Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
People, Climate and Environment: a Palaeoenvironmental Perspective
Academic Year
Semester 2
Reading List
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  (3,000 words)  50%
Semester Exam Site Investigation  (1,500 words)  50%
Supplementary Assessment Essay  (3,000 words)  50%
Supplementary Exam Site Investigation  (1,500 words)  50%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Identify and assess the methods that can be used to examine human-environment interactions over a range of timescales.

2. Synthesise different types of evidence to examine how climate change has affected society over a range of timescales.

3. Critically evaluate the contribution that Quaternary science makes to our understanding of contemporary environmental issues.

Brief description

Contemporary society is facing a climate emergency, but how have past communities and civilisations interacted with climate and environmental change? This module explores the complex interrelationships between humans and the natural environment over a range of timescales drawing on evidence from the Quaternary record of environmental change as well as multidisciplinary approaches from environmental History and archaeology. We will use a range of case studies from different time periods during the Quaternary to examine debates about the extent to which climate variability has impacted on societies and also investigate the environmental consequences of human activity. Through this module, we will also consider how a palaeoenvironmental perspective can inform our understanding of today’s global environmental challenges.


GS33720 builds on themes covered in DGES modules in Year 1 (How to Build a Planet; Living with Global Change) and Year 2 (Reconstructing Quaternary Environments), providing a clear progression in Quaternary Science through the undergraduate curriculum. The restructuring reflects a rationalization of Year 3 teaching in Physical Geography to ensure efficiency, and as such, it is hoped that this module will appeal to a wide range of degree scheme cohorts, from Geographers to Environmental/Earth Scientists as has been the case in the past. It ensures a third year option focusing on Quaternary environmental change, ensuring that students have choice from a breadth of options, and that a key research theme of the department is taught at Year 3.


This module will examine global perspectives on human-environment interactions through the Quaternary and recent past. Topics covered will normally include:
• The environmental context to the evolution and dispersal of anatomically modern humans
• The ecological impacts of pre-industrial populations in different environments.
• Climate change and society (e.g.narratives of resilience , adaptation and ‘collapse’)
• People-climate-environment interactions in the Common Era (last 2,000 years)
• Quaternary science and society
Lectures are supported by reading group seminars based around debates on contested issues. A 1 day field trip focuses on the archaeological and palaeoenvironmental record of human-environment interactions over the Holocene in Wales, linking the broader themes of the course to the local environmental context.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number
Communication Through written essay and examination. Contribution to seminars will encourage respectful and professional group discussion.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be expected to undertake a considerable amount of self-guided learning through wider reading and preparation for seminar debates and the field trip. Time management and organization is developed through preparation for the unseen examination.
Information Technology All course materials will be available online and coursework will be prepared using digital media.
Personal Development and Career planning The course covers a range of complex environmental issues and students will be challenged to consider. Application of Quaternary Science to contemporary environmental debates will enable students to consider the relevance of academic scientific research in a policy and management context
Problem solving Through the course, students will be asked to consider how a historical and long term perspective has relevance to today. There will be opportunities to debate and propose ways in which Quaternary science can inform contemporary environmental issues and contribute to how we tackle them. Some of this will be self-guided.
Research skills Students will synthesise research from multidisciplinary perspectives through assessed work on complex debates around the links between climate variability and societal change.
Subject Specific Skills Through the module, students will develop and in-depth knowledge of a range of techniques that are applied in Quaternary science and how these can be used to explore human environment interactions as well as to reconstruct past climate
Team work Preparation for reading group seminars and the field trip will involve group work.


This module is at CQFW Level 6