Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 Geography module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide a comprehensive examination of Ice Age environments drawing on a range of case studies from the British Isles
  • To provide an advanced understanding of the causes and consequences of climatic changes on long and short timescales during the Quaternary Period (last 2 million years)
  • To provide theoretical and practical experience in the use of sedimentological and stratigraphic techniques in reconstructions of glacial and interglacial palaeoenvironments


  • Ice age environments
  • Palaeoglaciology
  • Interglacial environments
  • The nature of the Quaternary record in Britain
  • Fluvial records of Quaternary environmental change
  • Human occupation in the Quaternary
  • The Quaternary of the southern North Sea and East Anglia
  • Field class – weekend trip to East Anglia
  • Quaternary climate change – lessons for the future

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of the module students are expected to be able to:
  • Demonstrate a sound knowledge of the variable and time-transgressive nature of ice-sheet and glacier response to climate change using a range of case studies in Quaternary stratigraphy
  • Critically assess the concept of sequence and event stratigraphies with reference to onshore/offshore correlations of glacial landsystems
  • Evaluate the use of landforms and sediments and their contained floral and faunal remains in reconstructing Quaternary environmental change
  • Provide a critically reasoned overview of the Quaternary history of the British Isles based upon applications of lithostratigraphic, biostratigraphic and geomorphological information
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students are expected to be able to:
  • Reconstruct the palaeoenvironmental history of a site within a formerly glaciated region based upon standard sedimentological and stratigraphic procedures
  • Critically analyse the applicabilities, timescales and problems associated with evaluating the spatial and temporal reconstructions of Quaternary glaciations and interglacials in a range of topographic settings
Key Skills:
  • Reconcile published interpretations with their own observations
  • Access, critically analyse and interpret information from multiple sources relevant to the Earth’s Quaternary glacial–interglacial record

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures will be used to impart basic facts and information necessary to fulfil the aims of this course
  • The fieldtrip will provide students with the individual and group working skills and the understanding to describe and interpret glacial and interglacial sediments in the field using a range of techniques.
  • The field trip is supported by practical workshops, providing guidance for preparation of the field report.
  • Summative assessment is designed to test students’ ability to assimilate data in a coherent report.
  • Formative feedback provides support in understanding of key concepts and design of final report.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 8 Weekly 1.5 hours 12
Lecture (field Health & Safety briefing) 1 Once 1.5 hours 1.5
Fieldwork 1 Field weekend Split over 3 days in late November 24
Practicals 2 Following fieldwork 1.5 hours 3
Preparation and reading 59.5
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Field-trip report Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Field-trip report 5 pages A4 + figures, tables and references 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative feedback will be provided on fieldwork, field trip evening de-briefings and on field note books while in the field.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University