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Reconstructing past climate: lessons for today?

Learn to read the geological record and the necessary tools to reconstruct past climate changes, understand the present environmental alterations and assess their social consequences!

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CIVIS focus area
Climate, environment and energy
Open to
  • Master's
  • Phd
Field of studies
  • Environment & Agriculture
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Short-term
  • CIVIS Hub 1
Course dates
26 July - 4 August 2022

The geological rock record is an archive that chronicles environmental and biological change through our planet’s history. Seeking to understand how everything came into being and to predict where we are going can only be developed if approaches from different disciplines within the natural sciences are combined, providing a powerful tool to explore environmental change through deep time. However, at the same time, such endeavours are extremely challenging due to their high complexity.

With the recognition that increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations are heating up our planet, the argument was made that studying past greenhouse worlds can yield important information to tackle today’s challenge of rising temperatures. While this statement is continuously being made in Earth Science-related fields to indicate the significance of the research, the direct implications for the here and now are usually not specified. Part of the reason is that scientists are being trained in a semi-vacuum, and very little attention is given to other scientific cultures.

This course aims to bring together students and lecturers from across Europe and from different scientific disciplines. Students will learn to read the records of past greenhouse worlds and will discuss their significance for today’s societal challenges.

Main topics addressed

During the course, the students will be trained in different techniques:

  • Fieldwork
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry
  • Modelling
  • Data analyses and critical thinking

Learning outcomes

For 10 days, participating students will be given a basic introduction to geobiology and will gain hands-on experience on the following matters:

  • How rock sections are studied
  • How data is generated and analyzed
  • How models of the Earth system are created
  • How to assess how the past can help to understand the present

These learning outcomes will help students to gain the knowledge and skills needed to tackle the challenges associated with global change.





Language: English (B2) Dates: 26 July - 4 August 2022
Format: Physical Duration of the course: ~8 days (54 hours)
ECTS: 2* Individual workload: 12 hours
Individual workload: 20 hours N° of CIVIS scholarships: 10

*The recognition of ECTS depends on your home university.

The course is organised as follows: 

  • 2 days of field trip 
  • 6 days of seminars in the mornings (4-5h) with some time for personal work in the afternoons (3h)

The lectures will take at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. 


CIVIS students

  • Students from the host university (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid): €350 (this includes meals during the course and meals and accommodation during the field trip).
  • Students from other CIVIS universities with a CIVIS scholarship*: €350 (this includes accommodation and meals during the course and field trip).
  • Students from other CIVIS universities without a CIVIS scholarship: €750 (this includes accommodation and meals during the course and field trip).

* 10 CIVIS scholarships are available. Eligible CIVIS students applying for this summer school are automatically considered for a scholarship. Evaluation is based on the CV and motivation letter.

Non-CIVIS students

  • €750 (this includes accommodation and meals during the course and field trip).

If you have further questions, please contact the organiser of the course: Dr Ana Belén Galán Abellán (


Day 1: Arrival and welcome session
Days 2-3:

Field trip to the Basque Coastal Geopark (Euskadi-Spain)

Days 4-7:

Lectures focused on paleoclimatic markers and their application to current environments.

Module I: Understanding past climate change.

Module II: Projecting the past to the future.

Module III: Discussing social and political implications.

Day 8: Students' presentations. Evaluation and closure.


This CIVIS course is open to Master's and PhD CIVIS students that are enrolled or interested in one of the following fields of study: natural sciences, physics, mathematics, biology. A B2 level of English is also required. 

Application process

Interested students should apply by sending an e-mail with a short CV and a motivational letter to

The application deadline is 10 April 2022. Selected students will be notified by the end of April 2022.


Students will be assessed based on a group project they will have to carry out.  

As a matter of fact, students will be teamed up in mixed groups (to ensure regional and gender balance) and work together through a project-based learning approach. Their projects will be discussed with different lecturers on a regular basis, which will help the students to refine their ideas and anticipate criticism. At the same time, they will develop the intellectual flexibility and empathy needed for discussing and communicating critical issues beyond their scientific discipline. Each group will have to write a 3-page opinion on these questions, which will be presented at the end of the summer school.

By the end of this CIVIS course, students will have formed a strong cross-country network. At the same time, the hands-on material will provide the students with a “taste” of the expertise of the different CIVIS university partners.

GDPR Consent

The CIVIS alliance and its member universities will treat the information you provide with respect. Please refer to our privacy policy for more information on our privacy practices. By applying to this course you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

Dr Ana-Belén Galán-Abellán

Dr Ana-Belén Galán-Abellán (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) is geologist who applies field work, mineralogy and geochemistry of sedimentary rocks, to reconstruct paleoenvironmental conditions and their influence on life.

Junior Professor Dr Jan-Peter Duda

Dr Jan-Peter Duda (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen) is a geobiologist who employs techniques from sedimentology, palaeontology and organic geochemistry to reconstruct the interplay between life and environment in the past.

Dr Sebastiaan van de Velde

Dr Sebastiaan van de Velde (Université libre de Bruxelles) is a marine geochemist who studies the past and present ocean, using a research approach that combines fieldwork and laboratory incubations with numerical modelling at the local, regional and global scales.