UCAS code: F630
Duration: 4 years
College: Science and Engineering
How does the environment work? Environmental geoscience is the study of processes within, and interactions between, the atmosphere, ocean and the solid Earth that determine the habitability of the planet. The subject covers natural processes that have been modifying the planet over its entire history, but with a strong focus on understanding the modern system and how it has been affected by human activities.
Environmental geoscience students develop key observational and analytical skills that enable them to address fundamental questions about the functioning of the Earth system such as: What were the drivers of climate change in the Earth’s past and how will these processes change in the future? What are the impacts of changing nutrient cycling and pollution on the sustainability of marine ecosystems? How can we safely manage the use of energy and materials resources to ensure the continued functioning of modern society?
You will develop key analytical and observational skills and cover core topics in modern earth science. A strong emphasis is placed on field skills, with residential trips to the Lake District, Jamaica, and north-west Scotland, as well as numerous one-day trips throughout (the location of field courses may change as our course content adapts to changing teaching needs, and student feedback). You will also gain a range of transferable skills, including: written and oral reports; critical analysis and interpretation of data; group working and, as the programme progresses, the ability to manage project work, and research, independently.
In addition to the following compulsory courses, you can take further optional courses in different schools or colleges across the University.
Volcanoes, earthquakes, mountain chains and the diversity of the Earth's rocks tell us that the Earth has been a dynamic planet since its formation 4.6 billion years ago. This course aims to impart an understanding of the processes which shape the Earth, and to develop practical skills in recognising the evidence of these processes in rocks, both in the field and in the laboratory.
The course will focus primarily on the materials of which the Earth is made, how the major constituents are distributed between core, mantle and crust and how this changes with time through the agencies of plate tectonics and volcanism. From this viewpoint of underlying process, the course will also consider the inherent availability of natural resources and the potential for predicting natural hazards.
This course is intended as a foundation course for all Earth Science students with emphasis on processes that operate at the global scale. In particular, the concept of the Earth System as the operation of inter-linked components of the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere is stressed. This concept is used to study the interaction between geology, chemistry, physics and biology affecting the surface processes of the planet that together form the characteristics of the environment in which we live.
The course will teach 3D mapping and cross-section skills, as well as 4D-thinking abilities. These will be taught via integration of maps with rock identification and the course will also introduce the application of online digital databases (BGS and USGS maps; DEM; radar interferometry; remote sensing imagery) in solving global geological problems. There is an integrated field trip (one week), which is currently to the Lake District, England, to develop student’s field skills.
A mathematical description of Earth systems can both aid in prediction of these systems and lead to deeper understanding. In addition, many disciplines in the geosciences are becoming increasingly quantitative. This course is designed to give you the mathematical skills needed to understand geoscience problems involving differentiation, integration, differential equations and the derivation of conservation equations. These topics are presented in a geoscience context, with techniques applied to environmental fluid mechanics, geochemistry, geomorphology, glaciology and thermal properties of the Earth. You will learn through problem sets, online quizzes, readings and tutorial sessions.
In addition to three compulsory courses, you can take further option courses in different schools or colleges across the University. The three compulsory courses are:
In Geomaterials we investigate the solid materials which constitute the Earth. We study how atoms are arranged in crystalline materials and how these arrangements influence physical properties, and ultimately, control how our planet functions. The complex relationships between mineral structure, composition, properties and stability are then investigated as we consider the main materials which make up the surface of the solid Earth, and how their study is used to understand processes which have shaped the Earth through time.
This course focuses on physical, chemical, biological and geological aspects of the subject; it is non-mathematical but knowledge of chemical principles is useful. The oceans are remarkably influential in moderating climate, but at the same time they can trigger substantial climate change, such as the onset of glaciation. They are also remarkable in that through the sedimentological record they preserve the record of global environmental change in the recent geological past.
Topics covered in this course include surface- and deep-ocean circulation, biological productivity and diversity, structural development of ocean basins and their sediment infill, the chemical composition of sea water, oceanic mineral deposits, and the human impact on the oceans.
The course focuses on geochemistry of natural waters as imprinted by its interaction with local geology. It takes an integrated view of natural and biological interactions that shape the Earth's surface. The course is intended to consolidate knowledge of chemical concepts in environmental geochemistry, to integrate theoretical concepts with their practical applications, to design and carry out a sampling campaign for environmental analysis, and to equip you with skills in geochemical speciation modelling, technical report writing and critical appraisal of data quality.
A field trip is designed to allow you to observe and put into practice many of the theoretical concepts learned in lectures and laboratory practicals through acquisition and interpretation of your own dataset.
Your courses will develop deeper theoretical and practical knowledge of many different branches of the earth sciences, with an emphasis on environmental geoscience. Tutorials give an opportunity to discuss earth science concepts in small groups. The courses are both interlinked and independent, to provide you with the required knowledge and skills (scientific and transferrable) to fully engage in the research and critical thinking focused final year.
In the Easter vacation you will take a specialist field course in Jamaica, designed to develop skills in observation, sampling, measurement and interpretation of natural environmental processes and human impacts. A further field course takes place towards the end of Year 3, at the Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban, which covers coastal and marine processes. As the content of the programme is updated to reflect the advancing subject matter, and student feedback, the location of the field courses may change.
In the summer between Years 3 and 4, you will begin an independent research project, mixing field and laboratory studies. This is continued and written up during Year 4 and forms a major part of Honours assessment.
You will develop a theoretical understanding of the physical, chemical and biological processes which control the Earth's near-surface environment, backed up by practical skills in measurement and interpretation of these processes.
These need interdisciplinary approaches to understand the interactions and feedbacks between natural cycles and human influences, and the role of earth sciences in this context. Each course consists of a mixture of lectures, practicals, small projects, student seminars, and tutorial/discussion groups.
Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.
We publish the latest available information for this programme. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year.
In your first year, many of your lectures will be taught in the Central Area close to the city centre. Practicals and other teaching take place within the School of GeoSciences, located at the University's King's Buildings campus. You can access the University's libraries and IT facilities, and the School's laboratories provide personal workspace with computing and microscope facilities during your honours years.
You will have opportunities to study abroad through the University's international exchange programme.
You will be taught through a mixture of lectures, seminars and tutorials, group work, practicals and fieldwork, self-directed learning and project work. In your honours years, you will devote more time to self-directed study and will receive individual supervision for final-year project work.
You will have access to the University's specialist research facilities and laboratories for analysing rocks, minerals and fluids and measuring the physical properties of rocks.
Assessment will be both formative and summative, with a combination of practical work, essays, oral and written examinations, independent project work, field reports and notebooks, depending on the course.
On MEarthPhys programmes you will also be assessed on computer programming exercises, and in the final year of all our programmes there are elements of assessed presentation and scientific writing skills. Most senior honours courses and projects will also involve modelling elements.
Find out more about this programme's aims, what you will learn, how you will be assessed and what skills and knowledge you will develop.
We publish the latest available information for this programme. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year.
The vast majority of our graduates move straight into degree-related employment or further study. Our graduates are highly sought after by energy (including renewables) and resource companies, environmental consultancies and the financial sector, and many also find employment in the areas of environmental planning and regulation, geoconservation, science communication and education, and engineering. We have a professional advisory board that provides support on employability skills.
The typical offer is likely to be:
We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
For direct entry to second year the minimum requirements must be exceeded, including the following:
Entry to many degrees in Science & Engineering is possible via other qualifications (eg HNC/D, Access, SWAP).
You must provide evidence that your written and spoken English is at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.
If English is not your first language, you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your spoken and written English:
For SQA and GCSE students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:
Key Information Sets (KIS) are part of a government initiative to enhance the information that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.
KIS are available for most undergraduate programmes and are intended to make it easier for you to find information about the programmes you are interested in studying. It is one of many sources of information available that will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.
You can also use this website to find more information on our programmes and the learning environment you will experience at the University of Edinburgh.
Please note that some programmes do not have data available and will not display a KIS.
You will incur costs on compulsory field trips. In 2016, these were around: Year 1 - £150, Year 2 - £70, Year 3 - £920, and Year 4 - £70. Previous destinations have included the Lake District, Jamaica and Oban.
Find more information about field trip costs on the GeoSciences website.
For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.