Study Abroad and Exchanges



GEO3118 : Ice Age World (Inactive)

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The module will provide a detailed introduction to the Quaternary ‘Ice Age’ Period, the past 2.6 million years of Earth History: a time of large-scale and rapid changes in the earth’s climate, the shaping of our landscape and the evolution of homanins.

The student will be introduced to the global records of climate change and the temporal framework for the Quaternary provided by the stable isotope stratigraphy derived from oceanic and ice sheet cores. The module will discuss in detail how the use of independent geochronology, through a variety of different methods, can assist in the correlation of the more fragmentary and therefore challenging continental sedimentary records within this global framework. The student will be introduced to a range of detailed sedimentary records which act as archives, comprising proxy climate data and detailed palaeo-environmental information. Understanding these archives within the context of the global framework allows an assessment of the mechanisms and rates of change within landscape evolution to be considered. An appreciation of the longer-term trends and shorter-term fluctuations in climate and environment will be used as context for an introduction to humanin evolution over this time period.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will be delivered in three parts as follows:

1.       A framework for the study of the Quaternary: Lectures will introduce the basic stratigraphical framework for the study of the Quaternary; define the Marine Isotope Stage classification; introduce the principles of lithostratigraphic classification; and discuss the challenges associated with land-ocean record correlation.

2.       Geochronology: A lecture will introduce the concept of a ‘geological clock’ and illustrate the issues surrounding independent age estimation procedures with specific reference to Aminoacid Geochronology. Students will be allocated a further methodology to research for later group presentation.

3.       Quaternary Terrestrial Archives: Lectures will consider the nature of sedimentary records via a chronological ’tour’ from the Early to Late Pleistocene. Specifically, the lectures will include reference to the sediments of former ice sheets; fluvial terrace and loess records. Consideration of these archives will also include an introduction to the records of environmental change (e.g. pollen records from the interglacials) and an assessment of the response of animals, including homonins, to these changing conditions. In all cases examples will be drawn from a wide-spread spatial distribution covering both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture102:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical101:0010:00Class tests
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery51:005:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1155:00155:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures provide an introduction to the theory which underpins modern Quaternary science and the interpretation of palaeoclimate and environmental archives.

The surgery hours which will involve smaller numbers of student groupings will be used to underpin the lecture material and ensure more informal interaction which allows feedback of problems, allowing any issues to be resolved.

The presentations will be used to examine and discuss different techniques used to establish the age of sedimentary sequences. They will also develop study skills through feedback on student performance in summarising complex scientific literature.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1202A75N/A
Oral Presentation152A25Group presentation, part peer assessed. To be scheduled by School.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The examination is designed to test the understanding of critical information and to allow the student to develop synthesising and argument building skills. The presentations are designed to allow the development of team working and oral communication skills together with an ability to select and synthesise information sources and effectively communicate their meaning.


Reading Lists