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CEG2604 : Global Element Cycling

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jon Telling
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


Providing an introduction to the concept of biogeochemical element cycles, including interactions between the atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere and biosphere via positive and negative feedback mechanisms.
Enhancing students’ understanding of the most important macro- and micro-nutrient cycles in terrestrial and marine environments.
Enabling students to comprehend the relevance of various chemical elements and their cycles in the context of societal issues (e.g., mining of fertilizers for agriculture) and global climate change (e.g., biological carbon pump).
Raising awareness about the use of geochemical palaeo-proxies for reconstructions of past changes in global element cycles, in the context of potential environmental conditions in the future.
Further enhancing students’ ability to understand and handle chemical equations in the context of global element cycles, including isotope systematics.

Outline Of Syllabus

1. Biogeochemical cycles of chemical elements within the Earth system, topics to be covered include: Co-evolution of life and Earth’s chemical composition, formation of rocks, rock weathering, terrestrial and marine biota, atmospheric gases.

2. The critical role of the oceans in global element cycling, topics to be covered include: The biological carbon pump, the alkalinity pump, macro- and micronutrients, hydrothermal activity, marine resources.

3. The concept of redox reactions, topics to be included: Valence and oxidation status of elements, organic matter degradation and early diagenesis, transformations of metals.

4. From elements to isotopes, topics to be included: The CO2-carbonate system, isotope fractionation, element and isotope analysis.

5. Reconstructing element cycling in the past, topic to be included: The evolution of atmosphere and ocean chemistry, inorganic geochemical proxies for productivity/redox conditions/sediment provenance.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture151:0015:00Lectures
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion17:307:30Revision for exam
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion11:301:30Unseen written exam
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion114:3014:30Revision for in class test
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00Tutorials and in class tests
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study155:3055:30Includes background reading and reading lecture notes for full understanding of material.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce core information (linked directly to all Intended Knowledge Outcomes). Small group teaching (tutorials) is designed to put this information into context of “real world examples”, and to apply information to solving explicit problems, encouraging a deeper understanding of gained core information and further reading (linked directly to Intended Skills and Knowledge Outcomes).

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination902A50Unseen written exam
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M505 x in class open book tests (each test worth 10%)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Written exam will test their capability to process and transfer gathered information in a structured manner in a limited amount of time. Geochemical calculations will familiarise the students with the use of geochemical software and data analysis. The in class tests will assess the student's ability to analyse, interpret and discuss datasets and scientific literature.

Reading Lists