Aims and objectives of the Intensive Course

Rationale and background to the project

The state of environmental decay in many European countries is very serious and requires remediation as quickly as possible. The Czech Republic unfortunately has serious environmental problems. Seen from a different perspective, it offers ideal possibilities to present students directly with environmental pollution. The ten-year period since the careless approach of the communist era ceased, has given enough time to produce experts and solutions to many of these problems. The Earth Science field that most deals with adversely affected environments is Environmental Geochemistry. We therefore propose that the state of the Czech environment will be presented to students from several European countries in field demonstrations in conjunction with an intensive course in Environmental Geochemistry.

No matter how elaborate theoretical lectures given to students are, it is necessary that they gain a field experience with as many taught phenomena as possible. The Czech Republic is an ideal terrain to demonstrate a plethora of environmental problems. The course will combine a theoretical approach to geochemical processes that influence the quality of the environment with practical demonstrations of the results of remediation measures that have been taken so far. The field demonstrations will be delivered using the experience of local experts from industry, civil authorities, and academia.

A trial version of the proposed course has been successfully undertaken with a small number (3) of undergraduate students in Environmental Geoscience from the University of Bristol and University lecturers from Brno (Dr. Zeman and Dr. Sulovsky) and the University of Bristol (Dr. Ragnarsdottir). These students were presented with a draft version of the text which will be used in the course proposed here.

General aims:

a) To develop and realise an intensive course to teach students the basics of environmental geoscience.
b) To enhance students' employment prospects and employment mobility through acquired competence in environment monitoring, remediation, impact assessment, and protection.
c) To assist in disseminating the acquired knowledge, using open and distance learning possibilities.
d) To support Europe-wide co-operation in environment-oriented Earth Science teaching through the evolution of a short course which can be used in other multidisciplinary higher education programmes within EU countries.
e) To facilitate student mobility between institutions of higher education in Europe.

Objectives:

The course themes are delivered both as theoretical background lectures and as field demonstrations. Discussed and in-field demonstrated topics will involve:
- Environmental impacts of extensive open-pit coal mining, landscape remediation;
- Natural geological processes currently changing the landscape, impact of human activities - road building, dams, quarrying, mining, waste disposal etc. - on the landscape and environment;
- Supergene processes in rocks and soils: weathering, release and migration of components, acid mine drainage, heavy metal pollution and its monitoring, migration in porous media
- Environmentally detrimental mining (in-situ uranium leaching, treatment of acid mine water), and its consequences;
- Acid rain effects, its sources and resulting forest decline; soil acidification due to loss in buffering capacity, comparison of anthropogenic impact on forest environment in Jizera Mountains (Isergebirge) and Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains);
- Acid mine drainage and resulting heavy metal pollution: open pit mine in pyrite-rich black shales, Zelezne Hory Mountains; classical coal combustion, and fly ash disposal (power plant Chvaletice);
- Spontaneous coal-refuse heap burning and lowering of the heap's temperature (1800oC) by environmentally friendly methods (uraniferous black coal - Sub-Krkonose basin); fluidised bed coal combustion, fly ash disposal and re-use and hazards involved (power plant Porici);
- Problems associated with uranium shaft mining: preparation of an active uranium mine for close-down: Cleanup of technical works, geochemistry of mine waters and modelling of its development, rock waste management, waste water management - settling pond; assessment of mining activities, impacts on public health and biota;
- Soil contamination, relation between biota growth and soil chemistry (serpentinite soils)

During the majority of field demonstrations, the students were be taught state-of-the-art practices in sampling (air, water, sludge, stream sediment, heavy mineral concentrate, soil, air) and measurement of physical properties (radioactivity, magnetic properties), and localisation of sampling sites (GPS). The students were evaluated based on a project talk they gave at the end of the course. This will help them gain presentation skills and pulling information together.
Although the knowledge concerning the subject of the course - Environmental Geoscience - exists in book and in journal form, it is scattered and for the undergraduate students difficult to grasp by lectures and self-learning only. Within the proposed course, teaching materials dealing with general principles of a Geoscience approach to the environment as well as practical applications of this approach will be prepared. We feel that it is necessary to collect field and theoretical data as well as related hypothesis, which at present is dispersed in a multitude of sources. To ensure the best possible practical value, the teaching materials will be prepared in close co-operation with the universities concerned. A preliminary version of such field-trip guide and textbook (190 pages, in English) has already been prepared by the project co-ordinator and distributed to the Bristol participants of the 1998 and 1999 trial courses.

The target audience

The target group is second and third year undergraduates. The class will consist of
- 10 students of the Geology and Environment specialisation of the Masaryk University (3rd - 5th year),
- 15 students of Environmental Geoscience from the University of Bristol (3nd year),
- 10 students from TU Bergakademie Freiberg (3rd year),
The course was delivered in English, students fluent in that language were given priority.

The staff of the course consisted of 2 lecturers from the Masaryk University: Prof. Josef Zeman (geochemistry), Dr. Petr Sulovsky (applied geochemistry, statistical data treatment, and analytical methods), and one lecturer from the University of Bristol - Dr. Vala Ragnarsdottir (environmental geochemistry).
Project outcomes (based on the objectives above):

1) Production of a report reviewing the current practices in environmental geochemistry education amongst the project participants.
2) Establishment of course programmes by the participants, including uniform assessment and certification system applicable in environmental education schemes.
3) Evaluation of the programme(s) developed in a form of final report.
4) Production of a report describing and discussing in detail all activities of the project and their outcomes, and deriving appropriate recommendations.
5) Publication of information on the project via the Internet, and the organisation of a video-conference on its results.
6) Establishment of a Web page devoted to long distance learning in Environmental Geochemistry with on-line tools (ask-a-specialist, on-line tutorials, tests etc.)

Cooperation with other institutions

At all demonstration sites, explanation will be given by experts from the pertinent private enterprises (e.g. head geologist of Bílina Mines PLC, head of the remediation works at Radvanice coal mine, heads of ecology division of power plants Chvaletice and Porici) and state institutions or enterprises (experts of the Czech Uranium Industry, head conservationist of the Jizera Mts. Reserve etc). These people already showed their competence and willingness to assist the course during the preparatory field trips of Bristol students in June/July, 1998 and September, 1999.