Earth System Science

Module summary

Module code: ENVI1153
Level: 5
Credits: 15
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Natural Resources Institute
Module Coordinator(s): David Wray



• The module seeks to integrate various fundamental disciplines and transcend traditional boundaries to treat the Earth as an integrated system to understand the physical, chemical, biological and human interactions that determine the past, current and future states of the Earth.
• It focuses on processes, issues and themes which operate on a global scale.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

1. Appreciate the concept of biogeochemical cycles, understand how to model biogeochemical cycles and be able to discuss natural and anthropogenic factors influencing our current understanding of them.
2. Detail the principal reservoirs and fluxes encountered in the near surface system.
3. Describe the key biogeochemical cycles (C, N, S, P & trace metals) found in the near surface system.
4. Have an understanding of the coupling of biogeochemical cycles to climate in terms of forcing, feedbacks and responses.

Indicative content

Formation and evolution of the Earth and the biosphere; the concept of biogeochemical cycles; the key reservoirs and their processes: the atmosphere, the oceans, the land surface; interfaces: tectonics, weathering, soils, watersheds and marine sediments; key biogeochemical cycles: carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorous & trace metals; the climate system: dynamics, forcing and feedback; human modification of the Earth system - global change.

Teaching and learning activity

Delivery of the course will primarily be through face-to-face lectures, coupled with directed reading from journals and other scholarly sources. Assessment of learning outcomes will be achieved via an extended essay set as a piece of coursework to be submitted during the course and an examination after the completion of the taught course.


Essay: 50% weighting, 40% pass mark.
Learning Outcomes: 1 - 4.
Word Length: 1500 words.
Outline Details: An independent investigation of a biogeochemical cycle or topical portion thereof.

Examination: 50% weighting, 40% pass mark.
Learning Outcomes: 1 - 4.
Outline Details: 1.5 hour unseen examination

Nature of FORMATIVE assessment supporting student learning:
Formative submission and feedback on essay, revision Q&A session prior to the examination.