Description of Environmental Sciences
This is a one year, full-time postgraduate qualification that will lead to a Master of Science in Environmental Sciences. The key concept of the course is to produce environmental scientists with an interdisciplinary background able to tackle the broadest range of environmental protection issues.
The taught MSc degree in Environmental Science has an established pedigree, attracting students with diverse academic backgrounds for Ireland and abroad. This full time intensive course is intended for administrative and scientific workers and new graduates with an appropriate biological/earth science background.
The course provides students with a wide range of knowledge and skills relating to environmental science. It aims to provide a firm scientific understanding of current environmental issues that will be of relevance to those interested in environmental management and related areas. The course provides a foundation and understanding of current environment policies and legislation, and building on this with practical and theoretical courses.
The overall aim of the course is to promote students understanding of environmental science, and their capability to apply that knowledge to current environmental issues. Students should develop the necessary intellectual skills and the practical expertise to enable them design and execute high quality independent research and become skilled environmental communicators.
The course is taught through a variety of methods including lectures, practicals, field-based learning, guided reading, discussion groups and web-based tools. Over the course of their studies students will undertake two individual projects; one of which is desk-based, and the second, an experimental research project. Assessment procedures are similarly varied and include essay writing, oral presentations, web-based tests, examinations and assessment of dissertations.
The learning approach adopted has been designed to encourage students’ independent critical thinking skills and academic excellence, whether coming to the course directly from a previous degree or from industry.
- Induction week and Introduction to environmental science, 5 credits: This module will act as an introduction to the MSc programme and provide grounding in some of the key concepts. Teaching comprises seminars, activities and fieldtrips designed to introduce the course, the staff, the University and current environmental issues.GIS will form a core component of this module.
- Environmental and chemical analysis, 5 credits: This module covers the operating principles of a range of techniques that are used in the chemical analysis of environmental samples. Students will have the opportunity to apply the techniques to a range of environmental sample types such as sediments and waters. Techniques include: classical methods of analysis (e.g. titration), electrometric methods (conductimetry, potentiometry), optical methods (colorimetry, atomic spectroscopy), and chromatography (ion chromatography, gas liquid chromatography, high performance liquid chromatography), assessment of
method performance, quality control and quality assurance. Visits to laboratories in other institutions are included.
- Hydrology and Groundwater quality, 5 credits: This module comprises lectures, seminars, fieldwork and practical work (mapping and data handling) relating to water in the environment. After an introduction to the hydrological cycle and water balances, it outlines the fundamentals of hill slope hydrology, river flow and its relationship to catchment characteristics, before going on to consider aspects of hydrogeology, such as aquifer characteristics and groundwater flow and surface water – groundwater interactions. The module then considers groundwater chemistry and water quality, which are then related to specific pollution problems and management options. This module links closely with ES 7041: Environmental Chemical Analysis.
- Earth system science I: Deep time, 5 credits: This module covers the scientific basis necessary to understand environmental and climate change through Earth history. Topics include an introduction to the Earth’s timescale, evolution of the early Earth, the role of plate tectonics and volcanism in Earth system science, weathering and environmental chemistry in the Archean, evolution of the atmosphere, extreme environmental change, mass extinction events in Earth history and causes and consequences of major
glaciation events. The module provides the tools to read and comprehend the scientific literature relating to environmental change throughout geological time. A series of computer based problem solving practical classes will introduce the topic of radiogenic isotopes and geochronology. Lectures on specific topics, their wider consequences and practical significance will be developed through whole class discussions.
- Earth system science II: Environmental and climate change, 5 credits: This module covers the scientific basis necessary to understand Environmental (including Climate) change from first principles. Topics include the biogeochemistry of carbon and nitrogen, ocean circulation, heat and mass transfer fundamentals, as well as the tools to read and comprehend the scientific literature providing evidence of changes occurring through time. Lectures on specific topics and their wider consequences will be developed through whole class discussions on their practical significance.
- Environmental policies, 5 credits: The application of successful management strategies requires a wide knowledge of the environment and the pressures on it. This module introduces students to environmental policy making and implementation through lectures, expert and practitioner-led workshops, set readings and research activities. Examples of environmental policy will be covered at a range of scales from global to local, involving public, private and civil society actors. The module will encourage critical analysis of environmental policy tools, techniques and outcomes, and develop group work and policy briefing writing skills.
- Waste and Energy management in Urban Environments, 5 credits: This new module introduces current issues in urban management and sustainability. Topics include technical, operational and environmental aspects of waste management in cities, including site visits and workshop style discussions of material. The waste management component will be delivered by Dr Tim Walker, Head of waste management at Belfast City Council. A second part of the module will focus on energy management.
Practical skills modules
- Data handling and analysis, 5 credits: This module outlines the principles of data collection, coding and analysis within the context of research design, and provides a firm quantitative base with particular relevance to the research project. It includes an introduction to types of data, how data can be described statistically, and a series of methods used for extracting information from complex datasets, including multivariate methods. It also includes practical examples and illustrations of statistical applications to real-world research projects.
- Practical environmental skills, 5 credits: This module introduces students to the practical use of field and laboratory skills. It will comprise a series of project-based activities that includes a 6-day residential field course based in the Ria Formosa, Southern Portugal. The class will be based in the Faro beach barrier island complex, and will be provided with hands-on experience of environmental surveying. The module will also include targeted training in job-seeking skills, including CV preparation, networking and interviewing techniques.
- Individual desk study,10 credits: An independent, desk-based review of literature relating to a current topic of relevance to the environmental sciences. A list of proposed topics will be circulated in the first term. There is also an opportunity for students to select a study of their choice in negotiation with the Course Director and other member of staff. Desk study topics should not significantly overlap with proposed research project topics.
- Project planning, 5 credits: During this module you will select a research project title. Workshops will be held to guide the development of key project management skills, and to initiate the process of literature review and development of methods in relation to the project. This will all be placed in the context of a grant application submission, related to the project title. The module will involve discussions with members of staff supervising project work.
- Individual research project, 30 credits: The research project provides students with an opportunity to pursue a topic in their chosen area of environmental science in depth, to employ relevant skills (including research planning, literature review, experimental design, and statistical analysis) and to apply and develop their knowledge of research methods. The nature of the project work may vary, with varying amounts of experimental work included. There will be opportunities to carry out project work with collaborative institutions?
* Students may omit the individual research project to be awarded a Post-graduate Diploma, those wishing to obtain the degree of Master in Science must complete a four month individual research project.
English Language Requirements
Requirements for Environmental Sciences
Applications for admission are accepted from:
- holders of first or upper second class honors degrees, or their overseas equivalent, awarded by recognised universities, institutions and degree awarding bodies.
- holders of other degrees or relevant qualifications including professional qualifications, who have at least three years work experience in an environmental profession.
An Admissions Committee from the School of Natural Sciences awards places on a competitive basis. Applications must be accompanied by a one page letter outlining the applicant´s interest and experience in the environmental field.
All applicants whose first language is not English and who have not been educated through the medium of English must present one of the following qualifications in the English language:
- IELTS: Grade 6.5
- TOEFL: 88 - iBT, 230 - Computer based, 570 - paper based
- Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English: Grade C
- Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English: Grade C
Work Experience for Environmental Sciences
At least 3 year(s) of work experience are required.