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MSc International Innovation (Environmental Science)

35 industry-focussed 2 year MScs with £16,000 bursary and 6 months in China

This new two-year MSc offers a ground-breaking curriculum, blending academic studies, company projects and cultural experiences. This course draws on the strengths of the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC). As one of the first universities to establish a department of Environmental Science, we have long been in the forefront of the field. We are placed sixth nationally for Geography and Environmental Science by the Guardian 2015 league table.

Students will gain a foundation in the areas of design and management, whilst specialising in environmental science. The course provides an excellent opportunity for ambitious students to work on high impact collaborative research, development and commercialisation projects between UK and Chinese businesses, whilst gaining an insight into Chinese business, language and culture.

Students will be able to use their practical, language and cultural proficiency as a launch pad for their future careers: establishing a global venture, joining an international organisation, government institution, or pursuing further academic studies.

Year 1


Michaelmas Term: October-December

After Welcome Week, all MSc International Innovation (Environmental Science) students choose three modules from the following list:

Food Security, Agriculture and Climate Change

Food security is achieved when all people have access to an adequate supply of safe and nutritious food. Currently there are around one billion people who are inadequately fed and this number is likely to double in the next 30 years. In this module you will look at the food system and the range of issues that ultimately determine who eats what. It addresses issues contributing to variation in food availability, the access that people have to food and the different ways in which food is utilised, and you will examine ways in which crops accumulate biomass and undergo reproductive development. You will consider why crop plants are so sensitive to biotic and abiotic stress and why there is so much concern about the effects of climate change on food availability and food prices. The impact of the food production system on the environment is considered along with the etensions arising from our quest for both food security and energy security. Factors impacting food safety and quality are discussed. The approach to the study of these issues is interdisciplinary in nature. The course takes an international perspective on GFS (Global Food Sceurity).

Toxicological Mechanisms and Measurements

In this module you will consider the underlying principals of toxicology, and the diverse applications of toxicology from mechanistic considerations to hazard assessment.

Consequences of Toxicological Effects

In this module you will consider the underlying principals of toxicology, and the human health effects of various environmental exposures.

Wildlife Monitoring Techniques

The aim of this module is to provide the studnets with knowledge of identification, sampling and monitoring methods for some key taxa. The module will have five sections, each delivered with one or two lectures and including a field componenet in campus or away. These are:

  • Bird census techniques. Identification of key groups, such as waders or woodland birds using plumage and song.
  • Mammal census techniques. Small mammal trapping and marking, issues of smaple bias, camera traps, indirect methods.
  • Terrestrial invertebrate sampling methods. Identification of key taxa to various levels of detail, trapping methods (e.g. pitfall, sweep netting, suction sampling).
  • Woodland sampling techniques. Measuring woodland structural complexity.
  • Measuring and representing species diversity (compute based session using EstinateS software).

Crop Protection

The aim of this module is to introduce you to key issues surrounding the loss of agricultural and horticultural produce to a range of pests and diseases, and the approaches that can be used to minimise these losses. This understanding will be underpinned by providing detailed knowledge of natural plant defence mechanisms and the biology and ecology of plant-pathogen and plant-insect interactions, and how these can be exploited to assist in crop-protection.

Lake Ecology

This module introduces you to the principles of lake ecology, an area with an acknowledged national lack of expertise. The module presents a holistic approach to the drivers and internal interactions that control water quality in lakes. You will learn basic ecological principles, elucidated using lake ecology, introduce application of state-of-the-art techniques and provide essential background information for anyone dealing with EU Directives such as the Water framework Directive in the future.

Data assimilation and integration

Current approaches to cutting-edge research in the environmental sciences are highly dependent on digital data, and a wide variety of different data types can now be accessed relatively easily. You only need to consider the data required to understand climate change to appreciate the diversity of information that is currently available, and which is needed to address the biggest global issues.

In this module you will learn the fundamentals of retrieving, annotating, analysing and interpreting digital data from avariety of sources, applying integrated, scientific methodologies. You will develop data manipulation skills and an awareness of the tools available to maximise the value of hetrogenous digital data. We demonstrate everyday problems in data collection, both avoidable and unavoidable, and explore techniques that minimise their impact. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of current software for data mining and visualisation, and you will get hands-on experience of data integration using spreadsheet, database and GIS technologies.

Groundwater Resources and Protection

In this module you will be introduced to the principles if groundwater floiw and transport and describe the various approaches for investigating groundwater systems. Challenges facing management of groundwater quality and quantity are outlined. Use is made of computer models to solve practical problems relevant to the water industry.

Pollution Microbiology

This module introduces you to the interactions between microorganisms and naturally occurring organic matter and how this relates to the degradation and persistence of environmental pollutants. The mechanistics of organic matter decomposition and pollutant degradation will be discussed in detail, with particular emphasis being placed on environmental systems, particularly that of soil. You will also look at the application of these processes in biological treatment of chemically contaminated ecosystems, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the processes, using case studies.

Chemical Risk Assessment

This module will help you to develop a grounding in the scientific process behind chemical risk analysis. The effect of chemicals in the environment will be introduced with concepts such as dose-response relationships and observed-effect levels, as well as examining modes of entry and route of exposure to humans, biota and the ecosystem as a whole. A large part of the module will be dedicated to understanding quantitative exposure assessment, with the introduction of fate modelling and the predication ofconcentrations in different environmental compartments. You will be introduced to current assessment procedures for pesticide / chemical registration and will take part in group practical and workshops to understand the steps in chemical risk analysis.

Global Change and the Earth System

The aim of this module is to introduce the concept of the Earth system and how the different components (atmosphere, ocean, ice and ecosystems) all interact with each other to shape the earth’s climate and control how the climate might change. The module will cover issues related to recent climate change, including natural and human drivers of the change. It will introduce the computer models and global observation networks that scientists use to understand the Earth system. It will also discuss the role of atmospheric chemistry and climate in the Earth system, including issues related to air quality, greenhouse gases and aerosols.

Overall, this module aims to provide an introduction to the physical processes which influence global climate change, leading to a better understanding of the Earth system science.

Physical Volcanology

The module aims to provide you with the knowledge of volcanoes and volcanic systems. Its foundations are an understanding of the properties and behaviour of volcanic materials gained through laboratory, theoretical and field study. The module emphasizes the widely-applicable physical and chemical processes that occur during volcanic activity, including variations in solubility, rheology, phase, density, and permeability. The interaction of volcanic processes with the biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere are discussed. The products of volcanism, together with the hazard and benefits to life on Earth are studied.

Behaviour of Pollutants in the Environment

This module focuses on the fate and behaviour of contaminants in the environment, considering fundamental principles and processes which control their fate in environment systems. You will gain an understanding of the fundamental principles relating to the fate and behaviour of contaminants in environmental media for scientist with relevant degress.

Environmental Aspects of Renewable Energy

This module covers the possible positive and negative effects that various forms of renewable energy have on the environment. You will develop a critical understanding of the key concepts of renewable energy, and the tools and techniques for assessing the environmental impact of renewable energy schemes. In particular, you will be able to assess the challenges facing the development and deployment of large renewable energy schemes and the uncertainties related to their environmental impact.

Modelling Environmental Processes

This module provides an introduction to basic principles and approaches to computer-aided modelling of environmental processes with applications to real environmental problems such as catchment modelling, pollutant dispersal in rivers and estuaries and population dynamics. Emphasis is placed on the use of computer-based methods and practical examples and you will be introduced to general aspects of environmental systems modelling.

Contaminated Land and Remediation

This module will provide you with a broad view of issues related to contaminated land, in particular: typical contamination problems; methodologies for assessing the extent and seriousness of contamination; applicability and effectiveness of remediation techniques as a function of contaminant and site conditions.

Geological Hazards

This module will introduce you to the fundamentals of geological hazards and the processes responsible. The module puts geological hazards in their context and includes issues of probabilistic and deterministic prediction, with linkage to response and preparedness issues, and issues of hazard monitoring techniques. The module addresses the fundamental processes and mechanism by which prediction of geological hazards can be understood. Specific hazards examined are seismic-based hazards, landslides, volcanic hazards and extreme geological events. These are considered at a variety of scales from big to small. Case studies will be explored and expanded in your own readings.

Environmental Sampling and Analysis for Trace Organics

This module will give you both theoretical and practical experience of analytical chemistry techniques used to obtain environmental data. Attention is given to the entire sampling analytical systems and the fundamentals of common analytical techniques in environmental analysis like mass spectrometry and chromatography. You will consider what steps/techniques are required to ensure the high quality of the analytical results allowing statistical interpretation etc. Lectures on principles of organic analytical chemistry are complimented with practical laboratory exercises in small groups working in the LEC research laboratories.


This module will introduce you to the fundamental principles of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing and shows how these complimentary technologies may be used to capture / derive, manipulate, analyse and display different forms of spatially-referenced environmental data.

Catchment Protection (field course)

Catchments are increasingly perceived as complex and highly interconnected systems. This presents significant difficulties for those who manage catchments, but also a range of novel and timely research opportunities. In this context, the module aims to provide you with understanding and practical experience of key research and management challenges facing the future management of catchments. The module will take the Eden catchment as a case study, and draw on the latest land and water management framework, derived from the Water Framework Directive, as a basis for discussion. After analysing this framework and identifying significant challenges, you will use a combination of field, laboratory and data analysis techniques to investigate research questions related to biophysical processes within catchments. These investigation will lead to an appreciation of the limits to current knowledge and the opportunities for future research.

Safety and environmental impact assessment: an industrial perspective

This module covers the link between science and industry in relation to chemical safety and environmental impact risk assessments. Companies, such as Unilever, have taken a lead in developing state-of-the-art biological approaches to enable us to make decisions regarding the risk from chemical exposures in the environment. This is a paradigm shift away from traditional risk assessment strategies. Uniquely, this course will be delivered exclusively by individuals from industry who have pioneered these developments internationally. This is a major opportunity to witness how laboratory-based academic research translates into end-user, industrial applications.

Data Analysis and Interpretation

A full first course in statistics and data analysis from a non-mathematical viewpoint. Covering both parametric and non-parametric methods, up to and including generalised linear models.

The Causes and Consequences of Environmental Radioactivity

In this module you will learn the mechanisms by which we measure and control exposure to radiation. You will study the sources of naturally occurring radioactivity and radioactive contaminants to the environment and their behaviour in the environment, in order to better understand how people can become exposed. You will be able to understand and evaluate the risk to human populations of accidents, such as Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Data Analysis and Programming Skills

The module provides you with advanced scientific and numeracy skills. The module focuses on data processing and visualisation for use with dissertation work. It includes introductory elements of Matlab and Simulink, currently a de facto visualisation and numerical processing industry standard. Some comparison to other programming languages, in particular Fortran and C is provided. The main programming elements are introduced and used in examples: data input, processing, output in numerical and graphical forms, programming tools and structures (loops, conditional statements and other flow control). The course introduces selected principles of dynamic systems analysis such as transfer functions applied to environmental systems in the form of examples and case studies.

Numerical Skills

Having a basic level of numerical skill is required in order to perform well in many LEC PGT modules. This module provides baseline numerical, statistical and mathematical skills to underpin academic modules and as an employability skill in its own right.

Sustainable Soil Management

The aim of this module is to introduce you to key issues surrounding the ability of the soil to produce crops, and the agricultural / economic consequences of failing to manage this resource properly. Most agricultural production is dependent on the soil not only to anchor plants, but to supply their hydraulic and nutritional needs. Furthermore, the rhizosphere (soil adjacent to the root surface) is a biological hotspot comprising micro-organisms that can directly or indirectly assist crop nutrient acquisition (rhizobia, mycorrhize and plant growth promoting rhizobacteria) or casue disease. Increasingly, the soil is being recognised as a global resource to aid carbon sequestration (even in agricultural systems) and / or act as repository for waste derived from other industries.

Note: Selection of the environmental science modules above will be subject to availability and timetabling.

Together with students on the other pathways, you also take a module on design:

Design-driven Innovation

This module introduces design-driven innovation as a mind-set that has the ability to close the innovation loop, from user-centred research to commercially viable innovations. It presents a variety of frameworks that help you to gain a comprehensive understanding of design thinking, methods and concepts and of how these can be applied to design-driven innovation. Theoretical material delivered in lectures and seminars is tested and evaluated through workshops. These will be aligned to appropriate external drivers, such as competition briefs or 'live' projects, allowing you to put theories and methods into practice in order to address a real-world design problem.

Lent Term: January-March

You choose a further three specialist modules, selected from the list above (see Michaelmas Term: October-December)

Note: Selection of the environmental science modules above will be subject to availability and timetabling.

Together with students on other pathways, you also take:

Corporate Entrepreneurship

This module illuminates the entrepreneurial strategies of large companies. This includes the challenges of setting up and managing corporate spin-offs as well as 'intrapreneurship' strategies where employees are empowered and enabled to act as entrepreneurs within the company in pursuit of competitive edge and new business fields.

Summer Term: April-July

During this term you apply your knowledge and skills to the first of your company projects:

UK Project

Students will work on behalf of an industry partner or partners in the UK. The projects are likely to take a variety of forms, but will involve collaborative R&D and commercialisation to support the development of new ventures, products, services or business processes. Working either individually or as part of a cross-disciplinary team, you will take in several projects, involving businesses in the UK.

Non-Chinese speakers will also take the following module:

Chinese Language and Culture for Business

This module is designed as a breakthrough into Mandarin Chinese in its standardised spoken form and in simplified characters as used in mainland China, particularly the language used in the business context, for beginners with no or little knowledge of Chinese. The intensive mode of learning on the module, in the short term, provides an immersive learning environment for preparing students linguistically and culturally for their half-year industrial project in China, while the long-term goal of the module is to raise students’ awareness of cultural diversity and Chinese-Western cultural differences and to develop their linguistic and intercultural competence of communicating with the Chinese appropriately and effectively in their future career.

Those already fluent in Chinese will take the following modules:

Chinese Culture for Business

Students will examine Chinese culture, particularly that of business, from a Western perspective. The long-term goal of the module is to raise students’ awareness of cultural diversity and Chinese-Western cultural differences

Business Ethics and Society I & II

The objective of this course is to attempt to develop moral sensibility and practical reasoning in the context of managerial everyday action in organisations. The course will be concerned with morality in action, as it happens, rather than a removed reflection on codes and principles of ethics. The course will aim to show that ethics in action is diffused and difficult. Nevertheless, managers and employees have a responsibility to ‘work it out’ for themselves. It is this ‘how to work it out’ that the course will keep as its focus. The course will use a number of case studies as a basis to develop this moral sensibility so that managers will be able to act in a morally appropriate manner as part of their ongoing organisational action.

Year 2

Michaelmas & Lent Terms: October-March

You will spend six months working in China on an in-depth project for an industry partner. It is anticipated that most of the projects will be based in or around the city of Guangzhou. This project work provides a great chance for you to put your skills to use in genuine business situations, learn first-hand practical lessons about the business world, and exchange ideas with entrepreneurs and business leaders. The projects are likely to take a variety of forms, but will involve collaborative R&D and commercialisation to support the development of new ventures, products, services or business processes. Working either individually or as part of a cross-disciplinary team, you will take in several projects, involving businesses in both the UK and China.

See company projects for more detail

Summer Term: April-July

During this term students return to Lancaster University to write up their company project assignment, reflect on their experiences in China and may attend career-focused seminars and workshops.

More information

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