UCL Module Catalogue


Isotope Geology (GEOL0017)

Key information

Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Teaching department
Earth Sciences
Credit value
GEOL0008 Geochemistry is a prerequisite or A-Level Chemistry.

Alternative credit options

There are no alternative credit options available for this module.


The module teaches the use of isotopes in a host of different geological aspects. The first half of the course (geochronology) uses radioactive and radiogenic isotopes to determine the age of different geological materials, from determining the age of the Earth, through to the exposure age of different sediments. the second half of the course examines the use of isotopes in non-dating techniques. This includes determining palaeo-climates, the evolution of atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide, through to examining the chemical structure of the mantle.

By the end of this course students will:

  • Introduce the physical and chemical processes that determine the isotopic composition of Earth materials, including nucleosynthesis, radioactivity and fractionation processes
  • Provide a basic understanding of mass spectrometry
  • Derive the basic mathematical underpinnings of the radiometric age equation, isochrons and the U-Pb concordia diagram
  • Provide a rigorous background in error propagation
  • Provide a broad overview of the natural processes that can lead to mass-dependent fractionation of stable isotopes
  • Explain how stable isotopes measurements can be used to understand said natural processes, both in the solid Earth and its fluid envelopes.

GEOL0008 Geochemistry is a prerequisite or A-Level Chemistry.

Module deliveries for 2020/21 academic year

Intended teaching term: Term 2     Undergraduate (FHEQ Level 5)

Teaching and assessment

Mode of study
Methods of assessment
70% Unseen two-hour written examination
30% One essay (2,000 words)
Mark scheme
Numeric Marks

Other information

Number of students on module in previous year
Module leader
Dr Pieter Vermeesch
Who to contact for more information

Last updated

This module description was last updated on 5th March 2020.