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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Earth Sciences for Society (EASC08029)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe Geoscience for Society course consists of 10 weeks of lectures outlining the central role of Geosciences in our daily lives, and how the broad range of topics covered within Geosciences is essential to address current and future challenges that face the Earth as a result of human activities. This is particularly important in light of the School of Geosciences¿ contribution to meeting the United Nations¿ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be reflected in the course.

The course is organised around five central themes (Energy, Hydrosphere, Minerals, Climate and Hazards) and explores the importance of crucial areas of geoscientific research for society within these domains. This course is designed to make students appreciate the importance and breadth of the discipline, and provide an overview of the diverse range of careers available, which they may wish to pursue with a degree in Earth Science.

The course is open to all students. It is being offered as a first year UG course, where it is easy for students to switch degrees.
Course description Our planet is rapidly approaching a critical state, of which the current climate emergency is just one example. The UN¿s sustainable development goals outline crucial areas in our efforts to transition to a sustainable society. Geosciences are at the core of these efforts by, for example, being instrumental in mitigating climate change by paving the way for increased use of renewable energy sources. Also, smarter use of water, sourcing of critical minerals on land and in the ocean, as well as mitigating the effects of natural hazards that often threaten vulnerable communities, are directly linked to Geosciences.

The Geoscience for Society course will map how geosciences are central in our daily lives through exploring five crucial themes: Energy, Hydrosphere, Minerals, Climate and Hazards. The Geoscience for Society course analyses the dependencies/relationships of the sustainability of human life, and life more generally within this broad interdisciplinary range of geosciences topics. It provides a comprehensive introduction to topics at the forefront of research, through compelling examples highlighting the positive impact of geoscientists for society and the environment. It will highlight the interdisciplinary nature of Geosciences that is necessary to understand the complex relationships within the system Earth.

The course is open to all students and will form a valuable addition to studies in a wide variety of natural and social sciences.

A series of exciting lectures, stimulating tutorials and debates form the backbone of the course. We will utilise a variety of teaching and learning methods allowing students to acquire knowledge through various media, collaborate with peers to explore topics, discuss and challenge ideas, and independently investigate topics from the course. Students will engage in a stimulating, combined independent and group study task, aimed at deepening their understanding of a theme of their choice. Pathways towards future careers will be highlighted within each of the topics taught.

Lecture outlines:

Weeks 1-2 Climate: Natural climate variability over decadal-to-millennial timescales, anthropogenic climate change and the climate emergency.

Weeks 3-4 Hydrosphere: general ocean circulation, circulation in the atmosphere, global water cycle, global energy budget, element cycling

Weeks 5-6 Energy: Past (coal, industrial revolution), present (hydrocarbons, nuclear), future (wind, geothermal, energy and waste storage)

Weeks 7-8: Minerals: Minerals in our daily lives, changing mineral demands (past, present and future), environmental and societal impacts of the extraction industry (e.g. uranium, gold), The future of mining (responsible production and processing, circular economy, seafloor resources).

Weeks 9-10 Hazards: Volcanoes, earthquakes, climate-change-induced hazards, sea level rise, risk mitigation.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  150
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 30, Other Study Hours 50, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 96 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) Group work
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 40 %, Coursework 60 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Feedback Students will receive feedback for their projects in tutorials, where individuals will have the opportunity to discuss their progress with tutors and lecturers.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the linkages between climate and environmental change, ecosystem services and geohazards.
  2. Understand the main sources, origins of energy and raw materials, as well as changing demands.
  3. Formulating informed arguments on current geoscientific topics and being able to debate others¿ viewpoints.
  4. Identify and critically evaluate data sources, being able to distinguish fact from fiction.
  5. Understand the challenges in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Geosciences¿ role in achieving these.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills This unique pre-honours course will train students from a range of degrees in analytical and critical thinking, integrating knowledge from various sources, conducting independent research and becoming digitally more literate. The assessment will provide them an opportunity for independent learning and development, and creative and inventive thinking on timely and sometimes controversial topics. The group project will give students an opportunity to practice their teamwork, leadership and planning/organising skills. Last, not least, the presentation will train their verbal communication and presentation skills as well as their interpersonal skills.
KeywordsUN Sustainable Development Goals,Geosciences,Energy,Minerals,Oceans,Hazards,Climate change
Course organiserDr Simon Jung
Course secretaryMr Johan De Klerk
Tel: (0131 6)50 7010
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