Environmental Geochemistry

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course aims to give to the student an overall picture on the possible sources, pathways and geochemical cycles of contaminants for the environment and their impact on the earth's vast array of living environments. Particular attention will be given to heavy metals/metalloids and to the different effect that metal speciation may have on health (e.g. Cr-As). The course aims also to give basic knowledge on the contaminant/natural background values, on the indicator media of environmental health status and on remediation/alleviation of metal(s)-contaminated media as well as on decision making for environmental sustainability. The laboratory activity will introduce the student to real cases of environmental contamination.
Expected learning outcomes
The student will acquire competence on the role of heavy metals/metalloids as essential/pollutants elements, on the identification of metals' natural and anthropogenic sources, on the characterization of metals mobility/immobility in environmental media, and in establishing their pathways, geochemical cycles and bioaccumulation in ecosystems. The student will also acquire basic knowledge in defining contamination values and processes that can affect them through time and on remediation/alleviation strategies to keep earth systems sustainable.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
Teaching methods
The lessons will be held on the Microsoft Teams platform and can be followed both synchronously based on the timetable of the first semester and asynchronously as they will be recorded and uploaded on that same platform.

Course syllabus and Teaching Resources
The contents and reference material will not be changed.

Assessment methods and Criteria
The final exam will be an oral test through the Microsoft Teams platform or, if so permitted by regulation, in person as an oral interview.
The examination, in particular, will be aimed at:
- ascertaining the achievement of the objectives in terms of knowledge and comprehension;
- verifying the student's autonomy of judgment also through the analysis of cases discussed during the course;
- ascertaining the mastery of the specific language concerning the environmental geochemistry and the ability to present the topics in a clear and orderly manner.
If the regulations regarding social distancing allow it, the laboratory will be held in person at university divided in rounds, function of the total number of students attending the course and the number of people allowed in the laboratory. Participation in these activities will be on a voluntary basis and for those that will not attend the laboratory alternative material will be given.
Course syllabus
1) Basics of geochemistry
2) The Biogeochemical cycles of C-N-H-P-S
3) Heavy metals in the environment: sources and origin
4) Mobility/immobility of heavy metals in the environment with reference to speciation (Cr)
5) Historical trends in heavy metal pollution
6) Geochemistry of As and Se
7) Examples of heavy metal contamination in soils
8) The determination of the background level
9) Radioactive contamination
10) Organic contaminants
11) Laboratory activity aimed to apply the acquired knowledge to natural cases.
Prerequisites for admission
There are no prerequisites
Teaching methods
Frontal lecture and practical laboratory
Teaching Resources
ER. Siegel Environmental Geochemistry of Potentially Toxic Metals. Springer 2002
G. Dongarrà, D. Varrica. Geochimica e Ambiente. Edises. 2008
B. De Vivo, H.E. Belkin, A. Lima. ENVIRONMENTAL GEOCHEMISTRY: Site Characterization, Data Analysis and Case Histories
Assessment methods and Criteria
Learning outcomes are verified with an oral examination consisting in an interview about the program of the course and in a presentation of the laboratory activity. The interview aims to assess the knowledge and the understanding of the subject and the way of express the acquired concepts in a scientifically correct language.
GEO/08 - GEOCHEMISTRY AND VOLCANOLOGY - University credits: 6
Practicals: 12 hours
Lessons: 40 hours
Professor: Tiepolo Massimo
Monday 12.30-13.30
via Boticelli 23