Advanced Soil Science and Isotope Geochemistry

Course content

The course teaches state-of-the art principles and methodologies within the field of isotope geochemistry and environmental science with an emphasis on processes in soil and vegetation.

The course has focus on the use of advanced stable isotope analysis as tracers of geochemical and biological processes in terrestrial systems as a mean to establish knowledge on the interaction between physical and chemical environment and human activity.

The course includes practical exercises with soil and air isotopic analysis.


MSc Programme in Environmental Science
MSc Programme in Geography and Geoinformatics
MSc Programme in Geography and Geoinformatics with a minor subject

Learning outcome


  • Isotope terminology, notations and standards in stable isotope work
  • Isotope fractionation; kinetic and equilibrium reactions; natural abundance and tracers; mixing models
  • Abundance and characteristics of elements/compounds that undergo isotopic fractionation in soil environment
  • Carbon, nitrogen and sulfur in low temperature environments (CNS-cycles; reservoirs; soils; plants; atmosphere; paleoclimate).
  • Stable isotope analytical techniques (mass spectrometry; infrared laser spectroscopy)
  • Stable isotope analysis of bulk soil, soil elements and gases



  • Apply correct scientific terms and definitions
  • Apply and solve algebraic equations involving isotopic two- and three-end mixing models
  • Identify and describe prerequisites for applications of stable isotope techniques in terrestrial settings (H, C, N, O, S)
  • Identify and describe key processes that can be investigated by isotope techniques.



  • Formulate proposals to identify and solve complex geographical problems and questions related to impacts on soil environment and Earth systems (climate change, land use, management)
  • Evaluate and discuss demands and prerequisites for accurate isotopic analysis in various sample materials
  • Design small-scale test experiments.
  • Evaluate, discuss and explain scientific publications to fellow students and scientists

The form of teaching is a combination of practical (laboratory) and theoretical exercises, mixed with ad hoc lectures. We will also read, present and discuss scientific literature. For the teaching plan, please see Absalon.

Please see Absalon.

BSc in Geography and Geoinformatics or equivalent is recommended

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)

Teh course has substantial practical content, and feedback is given orally during the course based on the performance of students during the practical field- and laboratory activities.

An oral feedback is given in response to the written assignement.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 min
Written assignment, Ongoing
The written assignment is prepared during the course and must be handed in prior to the exam week. The oral exam uses the written assignment as its point of departure. It includes the titles listed in the officially approved reading list. A combined grade is given after the oral exam.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners.
Criteria for exam assessment

Please see learning outcomes

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 14
  • Preparation
  • 171
  • Theory exercises
  • 15
  • Laboratory
  • 6
  • English
  • 206