GEOS 208
The Modern Carbon Cycle: the Story from Stable Isotopes Fall 2022
Division III

Class Details

Burning fossil fuels, industrial agriculture, and microbial processes all emit greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and therefore contribute to climate change. But in what proportions? Enter stable isotopes. Everything around you–including the lithosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere–contains a mixture of carbon of mass 12 or 13. By learning the processes that control the ratio of these two stable isotopes in different Earth materials, we can better understand the modern carbon cycle, including its inputs and outputs, transformative processes, and interaction with global climate. In this course, we will review the basics of stable carbon isotope theory and analysis and use these tools to better understand the carbon cycle on different spatial and temporal scales. We will consider how to model both global and local sources of carbon to the atmosphere, both conceptually and through simple box models using stable isotopes. In lab, students will write models in R (no prior experience required), prepare organic and inorganic materials for carbon isotope analysis by a commercial laboratory, and correct and analyze real isotope data. This course is in the Oceans and Climate Group for the Geoscience major.
The Class: Format: lecture/laboratory; 2.5 hours lecture per week and one 3 hour lab per week
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 1340
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Weekly lab assignments, bi-weekly (open book) quizzes, a final project including a written report and oral presentation.
Prerequisites: one 100-level GEOS course or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preferences: sophomore and junior GEOS majors
Distributions: Division III
Attributes: GEOS Group A Electives - Climate + Oceans

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