MSc Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Reconstruction

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Environmental Change & Reconstruction 1: Concepts in Stratigraphy and Geochronology

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG60111
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


Provide an understanding of environmental reconstruction using a variety of different sedimentological and geomorphological records


This Unit aims to:

- Provide training in environmental reconstruction using a variety of different sedimentological and geomorphological records

- Teach students concepts and principles of stratigraphy

- Provide an opportunity for utilising skills in stratigraphical, sedimentological and geomorphological techniques in the field

- Teach students the theory and application of techniques in geochronology which can be used to date a variety of different sedimentological and geomorphological records


Summary of content (subject to revision and scheduling)

1. Introduction to Environmental Change and Reconstruction.

2. Stratigraphy in environmental reconstruction.

3. Methods in environmental reconstruction I – Geomorphology.

4. Methods in environmental reconstruction II – Sedimentology.

5. Chronology I - 14C dating.

6. Chronology II – Cosmogenic dating.

7. Chronology III – OSL dating.

8. Chronology III – OSL dating workshop.

9. Fieldtrip

10. Coursework Essay 2 surgery.

Teaching and learning methods

The classes will be delivered via lectures and laboratory and field demonstrations. Course materials will be delivered via Blackboard. In addition, there will be opportunities for one-to-one consultation with lecturers in their office hours.

Knowledge and understanding

Utilise geomorphological and sedimentological records for reconstructing environmental change.

Apply the principles of stratigraphy (subdivision, ordering and correlation) in environmental reconstruction.

Reconstruct environmental change using sedimentological and geomorphological records.

Choose appropriate geochronological techniques (optically stimulated luminescence, radiocarbon, and cosmogenic exposure dating) for dating geomorphological and sedimentological records of environmental change.

Intellectual skills

Students will be able to critically assess different records of environmental change (e.g. glacial, fluvial, lacustrine, peatlands) and the problems associated with using such records for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction.

Students will be able to critically evaluate the nature of different dating techniques (geochronology) for different record of environmental change with reference to published literature.

Practical skills

Students will be able to write reports/essays, including information accessed from access digital and library resources.

They will gain experience, through demonstrations, of laboratory techniques in environmental reconstruction.

Students will be shown how to make stratigraphical, sedimentological and geomorphological observations in the field, including case study examples and demonstrations of field techniques in practice.

They will be trained in data handling and numerical skills.

Students will also develop their skills in research design.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

The module will enable students to develop their communication and writing skills, cooperative learning (in a field and lab setting), digital skills (graphical presentation), time management, independent study.




Assessment methods


Feedback methods

You will receive verbal and written feedback on your work in a variety of ways

Recommended reading

Bateman, M.D. (ed). Handbook of luminescence dating. Whittles Publishing. Available to view online as an e-book in the library.

Darvill, C. (2013). Cosmogenic nuclide analysis. In Geomorphological Techniques (pp. 1-25). London, UK: British Society for Geomorphology.

Hughes, P.D. (2010). The role of geomorphology in Quaternary stratigraphy: morphostratigraphy, lithostratigraphy and allostratigraphy. Geomorphology 123, 189-199.

Stone, A., Bateman, M., Burrough , S., Limonta, M., Garzanti, E., Telfer, M., & Radeff, G. (2018). Using a portable luminescence reader for rapid age assessment of aeolian sediments for reconstructing dunefield landscape evolution in southern Africa. Quaternary Geochronology 49, 57-64.

Walker, M.J.C. (2005) Quaternary dating methods. Wiley, Chichester. Available to view online as an e-book in the library.

Study hours

Assessment activity

Length required

Weighting within unit

  1. Field data collection methods relating to Geomorphology/Sedimentology. Case study: reconstructing past glacial environments



  1. Essay relating to (sessions 1-4), deadline in November (week 6, 2022-2023)

1500 words




  1. Essay/Report relating to Chronology (sessions 5-9), deadline in December (week 11, 2022-2023)


1500 words


Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Practical classes & workshops 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 124

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Anna Hughes Unit coordinator

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