Academic year
2021/2022 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
CM0518 (AF:354752 AR:185391)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Master's Degree Programme (DM270)
Educational sector code
2nd Semester
Course year
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This course aims to provide the knowledge of the stable isotope methodologies applied to the study of natural processes. These methodologies will be applied for analysing and resolving geological, hydrogeological and environmental problems related to the protection and management of the environment and of surface and groundwater resources. In particular, the course will focus on the variability of the isotopic composition of H, C, N, O and S, and on the associated analytical methodologies and their applications to the study of hydrogeological processes as well as to environmental and ecological processes, and also to the tracing of food and products. The topics associated to the different components of the Earth system will be considered.
These knowledges allow the student to acquire the necessary expertise to; i) the utilization of the isotopic tool for solving problems related to the water resource management; ii) evaluation of methodologies to be used for environmental monitoring; iii) the use of the isotopic tool for ecology; iv) the tracing of products and food.
The attendance and active participation to the course (frontal lectures, thematic seminars and student presentation of scientific papers) as well as the individual study will allow the student to: i) acquire the basic knowledge on the applications of the isotopic tool to environmental issues; ii) acquire the knowledge for the applications of the isotopic tool for solving problems related to the surface and groundwater resource management; iii) acquire the knowledge on analytical techniques utilized in stable isotope geochemistry.
This learning acquisition will allow the student to strengthen his expertise on: i) acquiring a critical approach towards a sustainable management of the environment and water resources; ii) acquiring the ability to apply the stable isotope tool to environmental, hydrogeological, ecological and tracing issues; iii) using a proper technical terminology suitable for a professional environment.
Knowledge acquired during the bachelor degree in Environmental Sciences.
Basic concepts of isotope geochemistry, isotope fractionation processes. Notations used for reporting stable isotope composition. Basic principles on mass spectrometry and laser spectroscopy, microanalytical techniques, standards and general remarks on sample preparation. Variations of H, C, N, O and S isotopic ratios in natural environment: magmatic, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks; hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere.
Oxygen and hydrogen isotope composition as natural tracer in the hydrological cycle: the oceans, the atmospheric water vapour, the precipitation, the groundwaters. The land-biosphere-atmosphere interface. Water in soils and plants. Water-rock interaction. Tracing the carbon, nitrogen and sulphur cycles for groundwater quality. The isotopic composition of carbonates. The traceability of products (food and more) using H, O, C, N and S isotopic ratios.
Isoscapes. Some considerations on the use of stable isotopes in paleoclimatology.
Mandatory text book:
Book Pdf online free: Sharp, Zachary. "Principles of Stable Isotope Geochemistry, 2nd Edition." (2017). doi:10.5072/FK2GB24S9F; Link for download:

Optional text books:
J. Hoefs, “Stable Isotope Geochemistry” 7th Edition, Springer, 2015.
I. Clark and P. Fritz “Environmental Isotopes in Hydrogeology”, CRC Press, 1997.
J. R. Gat “Isotope Hydrology: a study of the water cycle”, Imperial College Press, 2010.
A. Longinelli, S. Deganello “Introduzione alla Geochimica”, UTET, 1999.
For a positive achievement of the exam the following is requested: an active participation at the lessons, the reading and summary of scientific articles that will be made available in the Moodle platform and assigned to the students during the lessons. The students will have to prepare an oral presentation (pptx) of one of these articles during the last part of the course, and discuss them in the classroom with their colleagues under the supervision of the teacher. This will allow to verify the knowledge of the basic concepts and the applications of the isotope geochemistry to case studies. At the end the verification of the acquired knowledge will be made by an oral exam structured in two parts: in the first part the student is asked to discuss the article assigned to her/him; the second part aims at the learning assessment of the concepts presented during lessons. To each part a maximum score of 15 points is assigned.
The non-attending students will contact the teacher to be assigned a scientific article which will then be presented and discussed by the student during the oral exam.
The teaching is organized in frontal lessons, seminars and reading/presentation of scientific papers by students during lessons.
The frontal lessons and supplementary materials will be available in pdf on the university Moodle platform.

This subject deals with topics related to the macro-area "Natural capital and environmental quality" and contributes to the achievement of one or more goals of U. N. Agenda for Sustainable Development

Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 12/03/2021