Module Catalogue 2020/21

GEO2136 : Global Environmental Change

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Steve Juggins
  • Lecturer: Professor Darrel Maddy, Dr Louise Callard
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



•       To develop an understanding of global environmental change during the Quaternary.
•       To develop an awareness of geological time and the evolution of the Earth's natural systems.
•       To understand the human adaptations and cultural development, and the impacts of humans on the environment.
•       To understand how natural system change is deciphered using the tools of modern science for palaeoenvironmental investigation.
•       To provide broad grounding in knowledge and skills necessary for Stage 3 modules palaeoenvironmental modules and dissertations.

Outline Of Syllabus

In each semester the module will be delivered by means of lectures and practical sessions. Lectures will deliver the knowledge base while practicals with give hands-on experience of a range of proxies useful in palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, and in the analysis of geochronological and palaeoenvironmental datasets. Themes explored in the module include:
•       Introduction to the Pleistocene: Establishing a broad global framework using isotopic records from the oceans.
•       Ice-core proxies and millennial-scale change.
•       Establishing land-ocean correlation: An introduction to geochronology.
•       Continental Records: Interpreting the sedimentary record of the “Cold Stages”.
•       Continental Records: Interpreting the palaeoecological records of the “Warm Stages”.
•       Reconstructing Environmental Change during Termination 1
•       Introduction to the Holocene: climate, environment, human development and impacts.
•       Proxy records of Holocene environmental change.
•       Early Holocene climate and environmental change: LG-Holocene transition, vegetation change and sea-levels, human adaptation during the Mesolithic.
•       Human responses to changing environments: Early agriculture and agricultural dispersions, environmental constraints and impacts.
•       Intensification of agriculture: Forest clearance in Europe, desertification in the Mediterranean, and the rise of civilisation in the Middle East and Mesoamerica.
Late Holocene environmental change: Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age; western colonisation, land-use change and its ecological consequences.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

At the end of this module you will be able to demonstrate:

•       A basic understanding of how our climate and natural systems operate and how they change through time.
•       An understanding of human cultural development during the Holocene and the role of humans in shaping present-day cultural landscapes.
•       The ability to infer past (Quaternary to Recent) environmental change by analysing physical, biological and chemical data derived from sedimentary records.
•       Ability to identify appropriate analytical methods and data interrogation in relation to modern environments and Quaternary samples and datasets

Intended Skill Outcomes

At the end of this module you will have the:

•       Ability to apply appropriate methodology to palaeoenvironmental investigation.
•       Ability analyse palaeoenvironmental datasets.
•       Ability to present conclusions based upon data analysis.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture201:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical82:0016:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1164:00164:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
GEO2230Global Environmental Change (Sem 1 Study abroad)
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Any attempt at successful reconstruction of Quaternary environments requires proficient practical skills surrounding the range of methods employed, underpinned by a significant academic knowledge base which addresses the theory behind the methods and awareness of the wider conceptual and theoretical issues. Here we consider it essential to assess all these elements and to place equal weighting on the practical and more academic skills. Practical portfolios will assess technical skills including data production and analysis, whereas the written examination will assess the more theoretical and conceptual aspects of palaeoenvironmental reconstruction.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M25Individual practical write up (1000 wds)
Practical/lab report2M25Individual practical write up (1000 wds)
Written exercise2M50Essay 2000 words (2 questions, 1000 words each)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

We consider it essential to assess all these elements and to place equal weighting on the practical and more academic skills. Practical portfolios will assess technical skills including data production and analysis, whereas the take home examination will assess the more theoretical and conceptual aspects of environmental change during the Quaternary. The take home exam assessment provides a time limited aspect, not present in essays, that more closely mirrors skills that students may be expected to have in the graduate workplace.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2020/21 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2021/22 entry will be published here in early-April 2021. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.