Course Syllabus

DRAFT Climate Lab 

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Semester & Location:

Fall 2020 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Environmental Science, Geography, Geology 

Faculty Members:

Inger Kathrine Seierstad

Program Director:

Neringa Vendelbo -

Time & Place:

Tuesdays, 2.50 pm - 5.45 pm


Description of Course

Performing experiments to test a hypothesis is fundamental to science, and lab-skills are in high demand. This lab-based course will give you hands-on experience with designing your own experiments. You will simulate and explore the physical mechanisms of Earth’s dynamic climate system through experiments on e.g. ocean circulation, energy balance, greenhouse gases and perform ice core and sediment analyses. Experiments will take place in a well-established lab at the University of Copenhagen.

The Scientific Method is at the core of this lab course. You will get to know and conduct all the steps in the scientific process of formulating a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis through experiments and communicating the results. The lab work will have an emphasis on students designing your own experiments to explore hypotheses rather than following instructions handed out to you. An important learning objective of the course is that students show independent thinking when investigating the scientific hypotheses and ability to work as a team to solve a problem. The topics of the lab course will parallel some of the subjects of the more theory-based ESA core courses Ice Cores and Ice Ages, Climate, Glaciers and Human Impact or Polar Biology, and you will get the chance to dig deeper into the processes and mechanisms that govern our climate system.

Students enrolling this class will have to be in ESA Ice Cores and Ice Ages, ESA Glaciers and Human Impact or ESA Polar Biology.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course you will be able to

  • Design and conduct experiments that simulate basic mechanisms and processes of Earth’s climate system together with fellow students.
  • Describe and discuss the underlying processes of our climate system.
  • Explain how analyses of ice samples from ice sheets and mud samples from a lake can help decipher how climate has and is changing over time
  • Explain how the different components of the climate systems are connected.
  • Apply the Scientific Method to a scientific problem. You will be able to formulate a hypothesis, test the hypothesis through experiments, conclude on your results, compare your findings to existing literature and write a lab report.
  • Communicate your scientific work to an audience.
  • Translate theoretical knowledge from lectures and readings into practical experiments in the lab.
  • Show independent thinking while designing the experiments.
  • Collaborate with fellow students and show ability to work as a team when solving scientific questions and performing lab work.


Inger Kathrine Seierstad, MSc in Geology-Geophysics (University of Copenhagen). Educated within glaciology at Centre for Ice and Climate, Niels Bohr Institute. Research on ice cores, past climate change, volcanic deposits in ice, stable isotopes and stratigraphic dating of ice cores. Participated in ice-core drillings in Greenland and Antarctica multiple times. With DIS since 2018.


F. Ruddiman: Earth’s Climate Past and Future, 3rd edition, 2014

T. Farmer and J. Cook: Climate Change Science: A Modern Synthesis. Volume 1 - The Physical Climate, 2013

Marshall and R. A. Plumb: Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics: An Introductory Text, 2007

Taylor: An Introduction to Error Analysis, 2nd edition, 1997

Rahmstorf: Thermohaline Ocean Circulation. In: Encyclopedia of Quaternary Sciences, Edited by S. A. Elias. Elsevier, Amsterdam 2006.

IPCC: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (AR5WG1), 2013

Field Studies

Students will visit professional geoscience research labs at other institutions in and around Copenhagen, where you will interact with Earth Scientists, participate in data acquisition and learn how the scientists plan and conduct their lab work as part of their research.

Approach to Teaching

The plan of topics, readings, etc. is updated on the Canvas course pages. Assigned readings and other details on the meetings are subject to change but will be updated online no later than 6 days before each meeting.


Lab work, experiments, group work, lectures, discussions, field studies and presentations.


Class meetings will generally take place in the lab, but up to an average of about 30% of a class meeting may be used for theoretical introductions, discussions, student presentations and wrap-ups that are relevant for the lab work.

Expectations of the Students

Students are expected to participate in all classes and field studies. Furthermore, active participation in class is required in order to get a good grade for participation. Please see details under Grading.


To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work. The overall grade will come from the following:


Participation (20%): Active participation in class is required in order to get a good grade for participation. Examples of active student participation: actively engage in setting up and testing experiments, actively contribute to a constructive and inspiring team work with your fellow students, volunteer to sum up key points from last class (2-3 min), ask questions about readings, lectures etc., start and/or participate in class discussions relating to the subjects treated.

Experiment portfolio (30%): Students will hand in two Experiment portfolios during the course. The portfolios consist of a compilation of lab reports from the experiments conducted in class.

Student Project (50%): Student projects will be carried out in small groups. Each group will choose a subject, formulate a hypothesis and design an experiment to investigate the problem. The final product will be a report and an oral presentation of the project results. Required elements of each project is that students familiarize themselves with the theoretical background and the methods they are using, give a thorough description of the experiment, its purpose and the results.






Experiment portfolio


Student Project



Academic Regulations  

Use of electronic devices: Laptops, phones and other portable electronic devices can be used for taking notes if in silent mode, but please refrain from writing or checking e-mail and text messages, browsing, or using social networks during class hours. During student presentations and group work, we kindly ask you to turn off or put electronic devices away.

Engaged Participation: Focused and constructive contribution in class discussions is encouraged and expected. If you feel tired, feel free to get up and walk around in the back of the classroom.

Late papers will not be accepted.


Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:



DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

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