CEG3606 : Biogeochemistry

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


To further develop an understanding of the vital role that organisms play and have played throughout geological time in cycling elements throughout the Earth system. This module will also illuminate the way in which human activity is rapidly changing the integrated planetary system using the methods of chemistry, geology and biology. The module also follows on from the basic introduction to microbiology and microbial diversity given in CEG2607. The overall aim is to understand that biogeochemical processes, both micro and macro, leave distinct and measureable chemical signatures in the geological record that can be exploited to provide valuable information about present and past environments.

Outline Of Syllabus

Topics covered will include: Biological processes of geochemical and environmental significance, the carbon cycle, organic matter production, preservation and degradation, chemical methods for characterising organic matter, hydrocarbons, palaeoenvironmental studies and the application of proxies for reconstructing past environments. These topics will be covered in a series of lectures, laboratory practical classes investigating organic molecules preserved in petroleum. The basic format will be:
The relationship of biogeochemistry and earth system science.
The great acceleration.
The first near-catastrophe.
Science, Darwin and evolution.

The carbon cycle.
Chemical composition of organic matter.
Analytical biogeochemistry including
Soxhlet extraction
Column chromatography
Thin Layer Chromatography
Gas chromatography
Biomarkers in petroleum and natural systems.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00Coursework preparation
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:307:30Revision for semester 1 examination
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture151:0015:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion11:301:30Examination
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical48:0032:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops14:004:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork18:008:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1102:00102:00Background Reading
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will impart knowledge on the key biogeochemical processes and the interpretation of the biomarkers that are used to identify these processes
Practicals will impart key skills for experimental design and analytical measurements that are essential for understanding this field.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination901A50Unseen written exam
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M50Data Interpretation
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Exam to test knowledge, learning and interpretation of understanding the role of biogeochemical processes in shaping the earth.
Lab report to assess practical skills, the application of knowledge and critical thinking by interpretation of the results for the practical classes.

Reading Lists