Geomorphology and Palaeoenvironments
One stream of the module examines and guides students through the theoretical and practical concepts on how we reconstruct past environmental change over the last 25,000 years or so. The emphasis is on reconstructing past environments using science-based techniques of palaeoecology, including sub-fossil botanical (e.g. pollen) and zoological (e.g. invertebrate) data. These will be studied with reference to natural and human-induced environmental processes that cause environments to change through time. Specific topics to be covered include: lake and peat deposits as archives of environmental change, palaeoecological theory, late glacial and Holocene environmental changes, chironomid palaeoecology, radiocarbon dating and age-depth modelling. Most of the topics have practical exercises linked to them.
The other stream of the module examines the nature of, and controls on, geomorphological processes at different time and space scales. Geomorphology is the study of landforms, their processes, form and sediments at the surface of the Earth. Technology for measuring processes and our resultant understanding is improving substantially and the module aims to communicate the excitement of these novel developments. It reviews fundamental controls on landscape systems and processes, using new and ‘classic’ research. These concepts are discussed in both simple qualitative frameworks, but also using quantitative modelling approaches where numerical expressions are introduced. These are applied to a wide range of geomorphic environments based on the current research interests of staff delivering the module.
By the end of the module, students should be able to:
- Critically evaluate and analyse pollen and chironomid data sets to reconstruct environmental change
- Critically evaluate the ‘indicator approach’ to palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and the palaeoecological fidelity of pollen and chironomids as indicators of environmental change
- Apply geomorphological principles to understand how processes are linked to resultant landforms in different geomorphological systems
- Collect and analyse data to test geomorphological theories
- Opportunities for formative assessment Short pollen identification test with feedback
Assessments: one x 2,500 word assessed essay (50%)
Group Poster presentation (10%)
1.5 hour exam (40%)