RECONSTRUCTING PAST ENVIRONMENTS
Dr Viv Jones
Unit Value: 0.5 units Year: 2 Term 2
Understanding the nature and timing of past environmental change is key to our understanding of contemporary events and processes. The Holocene period is the most recent interglacial and covers the last c. 11,700 years up to the present day. Historically, it was assumed that the Holocene was characterised by a relatively stable period of climate, although more recent research has shown climate variability to be dynamic. The Holocene period is also inextricably linked to human cultural evolution: it is central to our understanding of human impacts on the earth, through pollution of the environment and with changing climate. In recent years a new human-forced geological era has been proposed, the Anthropocene.
The course aims to provide students with an introduction to the concepts and techniques useful for studying the nature of past environmental change since the last glacial period to the Holocene. The following topics are covered: (i) a range of natural archives of environmental change (e.g. lake and marine sediments, ice cores); (i) chronological techniques used to date these archives; (iii) biological indicators used to reconstruct past environmental change; (iv) palaeoclimatic and human-impact case studies. The course has also been designed to give practical experience in the identification of biological indicators.
Students should have taken the first year course GEOG 1005 Environmental Change, or an equivalent.
Relationship with other courses
- extends and elaborates many of the themes introduced in GEOG 1005 Environmental Change
- complements the second year course GEOG 2007 Ecological Patterns & Processes, by introducing techniques which extend the ecological record back in time when direct observations are absent
- complements many of the concepts and techniques covered in the third year course GEOG3057 Global Environmental Change
- Reconstructing Past Environments is a pre-requisite for 3rd Year Holocene environmental change dissertations.
Method of teaching
- 8 two hour lectures
- 2 laboratory based practicals
- One unseen, two-hour examination, 60%.
- One 2,500 word course paper based on the analysis of data related to reconstructing past environments, 40%
Smol, J.P. 2008. Pollution of lakes and rivers: a paleoenvironmental perspective.
An excellent book that covers a large part of the course. Recommended buy.
Mackay, A.W., Battarbee, R.W., Birks, H.J.B. & Oldfield, F. (Eds) (2003) Global change in the Holocene. Publisher: Arnold, London. 528 pp.
A comprehensive handbook that contains review chapters covering most aspects of Holocene climate research