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NES2205 : Global Element Cycling

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jon Telling
  • Lecturer: Professor Yit Arn Teh
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 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
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion115:0015:00written exercise preparation
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion35:0015:00preparation for online test
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials120:306:00Asynchronous lectures
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials11:001:00Module introduction and recap. Familiarise yourself with the topics, and the reading list
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading115:0015:00students to receive relevant reading for module topics throughout the semester
Guided Independent StudySkills practice21:002:00Formative online quizzes to check your understanding of geochemical calculations
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops61:006:00Formative workshops to develop skills for assessments
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00Drop in sessions
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study136:0036:00Independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Online lectures introduce core information (linked directly to all Intended Knowledge Outcomes). Small group teaching 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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M100N/A
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Computer assessment2Monline test
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The online tests will test the ability to use geochemical equations to solve problems, analyze and interpret datasets and graphs. The written report will test the ability to critically analyze information from different sources, draw robust conclusions, and present key findings in a concise and scientific manner

Reading Lists