Global Environmental Processes
Through a two hour weekly lecture, you’ll be given a general understanding of the physical, chemical and biological development of the Earth since the start of the Universe, as well as of the cyclical movement of the major materials such as carbon and nitrogen between biological and non-biological forms.
Environmental Science and Society
This module introduces you to the role and limitations of environmental science within the context practical environmental decision making. The three themes of the module which will be illustrated through a series of environmental case studies are: 1. General scientific methods. 2. The limits and assumptions of science 3. The social context of science based decision making. You’ll have a two hour lecture each week to study for this module.
Dissertation in Environmental Science
This module will enable you to use the library and other sources to retrieve information; read, understand and synthesise primary literature; produce a 5000 word literature review within a specified word limit; develop your written presentation skills within the constraints of an editorial system and manage and organise your time.
The Ecology of Natural and Managed Ecosystems
Pollinator species are hugely important for natural systems and for managed systems like agriculture, but there is concern that numbers are declining. What physical, chemical or biotic factors are limiting these species’ distribution? What other species are they in competition with? How diverse or stable is the ecological community overall? This module introduces you to the principles of ecology and looks at how organisms have evolved to interact with their environment. You’ll also cover population (such as competition and predation) and community ecology (such as the diversity and stability of communities, patterns of species richness). You’ll explore the various definitions of biodiversity and look at the loss of species and habitats, particularly in semi-natural and managed habitats such as woodland, hedgerows, meadows, and agricultural land. You’ll have lectures from current researchers in the field and the opportunity to apply your learning in the laboratory and through field visits.
Through lectures and practicals, the aim of this module is to provide you with basic geological skills and the capacity to understand and interpret geological information. It also aims to provide knowledge of geology in the context of environmental science. Topics covered include bulk properties of the earth, minerals, igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks, metamorphic rocks, geological time, tectonics, geological structures, map interpretation, geological hazards and resource geology.
There’s more to grass than meets the eye. Grasslands are used for forage in agricultural systems but are also important as habitat for wild animals, birds and beneficial insects. In this module you’ll learn about the latest developments in grassland management, both UK and globally, and the policy issues associated with these developments. You’ll examine the morphology and physiology of forage grass species to understand the mechanisms of grass growth, production and utilisation and how these are influenced by management practices. In addition to lectures, you’ll have farm visits and computer-based tutorials so you can develop your understanding of grassland management, identify grass plants and use the latest subject-specific software to calculate a pasture budget.
The Anthropology of Human Ecology
Following an introduction to the most basic principles of social/cultural anthropology and biological ecology, the module examines the ways in which traditional societies around the world relate to their environments. You’ll spend two hours per week in lectures to cover material for this module.
Managing Tourism and the Environment: Conflict or Consensus?
In this module you’ll examine and explore: the interactions between and the management of tourism and the environment from the perspective of key stakeholders; debates surrounding the environmental and economic impacts of tourism and the role played by pressure groups in influencing tourism development. You’ll have a 90 minute lecture and spend two hours in seminars each week to study for this module.
Contemporary Agricultural Systems
Modern agriculture is a dynamic, fast-paced and high-tech industry. In this module, you’ll explore practical agricultural systems used by commercial UK farms. Designed for students with a farm or non-farming background, you’ll get to understand the fundamental concepts of agricultural systems within the context of contemporary markets, policy and research. Exact topics covered in the module will vary according to the issues affecting the agricultural industry in any one year, but examples include: dairy production, arable production, soils, agri-environmental interactions, labour and machinery management and farm business systems. You’ll have lectures from academics currently researching these fields and will visit the University Farm and external farms to see what you’ve learnt in practice.
In this module you’ll be introduced to plant evolution and the cellular structure of plants, in particular seeds, leaves, flowers and roots, and how these multicellular tissues are constructed. You’ll become familiar with the techniques used to study plant science, including genetics and the use of mutants. Using model plants, such as Arabidopsis, you’ll look at the development of modern plant biology and genetics and then explore the applications of biotechnology in plant science. You’ll also examine the importance of plant nutrition and how the interaction with pathogens is crucial to plant growth and production. You’ll have a mix of lectures and practical laboratory sessions to apply your learning.
This is an introductory module which provides a basic understanding of the nature and properties of soil and the application of soil chemistry, biology and physics to land management and environmental science. Broadly, the topics covered include: soil formation; clay mineralogy; soil organic matter (microbiology and chemistry); soil texture and structure; characteristic soil reactions (acidity, redox); the major and minor plant nutrients (chemistry and microbiology); soil fauna and flora; water relations (irrigation and drainage). You’ll spend around five hours in lectures each week to study for this module.
Climate Change Science
Climate change is in the news nearly every day. This module is your opportunity to go beyond the headlines and investigate the science behind climate change and its effects. You’ll look at historical climatic change, the principles of climate forcing, and how aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are responding to climate change – and what this means for humans. You’ll learn about how climate change is being studied and examine the role of modelling. You’ll also explore the political environment and how the climate change issue is framed by different players, and what the options are for climate stabilization. You’ll have a mix of lectures as well as computer-based learning to see climate models in action.
Research Skills and Professional Skills Parts 1 & 2
This module (autumn semester) will prepare you to choose your final year research project by familiarising you with the research carried out within the environmental sciences group. The module will focus on developing your understanding of how you identify research gaps, design experiments, collect, analyse, interpret and present data.
In the second part of this module (spring semester) you will choose your topic and by the end of the module you will have identified a project supervisor, undertaken a literature review in your chosen area and produced a project proposal outlining your project. The module will focus on developing your ability to research the literature, plan a piece of research and communicate your work effectively.
Soil and Water Science
The aim of the module is to provide a sound understanding of important physical and chemical processes that take place within soils and fresh water systems. This includes providing a basis for the understanding of more applied aspects of the behaviour of these systems (e.g. plant-soil interactions, pollution and its remediation). You will take lectures, two practicals and two computing sessions.
The course will focus on the processes that govern terrestrial ecosystem function. We will identify key ecosystem drivers and processes and explore how these have shaped the biosphere. Students will gain an understanding of the mechanisms that control changes in the physiochemical environment and their impact upon communities. Particular topics will include primary productivity, decomposition, herbivory, biodiversity and human impact on ecosystems. Classes comprise a mix of lectures, laboratory practicals, a computer practical, a seminar and fieldwork.
Environmental Science Field Course
This residential field course in south Devon involves studies of various communities and ecosystems using a range of field techniques to investigate factors which determine the distribution and function of living organisms. Particular focus is on understanding the cycling of nutrients within catchments and how these cycles are affected by land management strategies. The residential component takes place in June at the end of the first year.
Tropical Environmental Science Field Course
This residential tropical field course module is based on Tioman Island of the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia and involves studies of various tropical communities and ecosystems using a range of field techniques to investigate factors which determine the distribution and function of living organisms in tropical ecosystems. Activities include the deployment of camera traps to describe the community of terrestrial mammals in a tropical forest.
Biological Photography and Imaging 1
Through practical sessions, you will learn the techniques of biological image production and manipulation, including the ability to generate biological images of the highest technical quality and scientific value. You'll spend around 6 hours per week in lectures studying this module.
Patterns of Life
This module focuses on patterns in the distribution of organisms in space and time, and the theories proposed to explain these patterns. You’ll spend two hours per week in lectures studying for this module.
Computer Modelling in Science: Introduction
The aim of this module is to introduce you to the use of computing models in the biological and environmental sciences for simulation and data analysis. You’ll have a two hour lecture and two hour computer class each week to study for this module.
Economic Analysis for Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Economic analysis can help you answer important management questions: how much fertiliser should I apply to my wheat? If demand for beer is going up, how will that affect the price I receive for my barley? Through this module you’ll gain an understanding of economic ideas and principles and be able to apply them to a range of problems of interest to agricultural and environmental scientists and managers. You’ll also examine the arguments for government intervention to correct ‘market failures’ with reference to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and look at CAP support mechanisms and their impact on arable and animal production. In addition to lectures and farm visits, you’ll have computer-aided learning sessions to teach you planning techniques that will enable you to use your economic skills to analyse the impact of the market and policy environment on business performance and stability.
We will consider the principles underlying the structure and higher organisation of natural systems. This encompasses diversity theory, community ecology, ecosystem functioning and biogeography. As this is a rapidly developing area, much of the material is recent and often controversial, so the content is updated every year to keep track of new findings. You’ll have a weekly three hour lecture to cover material for this module.
Modern ecology has never been a more important subject than now, a result of our major environmental problems. Through lectures, this module introduces the study of the ecology of populations and communities from an evolutionary point of view, and considers critically the extent of our understanding of ecological ideas.
Research Project in Environmental Science
You will undertake detailed research on a chosen topic after discussion with a supervisor. Each project will involve collection of data by means such as experiment, questionnaire or observation, as well as the analysis and interpretation of the data in the context of previous work.
Working closely with an academic supervisor, you develop and undertake a research project in your third year. You will present your results orally to your peers and in the form of a concise scientific paper.
The project encourages critical thinking and involves a detailed literature survey, data collection, analysis and interpretation.
Recent projects include:
- Phytoremediation of contaminated soil
- The effect of phosphogypsum on soil development
- Reduction of atmospheric pollutant concentrations by hedgerows
- Hazard assessment of heavy metal uptake to plants
- Ecological impacts of veterinary drugs
- Forest carbon storage and its role in mitigating CO² emission
Environmental Pollution Field Course
The Environmental Pollution Field Course involves one week’s field study in the Czech Republic and takes place in September between the second and third year. The aim is to provide students with practical experience of a range of environmental pollution issues in a region which was formerly one of the most polluted areas in the world. The focus is on the mining and utilisation of brown coal and the environmental impacts of these activities, past and present. On return to Nottingham, laboratory classes provide analytical data from samples collected in the field.
Arctic Ecology Field Course
The Arctic Ecology Field Course involves one week’s field study in arctic Sweden at Abisko and takes place in July between the second and third year. Under the midnight sun, students will put ecological methodology into practice in projects that analyse landscape patterns and processes. The course will also address the impact of climate change on arctic ecosystems. Students will gain practical experience in ecological methodology, experimental design, data collection and analysis, interpretation and presentation.
Biological Photography and Imaging 2
This module extends and develops your skills of creative and critical biological photography. You’ll continue to develop the practice and experience gained in Biological Photography and Imaging 1. You are encouraged to demonstrate increasing expertise in selected subject areas and/or specialist photographic techniques such as digital imaging and manipulation (using Photoshop CS software), digital video photography and editing, ecological and environmental photography, landscapes, macro and long lens photography and specialist lighting. Field and studio work continue to be essential elements of the module. You will have around 6 hours of lectures per week studying this module.
Environmental Pollutants: Fate, Impact and Remediation
This module is concerned with the behaviour and effects of pollutants in terrestrial and aquatic environments and how their impacts can be ameliorated and managed. The focus is on both the scientific understanding of environmental pollutants and on the intervention strategies currently available. Topics covered include study of the common water and soil pollutants: heavy metal contamination of land; radionuclide behaviour in the environment; persistent organic contaminants and pesticides; nitrate pollution of groundwater; pollution of surface waters by agriculture; eutrophication of lakes; acidification of soils and freshwaters; biological monitoring of rivers; ecotoxicology and environmental epidemiology; quantitative risk assessment; land reclamation, including landfill sites. You will have lectures, tutorials, a field visit and laboratory work and demonstrations.
Plants and the Light Environment
How does light cause variation in crop yields? In this module, you’ll study the influence of the light environment on the physiology of native and crop species, extending from the cellular to community level. You’ll learn how to differentiate between different light signalling pathways in plants and demonstrate how these pathways function in plants. You’ll be able to explain how light is absorbed by plants to initiate energy transfer systems and to stimulate developmental pathways of photomorphogenesis. You’ll then be able to apply your knowledge in understanding the causes of variations in crop yields and how these may be used to assist in the search for improved varieties and increased productivity in agricultural systems. You’ll have a mix of lectures, demonstrations and field trips to see what you’ve learnt in practice.
Applied Bioethics 1: Animals, Biotechnology and Society
Animal-human interactions raise some prominent ethical issues. In this module, you’ll examine the ethical dimensions concerning animal agriculture, modern biotechnologies and research in the biosciences, in relation to both humans and non-human species. You’ll learn about the ethical frameworks used to analyse specific dilemmas raised by the human use of animals. Using specific animal and biotechnology case studies, you’ll interpret the main ethical theories and principles and apply them to the case studies to inform professional decision-making. You’ll have a mix of lectures and seminars to explore these concepts.
Applied Bioethics 2: Sustainable Food Production, Biotechnology and the Environment
In this module you’ll investigate widely accepted ethical principles and apply your insights to contemporary ethical issues in agricultural, food and environmental sciences. You’ll explore the ethical dimensions of prominent issues raised by the agricultural practices (including the use of biotechnology and GM crops) designed to meet the nutritional needs of the global population. You’ll also learn about how ethical theory can inform professional choices and public policies related to food production and environmental management. You’ll have a mix of lectures, tutorials and team-based exercises to develop a sound understanding of ethical principles.
Geobiology explores the relationship between life and the Earth's physical and chemical environment over geological/ evolutionary time. The module will focus on the geological consequences of evolution and how life has influenced physical and chemical environment. Topics covered will include: origins and evolution of life; evolution of the atmosphere and biosphere; geobiology of critical intervals and palaeobiology and evolutionary ecology.
In a series of lectures, this module provides training in environmental biotechnology, with particular emphasis on the interaction between microorganisms and the environment. The main topics covered will be wastewater treatment, bioremediation of organic and inorganic pollutants, microbes as indicators of risk factors in the environment, microbes in agriculture (biocontrol and biofertilisers) and the role of microorganisms in bioenergy production.
Plants and the Soil Environment
What happens below the ground that affects the water and nutrient uptake by plants? In this module, you’ll examine the acquisition of water and nutrients by plants in both agricultural and natural systems, and how plants interact with the soil environment. You’ll learn about the evolution of root adaptations which enable plants to thrive in environments with limited or excess water and nutrients. In an agricultural setting, you’ll explore how water and nutrient uptake by plants can be used to improve crop productivity and resource management, and use the practical study component to investigate new methods and technologies for below-ground phenotyping of roots. You’ll have a mix of lectures and computer-based practicals to gain a fundamental understanding of how water and nutrients are acquired by plants from the soil environment, and their influence on plant growth and development.
Computer Modelling in Science: Applications
The use of computer-based models has become widespread in the biological and environmental sciences. This module aims to show the range of techniques for these models using appropriate examples including pollutant transfer and fate, population dynamics, protein synthesis, molecular switches and epidemics of humans and animals. Practical work is undertaken using modelling software to illustrate key aspects of the module. The module is designed for students with relatively little mathematical or computing experience and is an ideal opportunity to develop a knowledge of applying mathematical skills in an environmental science context.
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. The above list is a sample of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.