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Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2017-18. The current handbook year is 2020-21

Department: Geography


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide a sound theoretical understanding of the role of key components of the climate-environment system and their change through time
  • To understand the links between modern processes, the evidence for past change, the possible mechanisms behind these changes and the implications for future changes
  • To introduce students to the use of models in understanding environmental change
  • To provide practical skills for undertaking their own research on environmental change


  • Principles of environmental change, concepts in climatology, general circulation of the atmosphere and oceans, links with ice sheets
  • Mechanisms of global environmental change, from the Quaternary to present
  • Methods of reconstructing environmental change
  • Observations and proxies: from satellites to sediments
  • Models for understanding environmental change
  • Natural vs. Anthropogenic variability
  • Case studies from a range of environments

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Appreciate the complexity, and identify the major components of the climate-environment system
  • Demonstrate awareness of past patterns of environmental change operating on different spatial and temporal scales
  • Recognise the impact at different spatial and temporal scales of human activities
  • Understand and critically evaluate techniques that can be employed to evaluate environmental change at a range of different scales from local through to regional to global
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of specific case studies of environmental change
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Understand and analyse key proxies of environmental change
  • Will be experienced in the use of different techniques that can be used to investigate and interpret records of environmental change
Key Skills:
  • Work as a team and as an individual
  • Define their own research problem, produce their own research findings
  • Present a critical synthesis of a particular project
  • Interpretation and effective presentation of data
  • Critically evaluate the ideas of others, synthesise observations and articulate a structured and coherent exam essay that provides appropriate examples

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module uses a range of teaching, learning and assessment techniques
  • Lectures will be used to impart basic facts and information necessary to fulfil the aims of this course
  • Fieldwork will provide students with the individual and group working skills and the understanding to describe and interpret environmental change in the field using a range of techniques
  • Practical sessions will cover techniques and methods for interpreting records of environmental change
  • In the latter part of the module students will complete a group research project
  • Students will be provided with a set of research projects from which they will elect one project for analysis
  • The group presentation in one of the tutorials and final individual poster submission will test students understanding of a specific research question in the field of environmental change and their ability to communicate their findings both verbally and in poster format
  • The examination will be used to test student understanding of basic facts and knowledge and their critical awareness

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Approx. weekly 2 hours 32
Lecture (fieldtrip H&S briefing) 1 2 hours 2
Tutorials 4 Terms 1 and 2 30 minutes 2
Practicals 1 Term 1 3 hours 3
Fieldwork 2 days Term 1 (weekend) 8 hours per day 16
Preparation and Reading 145
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Exam Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen exam 2 hours 100%
Component: Poster submission (individual) Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Poster submission (individual), plus 1 page scientific abstract 1 side of A3 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative feedback is made at a group level to the projects during a feedback tutorial. In the following weeks the project is completed on an individual basis, responding to the points raised during the feedback tutorial.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University