Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide a comprehensive examination of Ice Age environments drawing on a range of case studies from both modern and ancient glaciated regions
  • To provide an advanced understanding of the causes and consequences of climatic changes on long and short timescales with specific reference to glaciated terrains 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: introduction, historical perspective, timescales and stratigraphic correlation
  • Geomorphology and landsystems in glaciated regions
  • Principles of stratigraphy and sequence stratigraphy
  • Palaeoglaciology
  • Interglacial environments
  • Records from non-glacial environments
  • Early humans and glaciations
  • Changing levels of land and sea in glaciated terrain
  • The nature of the Quaternary record in Britain:
  • i. overview
  • ii. case study: the Quaternary of East Yorkshire / North Lincolnshire and / or East Anglia
  • iii. case study: the Thames
  • iv. case study: the Quaternary of Wales and / or SW England
  • The glaciations of North America:
  • i. the Laurentide Ice Sheet & western plains case study
  • ii. the Arctic Ocean and islands & Canadian high arctic case study
  • Case studies in Quaternary stratigraphy - e.g.:
  • i. event stratigraphy for the Irish Sea Basin
  • ii. morphostratigraphy of the Loch Lomond Stadial
  • Field class - weekend trip to East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire or East Anglia

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 enclosed floral and faunal remains in reconstructing Quaternary environmental change in formerly glaciated terrain
  • provide a critically reasoned overview of the Quaternary history of Britain 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 and latitudinal settings
Key Skills:
  • On completion of the module students will be able to:
  • Reconcile published interpretations with their own field observations at key type locations in the form of a written field report
  • 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 sediments in the field using a range of techniques
  • Preparation of the field report will test the students' ability to design and complete a research project
  • The examination is to test student understanding of basic facts and knowledge
  • The practical exercises will help students develop research skills and demonstrate mastery of both subject skills and key skills

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 15 weekly 1.5 hours 22.5
Lecture (Fieldtrip Health and Safety briefing) 1 1.5 hours 1.5
Revision Lecture 1 1.5 hours 1.5
Practicals / drop-in sessions 4 2 hours 8
Fieldwork 1 Field weekend Split over 3 days in November 16
Student Preparation & Reading 150.5
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen end of module examination 1.5h 100% None
Component: Field work report Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Field work report 5 x sides A4 100% None

Formative Assessment:

Formative feedback will be provided on field report preparation during practical/drop in sessions and on field note books.

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