While the overall character of your degree program will vary with your choice of electives, all students will gain an overall knowledge on the theory and practice of Ecosystem Services, including:
In addition, there is an emphasis on developing skills and experience that will be of use outside of academia. For instance, assessments are designed with a real world context, developing your skills in writing clearly and concisely for a range of non-academic audiences (e.g. policy briefings, executive summaries) Your skills in analysing real data sets and specific areas will be developed through extensive real-world data collection and analysis activities. Throughout the programme you will practice skills that are in high demand from employers in environmental sectors, such as data collection and analysis, computer modeling, fieldwork and interdisciplinary analysis.
Thinking about ecosystems in terms of how the contribute to human welfare is a concept that is gaining ground. Policy makers and businesses are used to making decisions based on estimates of costs, benefits and risks, but often environmental issues are not thought of in this way. Instead we often appeal to our instinct that nature is important and valuable in its own right. Although this approach has a lot of emotional punch, it hasn’t proved to be a great way of balancing the monetary gains associated with degrading or destroying ecosystems against the loss of the services they provide.
Ecosystem Services provide a lens through which this trade off can be evaluated, by bringing together ecosystem science with the social sciences and economics. The science needed to make this possible is only just starting to become available, and many cutting edge research questions relate to the underpinnings and valuation of ecosystem services. There is a lot we don’t understand about how ecosystems function, and of course even more we don’t know about their future behaviour. This makes it hard to link ecosystems to human well being, but is not impossible.
Background - Since 2005
Recent advances have shown how influential the ecosystem services approach can be. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has promoted a lot of activity in terms of including ecosystem services in economic decision. For instance, the Stern report into the economics of climate change sharply altered the debate on how to respond to climate change. The recent TEEB study, initiated at the behest of the G8, has done a similar thing for our understanding of the value of biodiversity. The UK has just completed its own valuation of all our ecosystem services. The kind of policy-relevant conclusion that have real influence in government include:
This MSc programme will give you the skills to take what we do know about ecosystem functioning and use this to understand how ecosystems support human well-being. This programme first develops your understanding of ecosystem function and dynamics, involving ecology, biology, biogeochemistry and systems analysis (semester 1) and then looks at ecosystems from a human perspective: monetary and non-monetary valuation tools are explored and the contributions of economics, sociology and psychology are used to understand the strengths and weaknesses of ecosystem valuation.
MSc teaching is executed through a range of teaching and assessment modes all of which are designed to prepare the student the for the master's dissertation and employment outside of academia.
This article was published on Mar 11, 2013