment Hours 2,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||Class Work: Degree essay summary to be handed in at the end of the lecture in week 4
Degree assessment: 2,000 word essay
Degree Essay Deadline: Week 8
||In order to attain the learning outcomes you have to complete online quizzes and these provide one indication of knowledge acquisition. You will take part in practical sessions in Week 3 and Week 4 and verbal feedback given on your understanding of the physical nature of tephra and tephra stratigraphy.
You MUST read the papers selected for tutorials and participate fully in the related discussions as these six meeting (Weeks 2-9) are key parts of the feedback process and provide important opportunities for you to assess the progress of your learning.
In Week 4 you are required to produce a 1 page (between 400-600 word) summary of your Degree Research Paper; written comments are provided on each submission and there is a related tutorial discussion. The fieldtrip also provides additional opportunities to discuss stratigraphy and the principles of tephrochronology with staff in a practical setting. Verbal feedback will also be given following your oral presentation of your fieldwork exercise.
The final revision session also provides an opportunity to gain feedback on your examination preparations.
||Hours & Minutes
|Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)||2:00|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Develop a detailed understanding of the principles and practice of tephrochronology
- Evaluate the use of tephras to reconstruct environmental change and to assess the role of tephras as agents of environmental change
- Assess the significance of different types of change and recognise the causes of threshold-crossing events
- Develop detailed knowledge of how to use tephrochronology to assess volcano-environment interactions, environmental and cultural change, human-environmental interactions and impacts of volcanism on people
- Seek out and comprehend the essential relevant findings from literature in unfamiliar fields which will also mean you gain an understanding of the ways in which the subject is developed
|Arnalds, O. (2015) The Soils of Iceland. World Soils Book Series. Springer, Dordrecht. pp 183. http://link.springer.com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/book/10.1007%2F978-94-017-9621-7|
Loughlin, S.C., Sparks, S., Brown, S.K., Jenkins, S.F. and Vye-Brown, C. (Eds.) (2016) Global Volcanic Hazards and Risks. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. pp 410. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316276273
Lowe D.J. (2011) Tephrochronology and its application: A review. Quaternary Geochronology 6, 107-153. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quageo.2010.08.003
Scmidt, A. et al (2015) Volcanism and Global Environmental Change. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp 339. http://ebooks.cambridge.org.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/ebook.jsf?bid=CBO9781107415683
Sigurdsson, H., Houghton, B., McNutt, S., Rymer and Styx, J. (2015) The Encyclopedia of Volcanoes (Second Edition). Academic Press, London. pp 1143. https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/science/book/9780123859389
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Dr Anthony Newton
Tel: (0131 6)50 2546
|Course secretary||Miss Carry Arnold
Tel: (0131 6)50 9847