Skip to main content

Unit information: Environmental Life Chemistry in 2021/22

Unit name Environmental Life Chemistry
Unit code CHEM20012
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Bull
Open unit status Not open

Either CHEM10010 Quantitative Chemistry I or CHEM10011 Quantitative Chemistry II
CHEM10013 Building Blocks of Chemistry


CHEM20007 Core Concepts in Chemistry

School/department School of Chemistry
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

The Unit explores the Earth’s biosphere and geosphere through the lens of chemistry. The key principles that will be explored are;

How key elements cycle through these spheres (chemical forms and timescales) naturally. How human activity perturbs the cycling of these natural cycles

How human activity introduces new chemical forms into these spheres What is the impact of these perturbations on living systems

How can we measure the chemicals in these spheres and how do we assess impact (introducing ideas about toxicology)

How models of these spheres of varying complexity can be constructed

Intended Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe and construct a chemical budget (thermodynamic and kinetic considerations)
  2. Explain how key elements are partitioned between chemical forms in the spheres of interest
  3. Calculate the lifetime of key chemical forms (kinetics)
  4. Determine what are the key processes that allow exchange within and between spheres
  5. Explain how human activity perturbs the natural partitioning of elemental reservoirs
  6. Evaluate appropriate methods to measure the concentrations of elemental reservoirs in the spheres investigated
  7. Explain how isotopes can be used to determine sources of chemicals and their lifetimes
  8. Evaluate and analyse methods to determine the toxicology of species
  9. Construct the first steps of models that describe the chemistry of the spheres of interest and how elements are transferred from one sphere to another

Teaching Information

Introductory lecture to each component

On-line taught materials for students to view

Workshops in groups for students to review material and prepare for assessments

Assessment Information

Review of elemental cycling through the two spheres – 2500 word essay – 30%

Group project and presentation – 30%

Students will be given data in the form of spectra and other measurements and determine with justification the chemicals present in the that particular environment and propose mechanisms for their presence. Students will submit a group report and give a presentation on their analysis.

Quantitative Assignment – 40%

Students will be given a series of questions that require the application of quantitative methods and models relevant to the material in the course.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. CHEM20012).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.