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MSc Environmental Science

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Course Description

This is a one year, full-time postgraduate qualification that will lead to a Master of Science in Environmental Sciences. The key concept of the course is to produce environmental scientists with an interdisciplinary background able to tackle the broadest range of environmental protection issues.

Course Modules

ES 7001: Induction Week

Co-ordinator: Course Directors
Description: A week of seminars, activities and fieldtrips designed to introduce the course, the staff, the University and current environmental issues.
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this module, you will:

  • Understand course structure, delivery, requirements and expectations;
  • Be familiar with College facilities including the library and centre laboratory;
  • Be aware of health, safety and risk assessment requirements;
  • Be able to outline current environmental issues and related research interests within College;
  • Demonstrate basic scientific skills in the field.

Assessment: Attendance, participation and satisfactory completion of all requirements (100%)

ES 7302: Desk Study

Co-ordinator: Course Directors
Credit: 10 ECTS
Description: An independent, desk-based review of literature relating to a current topic of relevance to the environmental sciences. A list of proposed topics will be circulated in the first term. There is also an opportunity for students to select a study of their choice in negotiation with the Course Director and other member of staff. Desk study topics should not significantly overlap with proposed research project topics.
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Search, identify and collate academic and related literature using library and on-line resources;
  • Critically analyse research, and identify key themes, areas of consensus / debate, and gaps in existing knowledge;
  • Synthesise this information in a concise, logically structured review that is clearly presented and correctly referenced;
  • Summarise your project in a brief oral presentation to a non-specialist audience.

Assessment: Written report of c. 6,000 words (75%); Oral presentation (25%)

ES 7028: Ocean & Coastal Management

Co-ordinator: Prof Jim Wilson
Credit: 5 ECTS
Description: Topics include estuarine and coastal pollution; coastal erosion; nutrient cycles; inshore and offshore fisheries; sediments, shores and shallows; successes and failings of management.
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Construct conceptual models of the structuring of coastal and estuarine systems;
  • Predict the pathways (including sources and sinks) and consequences of anthropogenic inputs;
  • Outline the regulatory and legislative framework underpinning the management of marine and coastal sytems.

Assessment: Group Report (50%), Individual Critique (50%)

ES 7027: Environmental Policies

Co-ordinator: Dr Ken Irvine
Credit: 5 ECTS
Description: The application of successful management strategies requires a wide knowledge of the environment and the pressures on it. The module introduces the scientific and societal factors that drive environmental policies and management. The course includes an introduction to environmental legislation with examples of implementation in a number of environmental sectors. The module introduces inter alia the practice of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the preparation of Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), Integrated Pollution Control and Environmental Management Systems, and the day-to-day practice of environmental protection.
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Comprehend how environmental policies come about and what influences affect their drafting and implementation
  • Be aware of a range of policies that range from voluntary agreements to legislative instruments.
  • Have broad knowledge of a range of policies and their success
  • Have researched, collated and presented information on the aims and  effectiveness of a policy of their choice

Assessment: Individual written report (100%)

ES 7041: Environmental Chemical Analysis

Co-ordinator: Dr Norman Allott
Credit: 5 ECTS
Description: This module covers the operating principles of a range of techniques that are used in the chemical analysis of environmental samples; hands-on experience is provided in laboratory practicals. Topics include: units of measurement, classical methods of analysis (e.g. titration), electrometric methods (conductimetry, potentiometry), optical methods (colorimetry, atomic spectroscopy), and chromatography (ion chromatography, gas-liquid chromatography, high performance liquid chromatography), assessment of method performance, quality control and quality assurance. Visits to laboratories in other institutions are included.
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Explain the principles and practice of a range chemical analytical techniques
  • Select appropriate procedures for the chemical analysis of environmental substrates (surface waters, waste waters, sediments and biological samples)
  • Carry out a range of chemical analysis procedures in the laboratory
  • Present and interpret results of chemical analyses of environmental substrates

Assessment: Written report (50%), short reports (25%), exam (25%).

ES 7042: Data Handling and Analysis

Co-ordinator: TBC
Credit: 5 ECTS
Description: This module outlines the principles of data collection, coding and analysis within the context of research design, and provides a firm quantitative base with particular relevance to the research project. It includes an introduction to types of data, how data can be described statistically, and a series of methods used for extracting information from complex datasets, including multivariate methods. It also includes practical examples and illustrations of statistical applications to real-world research projects.
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Explain the central importance of data collection and analysis in effective research design
  • Employ hypothesis-testing in research design
  • Perform routine data manipulation and analysis using statistical software
  • Explain the differences between, and uses of, parametric versus non-parametric statistical methods
  • Analyse complex datasets using multivariate statistical methods
  • Identify appropriate statistical methods to employ for a range of research projects.

Assessment: Web-based problems (50%), Assignment (50%)

ES 7048 Environmental Modelling

Co-ordinator: Dr Andrew Jackson
Credit: 5 ECTS
Description: This module will introduce concepts of mathematical and computational modelling which is an ever more important tool in environmental science. The course will take two approaches: the focus will be on understanding the concepts of what modelling is and how it can be used to better understand the complexities in environmental systems; and on the other hand will introduce very basic modelling techniques that underlie the more complex models such as large scale climate change models. The emphasis will be on understanding concepts rather mathematical techniques – although there will be a basic introduction to simple functions and computer simulations.
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this module you will:

  • Understand what modelling can and cannot do.
  • Be able to conceptualise environmental systems as models.
  • Be in a position to present these conceptual systems to modellers who would be in a position to formulate them in mathematical or computational form.
  • Understand how models are constructed from first principles and discover how software such as Microsoft Excel can be used to generate simple (and even very complicated) models.

Assessment: Project reports (60%), Group Exercise (40%).

ES7043:  Hydrology and Groundwater Quality

Co-ordinator: Dr Catherine Coxon
Credit: 5 ECTS
Description: This module comprises lectures, seminars, fieldwork and practical work (mapping and data handling) relating to water in the environment. After an introduction to the hydrological cycle and water balances, it outlines the fundamentals of hillslope hydrology, river flow and catchment characteristics, before going on to consider aspects of hydrogeology, such as aquifer characteristics and groundwater flow and surface water – groundwater interactions. The module then considers groundwater chemistry and water quality, which are then related to specific pollution problems and management options. This module links closely with ES 7041: Environmental Chemical Analysis.
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this module you will:

  • have an understanding of hydrological processes
  • have some practical experience of hydrological data collection techniques e.g. river flow measurement
  • be familiar with groundwater quality problems in both rural and industrial settings
  • be able to evaluate groundwater vulnerability to pollution, understand and use groundwater protection schemes and appreciate their data requirements
  • have practical experience of techniques used to investigate agricultural impacts on groundwater

Assessment: Individual report (100%).

ES 7044: Hydrobiology and Waste Water Treatment

Co-ordinator: Prof. Nick Gray
Credit: 5 ECTS
Description: This module provides an introduction to freshwater ecosystems, with particular reference to rivers. It covers basic hydrobiological concepts, explains how chemical, physical and biological interactions make up an ecosystem, and how these are modified by various forms of pollution. The module then examines wastewater treatment, the main processes involved in sludge treatment and disposal, and some of the basic management techniques employed in the operation of activated sludge. The module places an emphasis on practical exercises and includes a visit to a waste water treatment facility.
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Conduct simple hydrobiological surveys
  • Interpret chemico-physical and biological freshwater data
  • Outline the operation and management of water and wastewater treatment systems
  • Perform simple assessment procedures.

Assessment: Group exercise

ES 7045: Impacts of Climate Change

Co-ordinator: Prof Fraser Mitchell
Credit: 5 ECTS
Description: This module will examine the nature of climate change, and the techniques used to quantify these changes. Through a combination of lectures, tutorials, case studies and group exercises, the fundamental aspects of the global climate system will be examined, key changes past, present (and future) outlined, and their potential impacts on biodiversity discussed.
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Outline how the global climate system operates over time and in space
  • Collate and synthesise data relating to biodiversity
  • Illustrate the dynamic nature of climate and biodiversity changes
  • Critically evaluate the potential biodiversity impacts of predicted climate change.

Assessment: Individual assessed tasks (75%); Group exercise (25%)

ES 7049: Practical Environmental Skills

Co-ordinator: Dr Steve Waldren
Credit: 5 ECTS
Description: This module introduces students to the basics and theory underpinning Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and goes on to develop these concepts with specific reference to environmental impact assessments.
Learning Outcomes
Learning outcomes will be circulated at the start of the module.
Assessment: Details will be confirmed at the start of the module.

Entrance Requirements

Applications for admission are accepted from:

(i) holders of first or upper second class honors degrees, or their overseas equivalent, awarded by recognised universities, institutions and degree awarding bodies.
(ii) holders of other degrees or relevant qualifications including professional qualifications, who have at least three years work experience in an environmental profession.

Applications must be made online. For further information on applying to taught courses in Trinity College, see Trinity Graduate Studies. The closing date for applications is 1st June 2013. Late applications from well-qualified applicants may be considered provided all the places on the course have not been allocated.
Applicants whose first language is not English must submit evidence of competency in English in a test administered by an institution independent of their own university (e.g. IELTS; TOEFL).

For further information on applications to taught courses in Trinity College, see Trinity Graduate Studies.


Course Director

Dr Carlos Rocha

Director of the Centre for the Environment

Dr Norman Allott

Senior Technical Officer

Mr Mark Kavanagh

School Administrator

Mrs Mary Foody


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Last updated 18 September 2012 Natural Sciences (Email).