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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Postgraduate Courses (School of GeoSciences)

Postgraduate Course: Environmental Geochemistry (PGGE11172)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis course consists of 10 x 2 hour sessions. Sessions will include lecture components covering the main characteristics and geochemical processes of soils, a fundamental treatment of acid-base equilibria in aquatic systems, and an integrated approach to redox and complexation equilibria in soil waters. The rest of the sessions are devoted to discussion of case studies which provide ┬┐real-world┬┐ application of the theory covered in the lectures and to student presentations and problem-solving workshops.
Course description Week 1: Characterisation of soils and sediments
Exercises ice-breaker + importance of particle size for contaminant transport and fate (wind farm case study)

Week 2: Mineral properties and weathering processes
Examples importance for hydrogen storage in empty oil/gas reservoirs
Exercises mineral characterisation and contaminant-mineral interactions (chromium contamination in urban soils)

Week 3: Mineral surfaces, cation exchange capacity and natural organic matter
Examples state-of-the art characterisation methods (multi-D NMR; C and N isotopes)
Exercises cation exchange capacity and contaminant-organic matter interactions

Weeks 4/5: Introduction to aquatic systems and acid-base equilibria (includes ionic strength, pH as master variable; monoprotic and diprotic acids)
Exercises introductory calculations and Excel spreadsheets for acid-base diagrams
Examples CCS: impact of impure CO2 streams on water-rock interactions

Week 6: No class (time for preparation of oral presentations)

Week 7: Oral presentations (groups of 3; 12 minute presentation + 3 minutes for questions)

Week 8: Carbonate system closed and open; concept of alkalinity

Week 9: Introduction to geochemical modelling using PHREEQC (with examples)
Exercises: problem-solving using PHREEQC

Week 10: Redox equilibria in natural waters
Exercises arsenic mobility in rice paddy fields; chromium remediation in urban soils

Week 11: Complexation equilibria in natural waters
Exercises - lead associations and bioavailability in urban and shooting-range soils
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements There are no pre-requisites but some chemical knowledge is recommended.
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  40
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 76 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written assignment of 2000 words (75% of total assessment)
Oral presentation (25% of total assessment)

The oral presentations will take place during week 7 of semester 1 and the deadline for the written presentation will be in week 12 of semester 1.
Feedback Formative feedback will be provided verbally following non-assessed presentations in week 2. Formative feedback on problem-solving exercises will also be provided verbally on a weekly basis. Written feedback will be provided within 15 working days on each of the assessed oral presentation and written assignment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the composition of soils and the main geochemical processes leading to soil formation
  2. Appreciate the differences in composition encountered in contaminated soils
  3. Understand the chemical equilibrium approach to determine speciation in aquatic systems
  4. Be able to interpret pe-pH predominance and speciation diagrams
  5. Have developed skills in interpreting geochemical research findings and presenting geochemical information verbally and in written essay format
Reading List
Principles of Environmental Chemistry, R.M. Harrison (Ed), Royal Society of Chemistry, 2007. Chapter 3.

Environmental and Low Temperature Geochemistry, P. Ryan, Wiley Blackwell, 2014.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsEnvironmental geochemistry
Course organiserDr Margaret Graham
Tel: (0131 6)50 4767
Course secretaryMiss Sarah Jones
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