University of Otago, New Zealand


Te Tari Hua-Ruanuku

CHEM204 - Environmental Chemistry



We rely on the environment for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we consume and our overall health in general. There is an increasing pressure on our environment by modern society and the growing human population, resulting in a growing demand for knowledge and understanding of the environment, notably the chemistry that underpins the functioning (or lack thereof) of our environment. CHEM 304 focuses on key concepts and techniques used in environmental chemistry with modules focussed on the chemistry of the lithosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. The concepts learned in these modules are then used to explore chemical oceanography and global biogeochemical cycles, as well as the transport and distribution of organic contaminants in the environment. This is an essential course for chemistry and other science majors interested in gaining knowledge and understanding of the environment.

CHEM 204 Environmental Chemistry is an 18-point paper available in the second semester.  It is taught as a dual-level paper with CHEM 304 and is therefore restricted against it.

CHEM 204 has been designed for non-chemistry majors who have taken at least one first-year chemistry paper; CHEM 304 has been designed for chemistry majors and other students with a strong chemistry background.


Lecture Courses: 33 lectures and 5 tutorials

Introduction (1 lecture)

Biogeochemical Cycles (x2 lectures)

Chemistry of the Lithosphere (x5 lectures)

Chemistry of the Atmosphere (x5 lectures)

Chemistry of the Hydrosphere (x5 lectures)

Chemical Oceanography (x6 lectures)

Project Design (x1 lecture)

Organic Contaminants (x7 lectures)

Sustainability (1 lecture)


Teaching Arrangements

Lecture Course: 33 lectures and 5 tutorials (1 per main module: Lithosphere, Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, Organic Contaminants and Biogeochemical Cycles)

Laboratory Course: 11 Laboratory sessions, 4 hours each

The laboratory course will be divided into two parts: specifically-assigned laboratory experiments (weeks 2-7) and a practical project (weeks 8-12)


Prerequisite papers

18 points of 100-level CHEM papers,


CHEM 304

Lecture times

Semester 2   Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 11.00 am 

Laboratory Course:

Semester 2  Wednesday 2:00 - 6:00pm (Chem Lab 2nd Floor, Science 1 building)

Laboratory Course: 11 Laboratory sessions, 4 hours each

The laboratory course is composed of set laboratory experiments and a practical project.


Homework assignments:  15%

Laboratory reports:  20%

Project report:  15%

2-hour written examination:  50%


Expectations at the completion of the course

Understand the chemical formation of soils and their chemical properties

Understand the chemical composition of the Earth's atmosphere

Perform calculations important to atmospheric chemistry

Understand the physical and chemical properties of water 

Understand pE/pH diagrams and their use in aquatic chemistry

Appreciate the basic thermohaline circulation and its influence on the distribution of the dissolved constituents of the ocean

Learn to create and use computer models for biogeochemical cycling

Learn how to use partition coefficients in predicting and understanding chemical behaviour in the environment

Understand bioaccumulation and biomagnification and perform relevant calculations

Be proficient in the use of basic statistical approaches common in environmental chemistry

Gain laboratory skills needed for common methods of quantifying chemicals in environmental matrices

Gain skills for collecting samples in the environment and designing a sampling protocol

Graduate Attributes

Global Perspective, Interdisciplinary Perspective, Lifelong Learning, Critical Thinking, Environmental Literacy, Information Literacy, Research, self-motivation, teamwork. 



Environmental Chemistry: A Global Perspective, G. van Loon and S. Duffy (3rd Edition) (2011) Oxford University Press: Oxford.

Teaching Staff

Dr Kimberly Hageman

Professor Russell Frew

Course Coordinator

Associate Professor Kimberly J. Hageman
Associate Professor Kimberly J. Hageman
Tel: +64  3  479 5214
Location: Science II, 5n4