What you will study
This module will use an appealing set of societally and internationally relevant earth science topics to teach and assess fundamental OU level 3 science graduate skills and prepare you for science graduate employment.
You can expect this module to provide you with a supportive, exciting and engaging learning environment in which to develop your scientific skills and earth science interests. The module was put together using a new production methodology developed by the academic team so it has a fresh style. Some of the module material was piloted during preparation to specifically help improve the student experience.
The module is divided into the following six equal parts:
Events in earth history
This part comprises a series of study topics each of which is about eight hours long. These topics explore either an interesting event in earth history or introduce techniques for measuring geological time. The topics include: the geological evidence for ‘Noah’s flood’, radiometric dating, global warming, geological time, the diversification of animals during the Cambrian, fossils, mineral deposits and the debate on the cause of the death of the dinosaurs.
We will teach you how science is communicated to the media and give you the opportunity to practice this skill using topics that particularly interest you. This part of the module also includes an introduction to the short independent project that you will undertake in weeks 26-28 so that you can plan ahead.
Mountains fashion the most spectacular regions of our planet, harbour the evidence of colliding continents, drive climate change, and provide a unique environment for cultural and linguistic diversity. The material examines the forces that cause mountain building and explores the consequences of large mountain belts such as the Himalayas for regional climate change, and the prediction of hazards including earthquakes, landslides, flooding and glacial outbursts. We will teach you how to read and analyse primary scientific literature, including scientific papers as well as giving you practice in using the Open Science Laboratory virtual microscope and digital kit.
The oceans represent vital and highly sensitive components of the earth system. As organisms die, they sink to the seafloor, thereby continually contributing a major component to seafloor sediments; this forms our most important archive of the variability of earth’s climate, its drivers and its consequences. Modern ocean processes, such as biogeochemical cycles, the carbon cycle, the biological pump and ocean circulation are explored in the context of earth history. This part will help you develop skills in analysing data and uses real data sets recently collected from international scientific expeditions across the earth’s oceans.
Volcanoes and remote observation
Volcanoes play a significant role in fashioning the composition of the earth’s atmosphere and can profoundly affect local, regional and even global environment and climate. This material considers mantle plumes and their role in plate tectonics. You will also examine evidence for massive, prolonged volcanic events that have generated large igneous provinces on Earth, the Moon and Mercury. Deductions that can be made from observations at a range of different spatial scales are a special focus in this part of the module. In particular, remote observation techniques are used to examine large-scale features and the relationship between them.
Sediments and sea-level
The sedimentary record provides us with the most complete record of earth surface processes. It is from this record that we gain information about the carbon cycle, climate change and the history of life. Sedimentary deposits also provide us with water, fossil fuels and soil to produce food. Sea-level change is the most important process controlling the nature of the sedimentary record both on land and in the sea. ‘Sequence stratigraphy’, an analytical technique that is used throughout industry and academia, is taught and applied. You will learn how to predict where and when different sediments are deposited and taught how to use and integrate different types of sedimentary data.
Science and society
In the first part of Science and society you will have about 50 hours to complete your short independent project. The project can be on a topic of your choosing allowing you to explore something of interest and which suits your unique skills. Your project can be based on fieldwork, analysis of primary scientific data at your desk, or research in another suitable place such as a museum, workplace or urban area. The project will give you an opportunity to develop scientific research skills that will be useful for a project-based module and the workplace. The final part provides you with study materials on some short topics of particular relevance to society including: climate change, how science is funded and natural hazards.
This module uses a commentary to guide you in your study of selected extracts from text books including some used in former courses (e.g. S369, S339, S269, S330) scientific papers, video, animations and multimedia. The commentary includes academic concepts together with questions to allow you to test and reflect on your learning. If you are studying the BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences, this module forms an ideal transition between Stage 2 and the final 60 credits at Stage 3 including the project module (SXG390 or equivalent). Alternatively if you are on the Open degree, the module can be studied at any time during Stage 3.
You will learn
This module covers earth science knowledge, theories, concepts and terminology. The module examines how interpretations are made based on a wide variety of observations and datasets and the uncertainties associated with these together with the relevance of earth science to society. You will learn how to: apply knowledge and understanding, construct and test hypotheses, carry out and report on investigations, access and critically assess sources of information, together with the collection, application and communication of earth science information in the form of text and graphics. This module will also cover effective time management, collaboration and practical earth science techniques.