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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 2021-22

Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 Geography Module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module examines the physical and biological environments of Antarctica, and their potential for change. Special emphasis is given to the continent's role in global systems and the unique way it is studied and administered.


  • Part I – Present Environments
  • Antarctica: a 'continent for science' - role in global climate, sea ice, formation of ice sheet, circumpolar current + vortex, polar amplification of climate change, baseline lab, Southern ocean food chains, global sea level
  • The physical environment and ecosystems- climatology, oceanography, ice sheet, sea ice, geology, glaciology, ecosystems
  • Part II – Environmental Change
  • Ozone depletion and Pollution: ozone hole (background and measurement), biological impacts of ozone depletion (marine and terrestrial), global pollution: greenhouse gases, heavy metals, radioactivity; local pollution especially impact of scientific stations and hydrocarbon spills: rubbish around stations, oil spills
  • Climate change -measured atmospheric and oceanic temperature change and comparison to other parts of globe; physical impacts: sea ice, ice shelves, ice sheet, impacts on sea level, ocean currents; biological impacts: terrestrial ecosystems, marine ecosystems, penguins, krill.
  • Long-term Environmental history - geological history, ice sheet history, Holocene change
  • Part III – The Human and Political Dimension
  • Antarctic resources - geological/mineral, biological, Southern Ocean fisheries, tourism, bioprospecting, impacts of exploitation
  • A Treaty for the 21st Century?: the legislative framework. - the importance of the Antarctic Treaty in the history of Antarctica , how it works: the key sections (science, territorial claims, fisheries, mining), environmental management in Antarctica
  • The future of Antarctica (including Tutorial session) and Conclusions - pollution, ozone, ice sheet change, sea level rise and possibility of WAIS collapse, mining, will the Treaty hold?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of this module students are expected to be able to:
  • Understand the present-day physical and biological environments of Antarctica
  • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of a number of case studies of Antarctic environmental change, and be able to explain the causes and importance of long- and short-term environmental change in Antarctica
  • Understand the unique way that Antarctica is administered and the history and style of human impacts on Antarctica
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students are expected to be able to:
  • Assess the human/physical interface through emphasis on issues surrounding future environmental change in Antarctica, and how this may affect global systems (including climate, sea-level)
  • Comprehend the nature of variability in the nature and quality of field data, particularly acute in Antarctica, and relate their lecture-based material and reading to real-world contexts
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students are expected to be able to:
  • To present critical evaluation of the academic literature on Antarctic environments and environmental change
  • To discuss current issues surrounding the management of Antarctica and Antarctic Environments

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

  • The module will be primarily lecture-based. These lectures will focus on the first three learning outcomes, and will, of course be supplemented by extensive recommended reading of the academic literature. There will also be a tutorial where there is an opportunity to debate some of the unique issues associated with managing the continent and through this develop a deeper understanding of these issues. Students ability to interpret and apply both theoretical concepts and practical management issues specific to Antarctica will be tested via the exam.
  • Note on timing: the module may start in Term 1 and if so, there will then be a pause in lecture-based content between late Term 1 and mid-Term 2 (whilst members of the teaching team are on Antarctic fieldwork). During the hiatus in lectures students will undertake the formative project (see below).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 8 Weekly 1.5 hours 12
Tutorial 1 1 hour 1
Student Preparation and Reading 87
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: End of module examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
End of module examination 1.5 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Mini-project on current trends of EITHER sea-ice extent OR Ozone concentrations. This will entail using online datasets to assess the changes in sea-ice/ozone during this Antarctic spring and summer, and to put changes in context with recent trends (Max. 2 pages in accordance with Departmental Policy on Coursework Length and Format). Formative feedback will be given on proposal.

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