På grunn av koronasituasjonen kan det bli endringer i undervisning og eksamen høsten 2020. Informasjon om eventuelle endringer, kunngjøres direkte til studenter som er oppmeldt i emnet.

spring 2018

GEO-3136 Practical geochronological methods - 10 ECTS

Sist endret: 29.01.2019

The course is provided by

Faculty of Science and Technology


Tromsø |

Application deadline

Applicants from Nordic countries: 1 December for the spring semester. Exchange students and Fulbright students: 1 October for the spring semester.

Type of course

This course is available as a single course. The course is recommended for students in Marine Geology and Geophysics, Sedimentology, Geohazards and Quaternary Geology.

Admission requirements

Bachelor's degree in geology or a similar degree following a programme of study of at least three years duration, or similar education approved in accordance with the Norwegian Universities Act section 3-4. In addition, specialization in geology worth the equivalent of at least 80 ECTS credits is required. Normally, an average mark of C or better is required at the bachelor's degree level or other programme for basis of admission. Application code: 9371.

Course content

Within the scope of this course, students will get applied training in key geochronological methods to solve challenges for own studies with terrestrial and marine archives.

The course takes advantage of easy access from UiT to geohazards, glacial landscapes, and fjord sites around Tromsø. Students ability to choose sample locations, analyse and interpret geochronological data is the key to understand past interactions between the geohazards, Earth system and climate change. The course starts with theoretical background and physical principles of key geochronological methods and fieldwork will provide hands-on experience in sampling strategies and techniques.

Key methods that will be discussed are radiocarbon dating, optically stimulated luminescence dating, cosmogenic nuclide dating, and tephrochronology. Lectures, seminars and exercises will alternate to provide background information for current challenges and avenues of dating methods in high latitude environments and in geohazard studies.

With laboratory exercises and data analyses, students will focus on practical challenges of the dating techniques, like building age-depth models and evaluation of uncertainties. In seminars, student groups will critically assess published case studies with regard to age constraints, interpretations and related challenges.  

Objectives of the course


Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • Have a comprehensive understanding of geochronological dating methods: radiocarbon, optically stimulated luminescence dating, cosmogenic nuclide dating, tephrochronology
  • Be able to plan a sampling strategy for a marine or terrestrial research question in the field
  • Have a good knowledge of inherited problems, challenges and potentials of the geochronological methods
  • Be able to critically analyse and graphically present geochronological data in the light of a given research question
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge of and ability to explain different age-depth models and their (dis-)advantages, compare them and place these into a large-scale context
  • Formulate the potential and limitation of each method and data sources
  • Analyse information from databases, primary research articles and scientific reports


Upon completing the course, the students can:

  • Create a number of standard statistical procedures and to analyse, to report and to discuss the results of data experiments
  • Compose data with Excel, Past, Matlab or comparable software
  • Build calibrated radiocarbon age-depth models with OxCal/Calib, Bacon
  • Calculate luminescence and cosmogenic nuclide dating results
  • Identify crypto-/tephra layers and their potential age
  • Examine internet and databases as a resource for scientific information
  • Work in groups to solve problems related to geochronology and own studies
  • Report findings and to formulate scholarly arguments when delivering oral/poster presentations, reporting scientific finds and presenting data


Upon completing the course, the students will be able to:

  • Master the most important elements of geological research projects: penetrating literature, carrying out field research, analysing data and communicating results to fellow students/scientists
  • Critically evaluate and judge the quality of data and conclusions presented in primary databases, research articles and scientific reports
  • Critically evaluate and judge the quality of data and conclusions obtained and presented in the group projects
  • Write a research project on a given topic by presenting and justifying own results in the light of published studies
  • Have independent as well as team-work skills

Language of instruction


Teaching methods

Teaching The course will be given as a block course over two weeks with 16 hours lectures, 8 hours seminar, 16 hours exercises and 4 hours laboratory work. There is also a field excursion of two days.

Compulsory learning activities Active participation in seminars, lab exercises and fieldwork. All compulsory educational activities must be approved in order to get the final assessment.


Method- Percentage of final grade.

Poster presentation of data analysis- 25%: Master students in groups of two.

Report including poster/oral presentation- 75%: Master students in groups of two present a poster and their report focussing on methodological uncertainties and discussion of own data analysis.  

All assessments must be passed in order to pass the course.


Recommended reading/syllabus

Peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, lectures, literature seminars, computer/data exercises and excursion. The syllabus will be distributed one month before course start.