Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Reconstructing Past Environments
Academic Year
Semester 1
External Examiners
  • Professor Richard Chiverrell (Professor - University of Liverpool)
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Practical 2 x 3 Hour Practicals
Lecture 8 x 2 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Short answer in-class assessment  Written exam based on interpretation of global palaeoclimate datasets  25%
Semester Assessment 1500 word report  Written report on terrestrial record  75%
Supplementary Assessment Short answer in-class assessment  25%
Supplementary Assessment 1500 word report  75%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Outline and explain the nature of the climate changes that the Earth has undergone in the Quaternary, and especially during the last 200,000 years

2. Describe the principal methods used to obtain palaeoenvironmental data and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses

3. Present, analyse and interpret a range of palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental data


Lecture topics will cover:
• Long term, global records of palaeoenvironmental change
• The nature and timing of climate variability over the last glacial cycle
• Causes of long and short term climate variability
• Terrestrial records of environmental change
Other module features include the following (timings are approximate):
Week 4: Mid-term short answer in-class assessment (1 hour)
Week 5: Practical - Introduction to Quaternary data sources (primary and secondary)
Week 8: Practical - Introduction to data synthesis and presentation

Brief description

This module aims to give students an understanding of the nature of climatic and environmental change during the last two hundred thousand years. It explains and illustrates the collection, analysis and interpretation of physical, chemical and biological data from Quaternary oceanic and continental sediments, and shows how these data can be used to determine the causes of past, present and future global change. The module provides a background for understanding long-term processes in many subject areas, including climatology, oceanography, hydrology, geomorphology, glaciology, and biogeography.
The objectives of this module are:
1) to outline the main changes in climate that have affected the Earth in the last 200 000 years and their causes;
2) to provide students with a critical view of the methods by which past environments can be reconstructed;
3) to equip students with the skills to interpret a range of palaeoenvironmental data.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Data presentation, analysis and interpretation will involve numerical manipulation of data
Communication Written communication skills will be developed through the report, which synthesises data
Improving own Learning and Performance The research project undertaken by students will require them to direct their own learning and reading
Information Technology Manipulation of data in Excel will be required, as will interaction with online databases and calculation tools (e.g. OxCal)
Personal Development and Career planning The skills developed through this module can provide the foundation for higher-level studies and also are transferable to applied, non-academic contexts. Students will be made aware of the relevance for further study and employability throughout the module
Problem solving Students will gain new knowledge from lectures about problem solving in approaches to reconstructing past environments, and they will need to be imaginative in their use of methods to bring together complex data sets
Research skills Using library resources and the internet, students will need to research the various proxy records that they are using and how these can be used to infer past environments
Subject Specific Skills The acquisition (field and laboratory), analysis and presentation of data related to the reconstruction of past environments
Team work


This module is at CQFW Level 5