Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Fundamentals of Geochemistry
Academic Year
Semester 2 (Taught over 2 semesters)
Reading List
External Examiners
  • Professor Karen Hudson-Edwards (Professor - University of London)
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 11 x 2 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 1.5 Hours   Semester 1 exam  50%
Semester Exam 1.5 Hours   Semester 2 exam  50%
Supplementary Exam 1.5 Hours   50%
Supplementary Exam 1.5 Hours   50%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Describe nucleosynthesis and the general principles of cosmochemistry.

2. Describe the major divisions of the Earth from a chemical/mineralogical perspective.

3. Describe the controls on element distribution within Earth materials

4. Explain the applications of isotope geochemistry.

5. Explain the processes of chemical weathering, solute transport and solubility in aqueous systems and apply these to diagenesis.

6. Describe the different media that can be used to create geochemical maps and their application.

Brief description

This course is a two semester core module for the EES degree. It aims to cover the importance of geochemistry as the science that underlies almost every geological process. Throughout the course reference will be made to the geochemical controls on processes.

The course will develop from a consideration of the origin of chemical elements in stars and the study of cosmochemistry to the formation of planet Earth and the differentiation of the planet into major geochemical reservoirs. The role of thermodynamics in understanding geochemical processes will be covered with examples from both the primary and secondary environments.

The three groups of rocks will be discussed in relation to their chemistry and mineralogy (all with a geochemical control).

Isotope geochemistry will be introduced and its application to dating will be described. Stable isotopes will be discussed.

The geochemical controls on sedimentary processes will be discussed and the course will end with a consideration of the development of environmental geochemistry.


The module begins with the formation of chemical elements in stars and the distribution of these elements in the universe. This information is then applied to the chemistry of meteorites. The importance of meteorites to geochemistry will be outlined.

The major subdivisions of planet Earth will be described in terms of their geochemistry and mineralogy.

Thermodynamics will be introduced and used to explain the distribution of elements within mineral structures. The idea of the equilibrium constant will also be introduced.

The processes that are currently active at spreading centres and subduction zones will be described from a geochemical perspective.

Isotope geochemistry will be considered by introducing both stable and radioactive isotope systems. Examples of radioactive dating will be described and the application of stable isotopes in geological/environmental systems will be discussed.

Sedimentary geochemistry will be introduced with topics ranging from chemical weathering through solubility and element transport to diagenesis. Carbonate sedimentary geochemistry will be discussed along with the geochemistry of evaporites.

The final part of the course will deal with the development of environmental geochemistry and the role of geochemical maps within both mineral exploration and environmental studies.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Much of the content of this module is numerical in nature. Examples will include the use of equations to describe the behaviour of trace elements in igneous systems and the role of solubility product in controlling the mobility of elements in the surface environments. Thus the application of number is embedded into the lecture materials and will be reinforced in the on-line workbooks.
Communication There is no assessed element of communication skills in this module. However it is expected that students will tend to work together in small ‘self-help’ groups to work on the workbooks and extra-lecture material. This will encourage communication skills development.
Improving own Learning and Performance Using the on-line workbooks will allow the students to monitor their performance and should provide additional material to improve their learning. This additional resource will encourage students to monitor their progress throughout the module and will provide them with the opportunity to improve their performance through a steady process of feedback on their individual learning.
Information Technology Using on-line workbooks will encourage the use of learning support IT. Furthermore the module will have a full reading list with links to on-line resources which will encourage the use of IT. The assessment criteria used for exam marking allows for additional reading and research to be rewarded through the marking system.
Personal Development and Career planning Many graduates go on to work in the environmental sector where they use geochemistry skills in their professional careers. The applied nature of this module will be explained to the students throughout.
Problem solving The nature of geochemistry as a subject means that the module will have problem solving as a consistent theme throughout. In many cases geochemists do not have direct access to materials to sample and analyze and so must use proxies and models to solve these problems. Problem solving is embedded into the structure of the module.
Research skills Research will be encouraged through the emphasis on examples from outside the lecture material and directed introductions to on-line resources (with the explicit expectations that the students will expand on these introductions).
Subject Specific Skills This course is, as the title implies, fundamental to the understanding of a full range of geological/environmental processes. These are vital subject-specific skills which our graduates go on to use in their working lives.
Team work The module is supported by on-line workbooks which will be designed to support and expand on the material covered in the individual lecture topics. It is anticipated that the small cohort of students will naturally work in small ‘self-help’ groups to solve some of the problems posed within these additional resources. Thus team work will be encouraged.


This module is at CQFW Level 5