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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE2700 Environmental Research and Career Skills

30 creditsClass Size: 50

Module manager: Prof Martyn Chipperfield

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2019/20


SOEE1442Environmental Science / Meteorology and Climate Science Tuto

Module replaces

SOEE2230 and SOEE2540

This module is not approved as a discovery module


Building on skills developed at Level 1, this module aims to provide all Level 2 BSc Environmental Science and Meteorology students with a coherent and consistent training in skills needed for collecting, analysing and interpreting environmental data, as well as skills in employability relevant to pursuing a career in the in the environmental sector or with general graduate employers. The module provides the opportunity to undertake field and laboratory techniques relevant for future careers in Environmental Science.

In addition, the module will prepare students for a significant research activity such as their Level 3 research project. The module will present techniques and theory behind experimental planning, sampling, measuring, analysing and interpreting data. The aim is to give a coherent training all the way from experimental design through to presentation of findings. Students will learn how to design and implement scientific experiments, how to analyse the data they collect, to draw inferences, and how to write a report on their experiment. Students will have an opportunity to gain practical, hands on, experience of how environmental data is produced, analysed, interpreted and reported.

A compulsory fieldtrip is included in this module and provides a key high quality hands-on learning experience in this regard. The fieldtrip will provide first hand substantive knowledge of the physical, chemical and ecological attributes of the environment at some specific locations.

A series of lectures on the theoretical concepts behind measurement and analysis methodologies, and statistical analysis will allow students to understand the fundamentals of how results are produced, leading to higher level interpretation and advanced critical thinking. Lectures will include commonly used methods for making both physical and chemical measurements in the environment, focusing on those used most widely by both industrial and regulatory bodies, as well as techniques for data interpretation and statistical analysis. Examples of the techniques used for environmental monitoring will be presented; these include the measurement of heavy metals in the environment and CFC's and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The core statistical skills required for undertaking environmental science are introduced during lectures. A series of workshops provide students with the opportunity to apply the taught concepts in real world environmental problems.

The module provides the opportunity to undertake a research project from a selection of options relating to environmental science. This activity will guide the students through all the steps needed to successfully complete a piece of novel research, preparing the students for their independent research dissertation in Level 3. Project options will include opportunities to undertake field and laboratory work, numerical modelling and advanced data analysis. Students will be guided on how to undertake a detailed literature review, research design and topic identification, health and safety, experimental design, data analysis and report writing. Students will be given guidance on selecting a topic for their L3 research dissertation.

Finally the module also includes a short course in careers and employability training to provide students with an opportunity to reflect on their (improving) core skills and to practice presenting themselves in an appropriate manner to future employers Students will be able to place their professional skills development in the context of lifelong learning their personal career progression. Students will be introduced to the diversity of careers available in the environment industry and will be made aware of how to evaluate their own skills (generic and specific) and abilities for employment purposes. This module is designed to better prepare students for dissertation projects and careers that might involve laboratory analysis of environmental samples.

Learning outcomes
Completion of this module will allow students to:

• Practice skills in measurements, analysis, synthesis and integration of information, and in the application of related theoretical knowledge, where relevant.
• Demonstrate field-based practical and research skills, including observation, recording, analysis and assimilation of information.
• Develop additional skills such as team working, decision making, communication (Written, poster and oral), problem solving, self-management, initiative, working effectively under tight deadlines, interpersonal and professional relationships.
• Understand how to apply a range of statistical techniques for hypothesis testing with numerical data and social science survey data.
• Formulate a research question and plan in the context of their individual research project.
• Understand how to write a stand-alone research report based on analysis of secondary or primary data.
• Demonstrate an understanding of some important chemical measurement techniques and their application in environmental sciences.
• Gain an appreciation of the precision, accuracy and uncertainty involved in sample collection, analysis and recording of data
• Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the principles underpinning the array of techniques used in making environmental measurements.
• Gain a good understanding of measurements of trace chemical pollutants in water, soil and the air, covering techniques such as mass spectrometry, chromatography and spectroscopy.
• Understand methods used for making physical measurements of phenomena such as temperature, water vapour and particulates in the atmosphere.
• Be capable of critically appraising these analytical approaches in the application of environmental monitoring. Attention will be made to the validation of environmental measurements through sampling strategies and quality control.
• Have knowledge on the use of observation exercises in career assessment
• Gain experience of completion of aptitude tests & psychometric tests, completing graduate CVs and Application Forms (including online applications) and on how to perform at graduate job interviews
• Acquire of key knowledge on a number of different types of environmental careers
• Understand the specific and generic skills that graduate employers expect from environmentalists, and understanding of the place of undergraduate studies in lifelong learning

Skills outcomes
Numerical, analytical, research, communication and problem solving skills will all be addressed throughout.
- Recognising and using subject-specific theories, paradigms, concepts and principles.
- Analysing, synthesising and summarising information critically, including existing research.
- Collecting and integrating several lines of evidence to formulate and test hypotheses.
- Applying knowledge and understanding to address familiar and unfamiliar problems.
- Planning, conducting and reporting on investigations, including the use of secondary data.
- Collecting, recording and analysing data using appropriate techniques in the field and laboratory.
- Undertaking field and laboratory investigations in a responsible and safe manner, paying due attention to risk assessment, rights of access, relevant health and safety regulations, and sensitivity to the impact of investigations on the environment and stakeholders.
- Receiving and responding to a variety of information sources (eg textual numerical, verbal, graphical).
- Communicating appropriately to a variety of audiences in written, verbal and graphical form.
- Appreciating issues of sample selection, accuracy, precision and uncertainty during collecting, recording and analysis of data in the field and laboratory.
- Preparing, processing, interpreting and presenting data, using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques and statistical methods.
- Solving numerical problems using computer and non-computer based techniques.
- Developing the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (eg working independently, time management and organisation skills).
- Developing an adaptable and flexible approach to study and work.
- Evaluating performance as an individual and a team member.
- Identifying and working towards targets for personal, academic and career development.
- Using the Internet critically as a means of communication and a source of information.
- Recognising the moral and ethical issues of investigations and appreciating the need for professional codes of conduct.


Introduction to the research process: philosophies, design, methods and tools. Experimental planning, sampling strategies, measuring, analysing and interpreting data.
A range of analytical and statistical tools including - Distributions and probability; Hypothesis testing: T-tests; Chi-squared tests; Analysis of variance; Correlation and Regression; Non-parametric statistics; Treatment of data errors; Basics of quantitative and qualitative error analysis.
Advanced aspects of physical and chemical assessment of the environment using real case studies within the framework of integrated atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere contexts.
Working safely in a laboratory.
How to choose analysis techniques for soil, water and air samples.
Analysis of chemical properties of water samples.
The underlying science of analytical tools employed in environmental measurements such as spectroscopy and mass spectrometry.
Information systems and environmental monitoring. Measurements of physical properties of the atmosphere: temperature, water vapour, particulates and aerosol numbers.
Use of quality assurance methods such as blanks, internal standards and replicate analysis.
Limits on the interpretation of environmental data.
Field / laboratory note books and reports.
Background and practical experience of different stages of a research project including - Research design; Literature survey skills; Research Report Writing Guidance
Data collection in the field
Data analysis
Guidance on Research Proposal stages of topic identification, literature review and research project proposal writing, including health and safety issues.

For the Career Development short course:

Gillions Case Study (Context of environmental consideration)
J2CO Case Study (Applications and interview techniques)
Skills competition
External speakers which may include: Environment Agency; Environmental Consultants; Researchers; Local Authorities; Met Office; Water Industry; Conservation.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Group learning44.0016.00
Group learning82.0016.00
Independent online learning hours16.00
Private study hours160.00
Total Contact hours124.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

10 hours - Consolidation of statistics skills applied to data analysis exercise, extra work on completion of exercise outside of class.

60 hours - Time for private reading to back up lectures and work carried out in field classes.

60 hours - Preparation of written assessments, mini dissertation analysis.

30 hours - Preparation for unseen exam.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

The fieldwork assessment will be formative.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1,000 word dissertation outline0.00
ReportMini Dissertation (2000 words)30.00
In-course MCQStatistics30.00
Computer ExerciseIn-class statistics exercise (not assessed)0.00
AssignmentCareers action plan 750 words10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)70.00

Students must submit all pieces of work to pass. The module resit will be to retake the failed component(s).

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)1 hr 00 mins30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)30.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

There is no reading list for this module

Last updated: 30/04/2019


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