Term Assignment
Write a story of where a water molecule might go, and what it might see and do, during the past 20,000 y. Note
that this time spans from the peak of the last glacial period, through the Holocene, to today.
Integrate as much course material as possible in your account, describing processes in which the water molecule
participates. Glaciers, oceans, rivers, floodplains, coastlines, permafrost, ice wedges, tides, seafloor spreading,
eruptions, precipitation, soils, megafauna, climate changes, etc… are examples of phenomena that your water
molecule might participate in and move between over 20,000y.
Your story may be written in 1st person if you wish, ie., from the point of view of the molecule. If you want to
give the water molecule a name, that’s OK (eg. “Hi. I’m Joe, and I’m H2O. ”). You may draw in multiple water
molecules if it is helpful for your narrative. For example, it might be helpful to have two contrasting molecules if
you choose to describe how O18 and O16 vary in ice cores and form a record of paleoclimate.
Although you are encouraged to have fun with this (if you like), you must also make your essay as quantitative
and specific as possible. Describe processes.. For example, if the water molecule spends time in the ocean, this is
an opportunity to describe wind-driven waves (fetch, orbital motions, wave base, wave breaking, etc…), rip tide
dynamics, the residence time of water in the ocean, even the typical annual fluxes of water in and out of the
ocean at the global scale of the hydrologic cycle.
Graphs and sketches are permitted, and probably a good idea if they help you tell a clear and detailed story.
Hand-drawn sketches are OK – you may take a photo and insert it as a figure in your essay.
• At least 3000 words (you may exceed this, up to 5000).
• A minimum of three figures:
◦ a map or remote sensing image. You may use any online source such as googlemaps, but you must
properly cite the source of your map, giving the website and time downloaded. Your map must have
a north arrow and scale bar. If you use a map from a source which does not have a north arrow or
scale bar, you must add them yourself.
◦ two photographs that you take yourself from your own surroundings, which show part of the ‘story’
of the water molecule. These must be captioned.
• Focus on topics and processes covered in this class.
• Ifyou use sources other than the class notes and readings, you must cite the source.
• All essays will be checked for plagiarism using Urkund, so do not copy text from any source.
• Term papers must be submitted in Word or PDF format to the Brightspace dropbox by Dec 15 (this is a
one week extension from the syllabus due-date)
M odified Grading Scheme
I am proposing to modify the grading scheme for the course so the Term Assignment can only increase your
grade. If you choose not to do the Term Assignment, your grade will be calculated based on the quizzes and
exam only.
Under the modified grading scheme, you will be given the final grade which gives you the BEST grade from the
following two options:
A. The original grading scheme in the syllabus (in which the term assignment + outline is worth 35%).
Your quiz grade is scored out of the BEST 2 of 3 quizzes.
B. A reweighted grading scheme in which your grade is calculated from the best 2 of 3 quizzes and the
final exam only. The Term Assignment is dropped.
These options mean that you can choose not to do the Term Assignment, in which case only your quiz and exam
grades count. If you choose to do the Term Assignment, the affect on your grade will either be neutral or it will
improve your grade.
The term assignment is a great way to integrate the course material and ‘make it your own’. It can also be a lot of
fun. I hope many of you will choose to do it, even if you think your grade will be OK with the quizzes and exam

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