Environmental Science MEnvSci
Department of Geography
Biology, Ecology and Conservation Biology, Plant Sciences and Zoology
You are viewing this course for 2021-22 entry.
Environmental issues are a pressing concern for governments, businesses and societies and there is a high demand for environmental specialists in all these areas. This has led to the growth of environmental science as a major international discipline helping to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our planet.
Environmental science is taught jointly by the Department of Geography and the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences. Both departments undertake international research at the frontiers of the discipline, so you'll be taught by experts in their fields. You'll have the opportunity to tailor your degree to suit your interests, studying modules that span the environmental sciences.
You can also gain more from your degree, by incorporating modern languages and enterprise modules, or by spending a year working in industry (Degree with Employment Experience) or studying overseas (Degree with a Year Abroad).
A key feature of our programmes is 'Professional Skills for Environmental Science'. This core module provides you with the transferable skills required for environmental practice. Invited speakers from consultancy, industry and regulatory bodies share their professional experience and highlight the skills and knowledge that employers are looking for.
You'll also have the opportunity to focus on research specialisms such as global environmental change, biosciences, geoscience, and environmental quality and technology.
The first three years of this course follow the same structure as the BSc Environmental Science. In the first year you'll study modules on topics including geography, earth science and biology. These modules explore the range of physical environments and ecosystems, and provide the foundation for the rest of your course. In the second and third years, you'll build on what you've learned with more specialised study of environmental science. In the third year, you'll carry out an extended research project in the lab or in the field.
The fourth year provides more advanced research training of which a major part is an independent and original research project.
Our courses are accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES) and the Committee of Heads of Environmental Sciences (CHES). The IES is the leading professional body for environmental science professionals in the UK. Accreditation confirms that our courses are of high quality and provide excellent standards of professional development. Students on our courses are eligible to become student members of the IES - the first step toward achieving Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) status.
The modules listed below are examples from the last academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course. For the very latest module information, check with the department directly.
Choose a year to see modules for a level of study:
UCAS code: F902
- Earth, Wind, Ice and Fire
This course is intended to provide an introduction to the general principles of physical geography for students with diverse backgrounds.Part I will aim to give students an understanding of the origin and history of the Earth. It will include explanations of tectonic, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic activity, the history of crustal processes as well as reviewing the development over geological time of the evolution of the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere.Part II will use a systems-based approach to physical geography to examine several other key environmental systems, including the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and the cryosphere. It will include explanation of key interactions between physical systems and discussion of the impacts and consequences of system perturbation, such as climate change, over time and space.Part III of the course will introduce concepts of geomorphology as a means to investigate the landforms of the earth; mountains, valleys, slopes, river beds and dunes. It will include explanation of fundamental principles of landscape and landform development considering issues such as temporal and spatial scale, equilibrium and interaction between different landscape processes and components.20 credits
- Skills for Environmental Scientists
The Skills for Environmental Scientists module introduces students to the fundamentals of scientific writing, presentation skills, practical skills, experimental design and data analysis, information technology, the role of science in society and career development. Research skills will be introduced in a series of lectures and seminars that students will then develop through practical sessions and independent study using printed and online module material and activities. Key communication skills will be developed and integrated using small group tutorials.20 credits
- Ecosystems and Environment Field Course
This field-based module introduces the study of ecosystems in relation to the environment, at sites in the Sheffield region. It provides training in Phase 1 and Phase 2 habitat surveys. This is combined with studies of environmental variables (geology, soils, climate, hydrology, grazing, management) that control the distribution of different plant communities, taught through introductory lectures to the sites to be visited, together with training in the field in observing, recording and interpreting how these factors affect vegetation stands. The final part of the course involves small groups conducting a research project that investigates an aspect of environmental controls on species or communities. The core field and reporting skills taught in this module are particularly relevant to careers in habitat conservation and restoration, and environmental consultancy.10 credits
- Ecosystems, Climate and Environmental Change
The module provides an introduction to ecosystem development and processes, how these are impacted by environmental change, and how ecosystems influence climate. It uses examples of both British and globally important ecosystems to understand the effects of environment on vegetation change and succession. It describes the importance of climate in the geographical distribution of terrestrial ecosystems, and the responses of ecosystems to disturbance. The prediction of the responses of ecosystems to global environmental change is also explored.10 credits
- Global Biogeochemical Cycles
This module provides fundamentals of environmental sciences with an emphasis on biogeochemical cycling. Challenges in loss of biodiversity, access to clean water, climate change and provision of food for a quickly growing population are best approached centred in sustainability (recycling, reducing consumption) and citizen engagement. The module aims to cover the main earth system approaches that underpin our understanding of environmental challenges using a systems approach. The contents focus heavily on global environmental cycles including climate, air and water resources, pollution, biological communities, geology and energy.10 credits
- How Plants Work: Physiology, Reproduction & Development
This course is an introduction to the physiology, reproduction, development and growth of plants and fungi. The course will explore: the ways in which plants and fungi acquire and process energy, nutrients and water; and how plants and fungal colonies reproduce, grow and develop. Particular attention will be paid to the relationship between structure and function.10 credits
- Environmental Change and Society
This module will introduce students to a wide range of critical environmental issues facing the world today from physical science and social science perspectives. Using a range of environmental problems evident in the Global North and Global South (such as climate change, water resources, land-use change, agriculture), the physical and social processes implicated will be examined. Drawing on a range of examples, students will critically explore the causes, consequences, management and solutions to environmental issues and learn how to question assumptions about environmental processes.20 credits
- Exploring New Horizons in Geography
Academic Geography is a wide and vibrant field. Geographers contribute actively to new intellectual debates in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and their work addresses some of the most pressing issues facing the modern world, from climate change to food security, informing policy and practice. The module provides level 1 Geography students with a challenging but accessible insight into the cutting edge of contemporary geographical research and how it helps us understand our changing world. It therefore serves as bridge between the general introductory modules of the level 1 BA and BSc courses in Geography, and the more specialist modules taught at levels 2 and 3. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity to see the difference that a geographical perspective can make to our understanding of some of the largest challenges facing the world. Each year, a selection of topical issues in contemporary human and physical geography will be explored by academics actively engaged in cutting edge research on those subjects. The course will be taught via lectures and guided reading.20 credits
This course introduces the concept of biodiversity - what it is and how we measure it. Biodiversity will be explored through two case studies: (i) the plant kingdom; (ii) the animal kingdom. Both kingdoms will be considered in terms of their characteristics, classification, evolutionary history, biodiversity and biogeography.10 credits
This course presents evolution as the central unifying theme of modern biology. It begins with a brief overview of the origin of life and important events in the early history of life on earth. It goes on to explore evolutionary mechanisms: essentially how evolution works. The course finishes with three case studies in evolution.10 credits
- Population and Community Ecology 1
This unit provides an introduction to the ecology of individuals, populations and communities. The ecology of individuals includes a consideration of resource acquisition, territoriality, reproduction and life history trade-offs. Population ecology includes a consideration of population growth and regulation, interspecific competition, and niche differentiation. Communitiy ecology is concerned with describing and understanding the diversity and stability of ecological communities; including a consideration of intraspecific competition, predation and predator-prey interactions. This unit also considers aspects of applied ecology including: conservation principles and priorities, sustainable harvesting of populations, pest control and management.10 credits
- The Environmental Challenge
Environmental and ecological challenges are becoming increasingly important in socio-spatial regulation. This module introduces students to the main concepts and theories that underpin environmental policy-making with particular reference to the issues and examples at local, national and global scales. This module has four main aims: (1) to examine the key environmental challenges facing human societies; (2) to explore past, present and possible future responses to those challenges; (3) to provide students with a range of conceptual and analytical tools for analysing political and regulatory responses to environmental conflict and (4) to provide students with knowledge and understanding to assist in confronting environmental challenges.10 credits
- Environmental Pollution and Quality
This module aims to introduce the students to the origins, pathways and consequences of pollutants in the environment, their control and remediation. Pollutants are released into the environment through anthropogenic activities that include domestic, leisure and industrial practices. These pollutants are potentially harmful to the ecosystem and human health. Therefore, an understanding of the physical, chemical and biological processes involved during the contamination of water and soil is essential to protect the environment. This module provides an introduction on how to assess and quantify pollutants by using laboratory techniques for the determination of contamination in water and soil.20 credits
- Research Design and Fieldwork for Physical Geography
The ability to design, conduct, analyse and present meaningful findings from fieldwork is an essential part of degree-level Physical Geography and Environmental Science, and enhances employability. This module addresses the philosophical background to, and the process of designing and conducting fieldwork. The module introduces the principles of research design and provides practical experience of international fieldwork to facilitate immersive learning and engagement with earth surface processes. The module is delivered through lectures, small-group teaching, and a residential fieldclass. Assessments provide ongoing feedback linked to the experience of designing, conducting and reflecting upon the research journey, culminating in dissertation proposal.20 credits
- Animal and Plant Science Tutorials
This module provides training in the generic and subject-related skills necessary to undertake research in biology and communicate biology effectively. Students will learn: different forms of scientific writing (including essays, abstracts and scientific papers); experimental design; analysis and evaluation of biological information; synthesis of material from a variety of sources including the primary literature; and presentation of scientific information (seminars and debates). Teaching will be in small-group tutorials, during which students will discuss key topics and recent developments in biology. Evaluation will be based on continual assessment of written work, exercises and presentations. Tutors will provide both academic and pastoral support.10 credits
- Data Analysis
This course provides training in the analysis and presentation of biological data through the application of computers for word processing, statistical analysis and graphical presentation. The course uses self-teaching material involving individual use of computers, together with project work assignments. The application of a wide range of statistical techniques which are commonly used by biologists is illustrated using the MINITAB statistical program with data drawn from botanical, zoological and ecological studies.10 credits
- Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing
This unit introduces both Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) both important tools to aid in our understanding of the earth system. GIS are computer systems for the storage, display and manipulation of geographical data. Remote Sensing (RS) refers to the science of identification of earth surface features and estimation of their geo-biophysical properties through the detection of electromagnetic radiation. The module will cover the main concepts related to handling RS/GIS data on a computer and introduce a range of practical applications of RS/GIS in research, industry and commerce.10 credits
- Atmospheres and Oceans
This module will give students an understanding of the global climate, focusing on the atmospheres, the oceans, and their interaction. The first part of the module will consider the main characteristics of, and processes behind, climate from the global to the local scale. The second part of the module will examine the physical characteristics of the oceans and their geographical variation, and the role of the oceans in the climate system.20 credits
- Earth Surface Processes
This course on the earth surface processes looks at the relationship between processes and landforms at a variety of scales in space and time. It examines endogenic processes originating within the earth, exogenic processes occurring at the earth/atmosphere/ocean interface and the way they interact to create landforms. The course discusses geomorphological concepts, frameworks and monitoring techniques and will elucidate a range of quantitative modelling approaches, where numerical expressions are introduced. Case studies drawn from staff research (e.g. aeolian/fluvial/volcanic) alongside practical classes and an appreciation of the importance of new measurement techniques to process understanding, will directly support learning. The course is delivered through 20 one-hour lectures, and 3 three-hour practical classes.20 credits
- Glaciers and Ice Sheets
This module examines glaciers and ice sheets of the World focussing on how they are believed to function and with some consideration of their historic and future changes.We examine how glaciers and ice sheets come into existence through an understanding of climate and the concept of glacier mass balance. We then consider how glaciers work including on topics such as ice flow, hydrological drainage, ice streams, ice shelves, glacial lakes, and icebergs. Hazards to humankind are also explored. How glaciers modify the underlying landscape is dealt with via a section on glacial geomorphological processes and landforms, and we consider how landscapes evolve under the influence of ice.20 credits
- Past Environmental Change
The landscape we live in is a dynamic place and has been in the past as well. Huge changes at a global, regional and local scale have occurred in the last 2.6 million years of the earth's history (Quaternary period). These changes are ongoing with implications for both present and future environments. Methods and techniques to investigate past environmental changes from proxy data are outlined and illustrated. The module also looks at how palaeoenvironments have responded to past climate changes thereby putting a context for present day climate changes and predicting future changes.20 credits
- Conservation Principles
This module will introduce students to the fundamental principles of conservation biology that influence conservation programmes around the globe. Following a brief examination of the rationales for conservation the course discusses some of:(i)the fundamental issues in conservation planning, such as selecting appropriate units for conservation and priority assessment(ii)the research tools commonly used by conservationists, such as population viability analysis(iii)the ways in which ecological theory guides conservation action. These topics are illustrated using case studies of animal and plant conservation in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems from temperate and tropical regions.10 credits
- Ecosystems in a Changing Global Environment
Human impacts on the world¿s ecosystems are profound and without precedent in Earth's history. The urgent need to understand the impacts of overexploitation, land-use change and anthropogenic climate change has meant that ecosystem science has become one of the most important biological disciplines. This module will introduce students to the fundamental principles of ecosystem science by exploring human impacts on key marine and terrestrial ecosystems and their feedbacks on global climate. In doing so, it will cover the interacting roles of (1) climatic tolerance, trophic interactions, carbon sequestration and fire on land, and (2) biodiversity, energy, nutrients and extinction in the sea.10 credits
- Environmental Biology Practicals
In this practical module students will examine the effects of environmental factors on plant growth and development. Students will work in small groups to design, set up and execute an investigation of aspects such as growth and the carbohydrate and protein content of plants (using gel electrophoresis), in plants grown under different conditions, including among others, light intensities and nutrient regimes. The practical write-up will be aided by a group discussion of the interpretation of the results obtained by the whole class.10 credits
The task of palaeobiology is to provide greater integration between palaeontology and biology. This course examines recent developments in the field of palaeobiology, and demonstrates how fossils are used to generate testable theories about pattern in the history of life. This course will begin with 9 lectures outlining modern concepts in palaeobiology, and demonstrated using examples from all aspect of palaeontology, but concentrating on dinosaur palaeobiology. These same principles will then be explored using human evolution as a case study (9 lectures).10 credits
- Plant Habitat and Distribution
This course will: provide experience of work in the laboratory and in the field; provide an introduction to the techniques employed in the study of plants in relation to their habitats and the vegetation in which they occur; develop skills in record keeping, observation, sampling, identification, problem solving, task-oriented team work, data interpretation, communication and the application of biological principles; and help develop an understanding of aspects of the plant environment and the importance of environmental variables and plant traits in controlling species distributions. This course consists of an integrated series of 12 sessions which include lectures and practical work relevant to understanding controls on plant distributio10 credits
- Plant, Cell and Environment
Plants differ from many other organisms in that their growth and development is highly tuned to the environment. This course examines how plants respond to diverse environmental factors (focussing on light, water, temperature and disease) integrating developmental, biochemical and physiological studies. We explore the processes that control photomorphogenesis from seed germination through to flowering, responses to extremes of temperature and defence responses to pests and disease.Plants differ from many other organisms in that their growth and development is highly tuned to the environment. This course examines how plants respond to environmental factors.10 credits
- Population and Community Ecology 2
This unit will examine major themes in population and community ecology, across plants, animals and their interactions with each other and their environment. It focuses on cross-cutting themes in ecology and evolution including life history, predation, competition, disease and biodiversity. It builds deep, conceptual and theoretical understanding of life cycles, population growth, and species interactions. It provides insight into common patterns and unique properties among plants and animals of the factors that determine the abundance, diversity and distribution of species. It provides insight into the role of species interactions and the environment in controlling biodiversity and ecosystem function.10 credits
In this module, we will explore the nature of symbiosis between plants, animals, bacteria and fungi. We will investigate the 'continuum of symbiosis' from parasitism to mutualism using specific examples drawn from natural and agricultural ecosystems to demonstrate how symbionts regulate the structure and function of host communities and the challenge their control poses. We will investigate methods of controlling parasites as well as how symbionts may be harnessed to regulate host communities in restoration ecology, for biological control and ecosystem service provision (e.g. pollinators) using an integrated teaching approach employing lectures and guest seminars from specific experts in the field.10 credits
- Professional Skills for Environmental Science
Environmental science graduates require an appreciation of the needs of professional statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs). Employers appreciate the study and research skills developed at university but want graduates that understand the tools in use by environmental science practitioners. This course describes those tools and guides students through the production of their own environmental consultancy report. The module uses lectures, seminars, problem solving sessions, and independent learning to provide professional skills/knowledge. These skills are applied to field visits and laboratory analyses with particular emphasis is given to risk assessment, environmental impact assessment, environmental management and field skills.20 credits
- Issues in Environmental Science
The course is based around a programme of seminars focussed on important current issues in environmental science, natural resources, sustainability and human-environment interactions. A central aim of the module is to develop a forum for Environmental Science students to consider some of the most important, often controversial, aspects of human impacts upon the environment and the sustainability of the planet. Many of these themes will cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, encompassing environmental science, human geography and geopolitics. Introductory seminars by staff will outline subject areas and teaching methods, and provide example seminars and accompanying abstract, discussion points and starter references.10 credits
- Dissertation for Geography & Environmental Science
This module requires the student to prepare, organise, research and report a piece of original work on a geographical topic under guidance by a staff mentor. The student will decide on the topic and will either be expected to collect original material in order to investigate it, or to perform secondary analysis on information drawn from existing sources. The finished product is presented in the style, and at the length, associated with academic journal articles.40 credits
- Research Project
In this module students will consolidate the skills and knowledge they have gained in earlier levels of study and apply these in a research project. Students will work in small groups, guided by a member of staff, to identify and plan a biological study. They will collect and statistically analyse data, interpret their results and set them in the context of related studies identified from the literature. They will then present their project in the format of a scientific paper. The project may be lab, field or computer based.30 credits
- Advanced Geospatial Analysis
This module will gives students the opportunity to extend their knowledge of geospatial systems and software through detailed instruction and targeted case studies. The course will be taught in three parts, and will involve a mixture of lab-work, lectures and fieldwork. The three key themes are: (a) Digital Terrain Models (DTM) from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Structure from Motion (SfM) Photogrammetry, (b) Ice velocity from cross-correlation of optical satellite images in the MATLAB software environment (c) Mapping of glacial bedforms. Lab sessions will enhance software, coding and quantitative skills. Where possible, lab-work sessions will include student-led components and formative peer-peer assessment elements which will provide the opportunity to develop a range of generic analytical skills.20 credits
- Advances in Cryosphere Science
This research-led module will examine glacial environments in their broadest sense including both their contemporary and former states. Typically the module will contain four sections including:1)Glaciology (processes and phenomena of current glaciers)2)Palaeoglaciology (reconstructions of former glaciers)3)Periglacial environments (cold region processes often close to glacierised regions)4)Specialist guest research contributions (lectures/seminars on topical cryospheric research).20 credits
- Applied Volcanology
Volcanoes are an enigmatic force of nature. Understanding the way they behave and how they are monitored is a key aspect in hazard assessment. The module will cover a range of topics related to volcano monitoring, underpinned by an overview of the current state-of-the-art in volcanic science. In particular, the module will combine a theoretical basis of understanding for ground-based and satellite-based volcano monitoring capabilities with practical applications. Via lectures, lab practicals, and field-based activities, students will benefit from hands-on operation of monitoring equipment through to processing and interpretation.20 credits
- Coastal Systems: Processes and Management
This module will explore the processes occuring within coastal environments, covering a range of oceanographic, meteorological, geological, geomorphological, biogeochemical and biological topics, including aspects of societal interaction with these environments. The topics covered will vary depending on the teaching team; the environments studied may include estuaries, dunes, cliffs, near-shore environments and fjords, among others. The aim of the module is to give students an appreciation of the variety and multi-disciplinarity of the physical geography of the coastal margins. An integral element of this module will be a weekend field component.20 credits
- Conservation Issues and Management
This module aims to provide the opportunity for students to develop (i) their knowledge of topical issues in conservation, (ii) their ability to identify potential solutions to real-world conservation problems and assess the likely effectiveness of these (iii) their skills in accessing, interpreting and synthesising the primary scientific literature in the field of conservation and (iv) their ability to think independently. This will be achieved by introducing students, through lectures and independent reading, to a range of topical issues in conservation biology, by showing how research can inform the development of action plans and by illustrating how the success of applied measures to mitigate conservation problems can be assessed. Students will then apply their learning by developing action plans for specific conservation problems.20 credits
- Environmental Policy and Governance
This unit aims to help students analyse environmental policy. It provides an overview of principal elements of contemporary environmental governance, and an introduction to the process of systematic policy evaluation in relation to a policy element of their choice. The module focuses on the contested and complex nature of the policy environment, and the role of the public and specific interests. Through individual investigation of a specific element of policy, students will explore the multi-level nature of environmental policy, contested and competing policy goals, and theories about how policy brings about change. Teaching involves a combination of lectures and interactive seminars.20 credits
- Independent Extended Essay (L3)
This module requires the student to prepare, research and write up a piece of work based on previous studies on a geographical topic. The student will choose a topic and will be required to produce an extended essay (4,000-words) on that topic, synthesising and developing a critique on the existing literature available in the Sheffield libraries.20 credits
- Lake District Fieldclass
The ability to apply knowledge of physical processes and research approaches to understand a particular environment is a key geographical skill. This module will provide experience in process interpretation, focussing on the physical processes that have shaped the environment. The module will comprise a 5-day UK residential field class to the Lake District National Park and will cover a range of topics that complement and extend knowledge acquired on the BSc Physical Geography programme, including glaciology, climatology, landscape dynamics and environmental science. Evening lectures during the fieldtrip will provide relevant background. Small group follow-up sessions will be used to support the presentation of research findings in a science blog.20 credits
- Landscape Evolution
Geomorphological processes and rates are influenced by interactions between these factors, as are the geological and geomorphological hazards in different regions. Informed by on-going research by department staff, this module will deepen understanding of (i) the nature and geomorphological implications of global physical processes that has been developed at levels 1 to 2, (ii) the chronological and processes used to constrain contemporary and past landscape evolution, and (iii) the landscape development over a range of timescales and hazard implications of these processes. The module will involve consideration of a range of landscapes and the key controls on their evolution and development.20 credits
- MATLAB Coding for Geoscience
This module enables students to study in depth a specialised geographical or environmental topic chosen from and informed by the wide research expertise of staff in the department. Students will be able to choose from a range of topic choices that reflect current issues and developments within their discipline. Emphasis is placed on personal development of understanding of the topic through independent exploration of published academic literature. Delivery and assessment methods vary for each topic and range from structured topics delivered by staff and assessed by exam to a free choice of topic on which, following approval by staff, students conduct their own literature search and prepare an assessed critical review of the topic without supervision. Students will initally enroll on GEO385 then add/drop to the relevant topic module.20 credits
- New Zealand Fieldclass
The ability to apply knowledge of physical processes and research approaches to understand a particular environment is a key geographical skill. This module will provide experience in process interpretation in an unfamiliar setting, focussing on the physical processes that have shaped the environment and will influence future change. The module will include an overseas residential field class and will cover a range of topics that complement and extend knowledge acquired on the BSc Physical Geography programme. Introductory lectures and practical sessions will provide relevant background and enable preparatory research. Small group follow-up sessions will be used to support analysis and written presentation of research findings.20 credits
- Planetary Geoscience
This module introduces the student to the fascinating discipline of planetary geoscience and exploration. By using the principles of Physical Geography to study unfamiliar environments, we will explore problems that touch upon themes from climate, tectonics, geomorphology, hydrology, and life. The module begins with the Solar System but soon focuses on planetary-scale matters, using the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) as main examples because of an explosion of knowledge gathered from their observation. We will consider the new perspectives which such knowledge offers on the Earth's dynamic systems.20 credits
- Biology and Ethics
As the pace of biological research continues to increase, society and scientists are continuously faced with ethical issues which, in many cases, we are ill-prepared to consider. This course examines areas where biology and ethics interact using a series of topical examples including medicine, agriculture, industry and the environment. In each case ethical concepts will be examined and discussed in the context of the right to privacy, ownership, current regulation, historical perspectives and the public understanding of science.10 credits
- Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems
This module examines the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems, from the invasion of the land by plants and animals in the Ordovician (475 million years ago) up to the present day. All of the major events will be covered: the origin of land plants; the invasion of the land by invertebrate animals (worms, insects, etc); the first forests; the origin of amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds; beginnings of phtogeographical differentiation; origin of the flowering plants etc. Throughout the course the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems will be considered in light of: (i) the interrelationships between global change and evolving terrestrial ecosystems; (ii) plant-fungal-animal interactions and coevolution.10 credits
- Evolutionary Ecology
Why do some organisms weigh a fraction of a milligram and others many tons? Why do some organisms mature in a few days and others need several years? Why make a myraid of tiny eggs rather than few large offspring? This module will address these, and other questions in life history evolution, using a range of modern approaches. All the main approaches of studying evolutionary ecology will be taught (optimality models, evolutionarily stable strategies, quantitative genetics, comparative methods) and their strengths and weaknesses explored. Equal weight will be given to plant and animal systems.10 credits
- Future Plants: From Laboratory to Field
This module explores current research themes in plant biology, examining how fundamental plant science, often using model organisms, can be translated into real-world applications. The course will highlight different research areas encompassing plant development and productivity, responses to environmental stresses and interactions with other organisms (beneficial or pests and diseases). Students will be introduced to the science that underpins these processes in plants and how this knowledge can be exploited to address problems such as food security, sustainability and environmental change.10 credits
- Global Change
The course will provide a framework for understanding the nature and scale of evolution, adaptation and ecophysiological responses of plants to their atmospheric environment. The course will address the following scales in time and space: land plant evolution over the last 400 million years; plant responses to environmental extremes, seen as both geological extinction events and with changes in altitute and latitude; global and local scales of plant responses to past, present and likely future carbon dioxie concentrations.10 credits
- Sustainable Agro-Ecosystems
This module highlights the threats to global sustainability, with a particular focus on food production and ecosystem functioning, being caused by human impacts on the environment. The module considers how we have got into the present unsustainable mess ¿ of poor land and natural resource management, under valuing of farmers, life-threatening soil degradation causing flooding, pollution of fresh water and soil insecurity, as well as large numbers of people overconsuming and wasting food whilst others don¿t have enough. It shows that how we sustainably manage agro-ecosystems now, and in the immediate future, will determine the fate of humanity. Soils are the foundations of terrestrial ecosystems, food and biofuel production, but are amongst the most badly abused and damaged components of the ecosphere. Climate change, agricultural intensification, biofuels and unsustainable use of fertilizers and fossil fuels pose critical threats to global food production and sustainable agro-ecosystems - and their impacts on soil ecosystems are central to these threats. The module considers soil ecosystems function in nature and the lessons that we can then apply to develop more sustainable agriculture and ecosystem management.10 credits
In your fourth year, you can choose between two routes: Environmental Geosciences or Environmental Biosciences.
Core modules (Environmental Geosciences):
- Research Project
Students will undertake an original piece of research on a topic of their choice. The aims of the module are to (i) provide students with an insight into current scientific issues within their subject area through the medium of research presentations and discussion, (ii) foster and develop research skills including the acquisition, processing and presentation of information, (iii) expose students to a range of presentational techniques of current research material, (iv) develop students ability to synthesise oral information and, (v) to develop skills in written and oral communication.60 credits
- Research Design in Physical Geography and Environmental Science
This module aims to provide an introduction to conducting research in physical geography and environmental science. The objectives are: (a) to provide an understanding of the sources of research problems and how specific student research topics fit into broader agendas; (b) to provide an understanding of scientific method and its different components, including the roles of fieldwork, laboratory experiments and modelling; (c) to provide an introduction to planning a research project, including literature search, fieldwork, laboratory work, data analysis, error analysis and written and graphical presentation; (d) to prepare students for writing a research proposal. These aims will be realised through a mix of lectures, student investigation and presentation of academic staff research, and preparation of a draft proposal.15 credits
Optional modules (Environmental Geosciences):
- Current Issues in Geography and Environmental Science
This module provides students with an insight into current issues in either Geography or Environmental Science. This is achieved through the medium of attendance at research presentations by experts in appropriate fields and discussion of cutting edge research topics and papers.15 credits
- Independent Extended Essay (L4)
This module enables students to study in depth a specialised geographical or environmental topic chosen from and informed by the wide research expertise of staff in the department. Students will be able to choose from a range of topic choices that reflect current issues and developments within their discipline. Emphasis is placed on personal development of understanding of the topic through independent exploration of published academic literature. Delivery and assessment methods vary for each topic and range from structured topics delivered by staff and assessed by exam to a free choice of topic on which, following approval by staff, students conduct their own literature search and prepare an assessed critical review of the topic without supervision.15 credits
- Key Issues in Environment and Development
This unit engages critically with the key theoretical debates that shape the environment, society and international development. By looking at current questions in development theory and their relationship to development practice in the context of environmental change, it encourages students to think critically about the ways in which interdisciplinary approaches define issues and problems, and the theoretical viewpoints that inform their actions. The unit is taught primarily through seminars: these structure students' learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the academic literature on international development.15 credits
- Managing Climate Change
This module aims to engender a detailed understanding of the development of ideas and theories of climate change, integrating the core science behind our understandings of climate change with a critical analysis of how this is interpreted and communicated. This understanding is then applied to consider the challenge of living with climate change in the Global South. The unit is taught through seminars and lectures. Lectures introduce and impart factual knowledge while seminars allow discussion and an emphasis on applying key concepts to practical situations. Together these structure students' learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the wide ranging literature on climatic change.15 credits
- Sustainable development: a critical investigation
This module provides critical, in-depth analysis of a concept which is central to planning and development, yet is notoriously ambiguous and impossible to define in an uncontested way. Students will explore and debate the contestable nature of sustainability through the innovative use of computer gaming technology. Using a city-building game (Cities: Skylines) to develop a `sustainable' virtual city and then `deconstructing it' intellectually, the aim is to provide students with the understanding and conceptual tools to approach their own and others' claims to deliver `sustainable development' in a constructively critical way.15 credits
- The Science of Environmental Change
This unit gives students a critical understanding of recent historical and contemporary environmental change in the Global South. The module draws on an interdisciplinary approach, informed by political ecology, to explore the human dimensions of global environmental change from a range of different perspectives. Students are encouraged to think critically about disciplinary perspectives that inform particular viewpoints and the ways in which they impact upon development practice. The unit is taught primarily through seminars: these structure students' learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the academic literature on international development.15 credits
Core modules (Environmental Biosciences):
- Research Project
This module will give students the opportunity to develop skills relevant to a career in biological research. It will consist of a laboratory or field based research project in one of the Department's five research groups where each student will work under the supervision of a member of academic staff. The student will formulate the hypotheses and questions to be addressed and plan and carry out experiments to test these hypotheses. The project will be written up in the form of a scientific paper, the student will also keep a notebook of their research and deliver an oral presentation of their work.70 credits
- Research Dissertation
The aim of this unit is to allow the student to write a critical review of a biological topic of choice. This will involve a critical analysis of hypotheses in the field and of the quality of the evidence used to support them. Where controversies exist, the dissertation should indicate which side has the stronger case. It should also identify gaps in our current knowledge and understanding and make suggestions for the future development of the field. The dissertation should also include at least one novel diagram/table that summarises an aspect of the dissertation. The preparation of the dissertation involves extensive reading of original research papers, reviews and books together with information extracted from other media. The dissertation will be written up in the form of a scientific paper.20 credits
- Research and Communication Skills in Biology
This module will provide training in fundamental generic skills necessary to pursue a research career in whole organism biology. Skills will involve learning and applying various forms of communication (both written and oral) to different audiences (professional and general public) and advanced science writing (e.g. journal publications and grant applications). Career development training will be provided by focusing on CV development and interview techniques. Teaching will be through workshops, lectures, tutorials, and student-centred learning.20 credits
- Advanced Biological Analysis
This module provides advanced training in the use of statistical methods and computers to present and analyse biological data which is necessary to pursue a research career in whole organisation biology. Advanced principles of experimental design, data interpretation, and graphical presentation will be stressed initially, followed by an introduction to advanced univariate and multivariate techniques. The course will be based on the statistical program R, using a series of workshops and student-centred learning assignments to develop skills and proficiency.10 credits
The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.
Learning and assessment
Our environmental science programmes provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to understand and solve critical environmental issues. You will study with academic staff whose research expertise is internationally recognised and your learning will take place on field classes and in state-of-the-art laboratories, lecture theatres and libraries.
You will be assessed through a combination of exams, coursework and practical assessment. The proportions of these will vary depending on the modules you choose.
This tells you the aims and learning outcomes of this course and how these will be achieved and assessed.
With Access Sheffield, you could qualify for additional consideration or an alternative offer - find out if you're eligible
The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Geography or another relevant science subject
The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Geography or another relevant science subject
A Levels + additional qualifications | ABB, including Geography or another science subject + B in EPQ; ABB, including Geography or another relevant science subjects + B in Core Maths ABB, including Geography or another science subject + B in EPQ; ABB, including Geography or another relevant science subjects + B in Core Maths
International Baccalaureate | 34, 5 in Higher Level Geography or another relevant science subject 33, 5 in Higher Level Geography or another relevant science subject
BTEC | DDD in a relevant subject DDD in a relevant subject
Scottish Highers + 1 Advanced Higher | AAABB + B, including Geography or another relevant science subject AABBB + B, including Geography or another relevant science subject
Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels | B + AA, including Geography or another relevant science subject B + AB, including Geography or another relevant science subject
Access to HE Diploma | 60 credits overall in a relevant subject with 45 at level 3, including 36 credits at Distinctions 9 Credits at MeritsLevel 3 units in Geography and Science units required. Science units can include Mathematics 60 credits overall in a relevant subject with 45 at level 3, including 30 credits at Distinctions 15 Credits at MeritsLevel 3 units in Geography and Science units required. Science units can include Mathematics
Mature students - explore other routes for mature students
You must demonstrate that your English is good enough for you to successfully complete your course. For this course we require: GCSE English Language at grade 4/C; IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component; or an alternative acceptable English language qualification
Science subjects include Biology/Human Biology, Geology and Environmental Science/Studies, Chemistry, Maths, Further Maths, Physics or Statistics
GCSE Maths grade 4 or grade C
If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.
Department of Geography
The Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield is a world leader in teaching and research. We're ranked as one of the top 50 universities in the world for geography according to the QS Rankings 2020.
We have over 30 full-time academic staff in the department. Our high staff-to-student ratio ensures that you receive excellent quality teaching and a high level of pastoral support throughout your studies.
The Department of Geography is housed in an award-winning, purpose-built building on the edge of the beautiful Weston Park, close to the Students' Union and central libraries and lecture theatres.
Sheffield is located in an amazing natural laboratory where you will have the opportunity to explore the physical landscape of the Peak District National Park, as well as environmental and agricultural issues across the region. Sheffield itself is a rapidly regenerating post-industrial city with emerging cultural industries and a diverse population, making it an ideal location for human geography fieldwork.
We have a well-equipped computer teaching laboratory, postgraduate and undergraduate physical geography laboratories, and image processing facilities which provide an important component for teaching and research in remote sensing and geographical information systems (GIS).
Biology, Ecology and Conservation Biology, Plant Sciences and Zoology
Biosciences at Sheffield is home to over 120 lecturers who are actively involved in research at the cutting edge of their field. You'll learn from scientists who are helping to solve some of the biggest global challenges, from understanding the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our food systems and discovering how to absorb up to 2 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, to combating the biodiversity and climate crises.
Our staff are drawn from across the biosciences and are engaged in research in a wide range of areas, from molecular biology, human health and disease, to evolution, biodiversity, conservation, genetics and sustainability.
We’re a close-knit community where every student gets the support and encouragement needed to achieve their best work. Whether it’s joining one of our student-led societies and taking part in nights out, trips abroad and quizzes with lecturers, or volunteering, fundraising and organising your own events, there are lots of opportunities to get involved.
Biosciences students are based across Firth Court, the Alfred Denny, Florey and Addison buildings. We are at the heart of the University campus, adjacent to the Students' Union and just a 15-minute walk from the city centre.
Our students have access to world-class laboratory and computing resources for biological research and are trained in specialist teaching laboratories, supported by teaching assistants and our technician team.
Biosciences at Sheffield is home to state-of-the-art facilities, including super resolution light, cryo-electron and atomic force microscopy, NMR and X-ray facilities, a Biological Mass Spectrometry facility and the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility, which provides molecular genetics facilities and training to the UK science community.
We also have controlled environment facilities that can simulate any past, present and future climate, entomology resources, experimental gardens, leading equipment for DNA analysis, and the Alfred Denny Museum of Zoology on campus.
Why choose Sheffield?
The University of Sheffield
A Top 100 university 2021
QS World University Rankings
Top 10% of all UK universities
Research Excellence Framework 2014
No 1 Students' Union in the UK
Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2019, 2018, 2017
Biology, Ecology and Conservation Biology, Plant Sciences and Zoology
The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020
Research Excellence Framework 2014
High Fliers Research 2020
Graduates from our BSc Environmental Science and MEnvSci Environmental Science degrees are valued by employers for their environmental science skills and in-depth knowledge. Recent graduates have gone on to careers in environmental consultancy and policy, sustainable energy, land remediation and conservation.
As well as specialist skills and knowledge, our degrees provide you with transferable skills that are valued by graduate employers, such as handling data, communicating complex issues, and managing projects from start to finish. Other environmental science graduates have used these assets to secure employment in teaching, law, patenting, finance and banking.
93% of our geography and environmental science graduates are in employment or further study within six months of graduation (Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey 2017).
In addition to further study, our graduates go on to work for leading scientific organisations like Cancer Research, GSK, RB and Mondelez; organisations linked to ecology and conservation such as the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum and the Environment Agency; and prestigious graduate schemes like Google, PwC, the BBC, Deloitte, United Kingdom Civil Service, Aldi and the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme.
Fieldwork is central to teaching and research in the environmental sciences. It allows you to apply the ideas and skills from your lectures and lab work and is vital for developing the analytical and practical skills required by environmental specialists.
Residential field classes in both Year One and Two of your degree are included within your tuition fees. These field classes currently take place in the UK. We also run local day trips for fieldwork, which take advantage of Sheffield’s location on the edge of the Peak District National Park.
Optional residential field classes in Year Three are closely aligned with the research strengths of our staff, and give you additional opportunities to develop your fieldwork skills. In the interests of inclusivity, we run these trips at a range of prices, with domestic options available to reduce costs and carbon emissions. In previous years these optional field classes have gone to locations as diverse as the Lake District and New Zealand.
Many students conduct fieldwork as part of their research projects and departmental scholarships are available to support ambitious independent fieldwork. Recent scholarships have supported research into glaciology in the Swiss Alps and the reintroduction of beavers in the Scottish Highlands.
Fees and funding
The annual fee for your course includes a number of items in addition to your tuition. If an item or activity is classed as a compulsory element for your course, it will normally be included in your tuition fee. There are also other costs which you may need to consider.
Funding your study
Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for a bursary, scholarship or loan to help fund your study and enhance your learning experience.
Use our Student Funding Calculator to work out what you’re eligible for.
University open days
There are four open days every year, usually in June, July, September and October. You can talk to staff and students, tour the campus and see inside the accommodation.
At various times in the year we run online taster sessions to help Year 12 students experience what it is like to study at the University of Sheffield.
If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our applicant days, which take place between November and April. These applicant days have a strong department focus and give you the chance to really explore student life here, even if you've visited us before.
Campus tours run regularly throughout the year, at 1pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
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