Undergraduate Course: Environmental Geochemistry of the Earth's Surface (EASC08024)
|School||School of Geosciences
||College||College of Science and Engineering
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||The course focusses on geochemistry of natural water as imprinted by its interaction with local geology. It takes an integrated view of natural and biological (anthropogenic) interactions that shape the earth's surface. Significantly, the approach is based on integrating theoretical geochemistry with practical skills such as (i) fieldwork and sampling design, (ii) data processing and statistical analysis, (iii) geochemical modelling, (iv) environmental remediation.
**PLEASE NOTE that due to the extraordinary constraints relating to Covid-19 rules, all fieldtrips in Semester 1 have been cancelled. Thus, while the spirit of the course remains the same, the learning outcomes for the 2020/21 academic year have been modified to remove those related to fieldwork.**
Environmental geochemistry is about the sources, distribution and interactions of chemical species in the earth system, covering rocks, minerals, soil, water and biology. The surface environment has dominant controls on these interactions because the exposure of minerals to water and biology has the effect speeding up many geological reactions. In this course, we focus on natural waters becasue the mobility and speciation of chemical elements in natural wasters is central to many of the feedbacks that connect geochemical, biological, and geological processes at Earth's surface.
The course is delivered in the form of lectures, practicals and field trips, the latter designed to showcase the practical applications of your theoretical understanding. Topics/lectures include (1) Controls on the composition of natural waters and classification, role of colloidas and their surface chemistry in contolling water composition, energy demand for geochemical reactions and reaction pathways, metabolic pathways exploited by micro-organisms and higher organisms and their impact on organic matter (carbon cycling) in the environment, and material cycling in estuarine environments. Two residential weekend field trips normally form part of the course, one in Lucie to examine estuarine physical and chemical dynamics, and another in the Lake Districts (Keswick) to study minewater pollution and how our understanding of geochemical processes can help to inform treatment options. Taken together, these approahes will equip you with vital skills in (i) designing field and sampling campaigns, (ii) geochemical analysis coupled with data analysis and modelling, leading to (iii) robust scientific interpretation and professional/scientific reporting.
For the 2020/21 academic year, field design and sampling will be covered as a discussion topic in place of one of the laboratory practical slots, and linked to lecture 19 below.
1) Controls on the composition of natural waters and classification (2) Forms of natural dissolved substances in natural waters (3) Colloids/ mineral surface chemistry surface adsorption reactions (4) Energy demand for geochemical reactions, reaction pathways and rate determining reactions (5) Sources of energy for natural reactions in the natural environments (6) Autotrophic Metabolism: Living off sunlight and inorganic substances (7) Heterotrophic metabolism: Living off organic compounds (8) Organic matter cycling in natural environments (9-11) Estuarine Circulation (12) Estuarine Sedimentation (13) Estuarine Chemistry: Basics (14) Estuarine Chemistry: Metals (15) Estuarine Chemistry: Carbon (16) Estuarine Chemistry: Nitrogen (17) Estuarine Human Impacts/Exam Overview (18) Field & Data module: Sediment and mine water geochemistry, Environmental sampling and analysis (19) Designing a field campaign: Samplingand geochemical data analysis and interpretation (20) Minewater generation, chemistry and classification, treatment options and design
**Fieldwork: There will be NO FIELD TRIPS in the academic year 2020/21**
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1)
|Course Start Date
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 20,
Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 18,
Fieldwork Hours 16,
Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2,
Formative Assessment Hours 2,
Summative Assessment Hours 2,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||Written Exam: 50%
Course Work: 50 % based on 3 laboratory reports.
- 2 Lab reports each 20%
- 1 lab report weighted 10% (shorter)
There will be an exam in December consisting of a mixture of short answer questions and essay questions. The course work will be based on written reports on each of the practicals carried out during laboratory sessions..
Laboratory reports should be submitted via Turnitin on the course Learn page by the following dates:
Lab reports - 12noon Thursday of week 7.
All details related to extensions procedures and late penalties can be found in the School of Geosciences General Information Handbook, which can be found on the Learn UG Student Information Hub.
||The course includes laboratory practical sessions for which you will submit written reports. The first of these will be used for formative feedback to allow you to improve on subsequent reports. You will also receive on-going feedback from demonstrators during and after practical sessions.
We plan to hold 1-2 tutorials during exam revision season. During these sessions, we will review the type of questions likely to come up in the exam and discuss how best to tackle them.
In semester 2, the course team will be available to discuss examination scripts.
Examples of feedback can be found here: http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/geosciences/teaching-organisation/staff/feedback-and-marking
||Hours & Minutes
|Main Exam Diet S1 (December)||2:00|
|Resit Exam Diet (August)||2:00|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Consolidate knowledge of chemical concepts in Environmental Geochemistry
- Integrate theoretical concepts with their practical applications
- Acquire skills in geochemical speciation modelling
- Be cognisant of skills in Technical report writing, critical appraisal of analytical data and accounting for uncertainties when drawing conclusions, appreciation of assumptions required for modelling.
|D. Langmuir: Aqueous Environmental Geochemistry|
J.I. Drever: Geochemistry of Natural Waters
J.E. Andrews et al: An Introduction to Environmental Chemistry
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||Field design and sampling
Laboratory analysis and statistical data analysis
Geochemical speciation modelling
|Additional Class Delivery Information
||Two lectures per week. One three hour practical per week from weeks 1-5. One three hour computer workshop per week in weeks 6 and 7.
|Keywords||Environmental geochemistry,Earth's Surface,Aqueous environments,biogeochemistry,minewater chemis
|Course organiser||Prof Bryne Ngwenya
Tel: (0131 6)50 8524
|Course secretary||Ms Katerina Sykioti
Tel: (0131 6)50 5430