Why Geography at Lancaster?
From our flexible degree pathways to our incredible fieldwork opportunities, find out why our students love studying Geography at Lancaster.
9th for Geography and Environmental Science
The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide (2023)
16th for Geography and Environmental Sciences
The Complete University Guide (2024)
Top 100 for Environmental Sciences in the QS World Ranking league table
Learn about processes operating within our natural environment and explore the physical world. Work in our outstanding practical facilities, alongside world-renowned lecturers. Benefit from support to secure a paid placement enabling you to experience twelve months working in the type of organisation that you might aspire to join when you graduate.
Physical Geography considers the processes and patterns occurring within our natural environment, including the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere. Our Physical Geography degree has a strong emphasis on practical work. You will discover how the environment has changed in the past, the controls on environmental processes in the present, and how we can predict changes in the future. You are able to shape your degree by choosing from an extensive range of modules.
Lancaster proves to be an exceptional location for studying a degree in physical geography. Located between the rural settings of the north and the bustling cities of Liverpool and Manchester, Lancaster’s position enables us to explore some of the UK’s most unique areas of geographic interest. You will gain a wealth of hands-on experience with field trips to places such as the Yorkshire Dales, Cumbrian coast and Lake District, as well as international locations such as Switzerland and Croatia.
While studying at the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC), you will have access to new teaching and research labs, computer systems and software and even our very own weather monitoring station. You will work in comfortable class sizes, giving you the opportunity to get to know your lecturers personally and benefit from their expert knowledge and helpful one-to-one advice.
First year modules equip you with a well-rounded introduction to some of the key themes of physical geography. In addition to the Physical Geography modules, you will be given the opportunity to take two other subjects alongside your first year studies. You will further develop your understanding of environmental processes by studying another subject from within LEC, such as Environmental Science, as well as undertaking a third subject from either within LEC or the wider University, such as Biology or Maths, to enhance your transferrable skills.
To prepare you for your work placement year, our Careers and Placements Team will provide advice and guidance on: the skills required to create effective CVs, cover letters and applications; tips and techniques on how to make an impact at interviews and assessment centres; how to create a relevant digital profile; and how to research employers and career sectors of interest. In addition, there is great emphasis placed upon developing self-awareness and on how to present yourself in a professional manner to employers. This optional provision will be delivered via a blend of traditional and digital methods including face-to-face workshops, online webinars, e-courses and 1:1 appointments.
In the second year, you will learn a variety of physical geography skills and concepts. Modules include Spatial Analysis and Geographic Information Systems, and you will develop valuable research project skills in preparation for your final year of study. Optional choices could include a field trip to Spain, where you will study environmental problems in Mediterranean environments, and modules that address individual topics in hydrology, soil science, and glaciology.
You will spend your third year on placement before returning to Lancaster where you will continue in your chosen specialities. The placement offers you the opportunity to work as a full-time employee of the organisation whilst still receiving both academic and pastoral support.
The University will use all reasonable effort to support you to find a suitable placement for your studies. While a placement role may not be available in a field or organisation that is directly related to your academic studies or career aspirations, all placement roles offer valuable experience of working at a graduate level and gaining a range of professional skills. If you are unsuccessful in securing a suitable placement for your third year, you will be able to transfer to the equivalent non-placement degree scheme and continue with your studies at Lancaster, finishing your degree after your third year.
In the final year you will undertake a dissertation project, guided by your academic supervisor which offers a chance to perform original geographical research on a topic of your choice. While completing the dissertation, you will use the key research, analytical and academic writing skills you have learnt throughout your degree. In addition, you will be offered further optional module choices possibly including exciting fieldwork opportunities in Croatia and Switzerland.
A degree in Physical Geography will help you to understand the way our natural environment works and changes, and will stand you in excellent stead for embarking on careers tackling some of the biggest contemporary issues, such as climate change and flood risk management. Graduates from our Physical Geography courses have gone on to many exciting careers, from Environmental and Land Consultants, to Data Analysts and Flood Risk Specialists. Physical Geographers are also well placed to secure roles and opportunities in sectors that might not be obvious such as marketing and sales, teaching, travel and tourism, and commercial business. This is down to your transferable skills in communication, software competencies, project management and data analysis. Graduates from our courses are also well-paid, with the median starting salary of graduates from Lancaster Environment Centre being £24,500 (HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2022).
Here are just some of the roles that our BSc and MSci Physical Geography students have progressed into upon graduating:
Lancaster University is dedicated to ensuring you not only gain a highly reputable degree, you also graduate with the relevant life and work based skills. We are unique in that every student is eligible to participate in The Lancaster Award which offers you the opportunity to complete key activities such as work experience, employability/career development, campus community and social development. Visit our Employability section for full details.
A Level ABB
Required Subjects A level Geography is recommended, or alternatively one of the following subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Environmental Studies, Mathematics, Physics.
GCSE Mathematics grade C or 4, English Language grade C or 4
IELTS 6.5 overall with at least 5.5 in each component. For other English language qualifications we accept, please see our English language requirements webpages.
International Baccalaureate 32 points overall with 16 points from the best 3 Higher Level subjects including Geography or alternative cognate subject at HL grade 6
BTEC Distinction, Distinction, Merit in a related subject but may additionally require a supporting A level in Geography or alternative cognate subject at grade B. Please contact the Admissions Team for further advice.
We welcome applications from students with a range of alternative UK and international qualifications, including combinations of qualification. Further guidance on admission to the University, including other qualifications that we accept, frequently asked questions and information on applying, can be found on our general admissions webpages.
Contact Admissions Team + 44 (0) 1524 592028 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
Lancaster University offers a range of programmes, some of which follow a structured study programme, and some which offer the chance for you to devise a more flexible programme to complement your main specialism.
Information contained on the website with respect to modules is correct at the time of publication, and the University will make every reasonable effort to offer modules as advertised. In some cases changes may be necessary and may result in some combinations being unavailable, for example as a result of student feedback, timetabling, Professional Statutory and Regulatory Bodies' (PSRB) requirements, staff changes and new research. Not all optional modules are available every year.
This module provides an introduction to environmental processes and their impacts in a variety of different environments. We discuss the physical processes governing the Earth's global climate system and their influence on recent and future patterns of climate and environmental change. We investigate the Earth’s surface materials and the laws that govern the behaviour of fluids, and how these affect environmental flow and fluid transport processes. We also explore the processes which influence the development of soils and associated ecosystems at the land surface, including deposition and erosion processes.
This module provides an introduction to the skills used by geographers to analyse problems in both human and physical geography. The module begins by reviewing the principles of cartography and recent developments in the electronic delivery of map-based information through mobile devices and web-based services. This is followed by an introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) which provide facilities for the capture, storage, analysis and display of spatially-referenced information. Later in the module we introduce remote sensing and explain its relationship to GIS. We also consider quantitative and qualitative techniques of analysis (which are taught within the context of contemporary conceptual approaches), with emphasis placed on the study of both environmental and societal processes.
This module provides an introduction to the structure and function of aquatic food webs in freshwater, estuarine and marine environments. Emphasis is placed on the role of nutrients (bottom-up control) and predation (top-down control) on participating organisms in their freshwater, estuarine, and marine environments. Students will understand the importance of algae, whether planktonic or attached, in the primary productivity of aquatic ecosystems and how this is affected by nutrient concentration and composition. The way in which anthropogenic influences can alter the balance of aquatic food webs, and the subsequent problems which may arise, is discussed.
There will be practical sessions on areas such as algae, zooplankton and macroinvertebrates. Workshops will cover the analysis of data using excel, and the characteristics of lake trophic status in The Lake District.
This module provides an introduction to atmospheric science, giving you an understanding of the physical behaviour of the atmosphere through both meteorological theory and observation. We investigate the structure and characteristics of the atmosphere and explore the physical principles which govern its behaviour and which lead to the everyday experience of weather. We also look at the wider role of the atmosphere as an important component of the Earth's climate system.
Practical sessions give you an opportunity to take your own measurements of a wide variety of meteorological variables, to interpret weather charts and satellite images, and to investigate the scientific principles which underpin the way our atmosphere and climate system work.
Introducing the nature of biological diversity and the patterns of distribution of organisms on global, regional and ecosystem scales, students discover the underlying causes of the observed biodiversity patterns and the main current threat to biodiversity. The reasons why species become extinct is explored and then the reasons why species should be preserved. Students will be able to outline the criteria that can be used to identify species and areas of high conservation importance.
Fieldtrips take place on campus, where students will look at sampling techniques and biodiversity, and to sites of special conservation interest in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB. There will also be an excursion to Blackpool Zoo.
Students will be introduced to key biogeochemical processes that have a major impact on the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere during this module. They will learn how biogeochemistry has shaped the Earth's environment.
The importance of biogeochemical processes will be demonstrated through a consideration of their relevance to the environmental discipline of Earth System Science. The processes will be illustrated using examples of biogeochemical cycles of various elements, on various spatial scales, including carbon. How anthropogenic perturbations have dramatically influenced the biogeochemical cycles of different elements will also be discussed.
The concept of breaking the environment down into different reservoirs or compartments with simple box-modelling concepts will be introduced to students. In addition, the interesting concepts of chemistry shaping biology and biology shaping chemistry allowing Earth's evolution will be explored along with the Gaia Hypothesis concept. On a practical note, students will develop their report writing and various numerical and quantitative laboratory skills.
Students will also undertake a number of basic procedures in a chemical laboratory, including preparing solutions, measuring pH and using bench-top instruments. Further to this, they will write scientific reports, based on laboratory experiments to simulate environmental weathering processes, involving numerical manipulation of the resulting data; and will learn to interpret chemical equations.
Introducing students to the development of evolutionary theory and the evidence for the evolutionary processes of natural and sexual selection, this module examines the evolutionary relationships of the major groups of organisms, and deals with speciation and human evolution.
Using specific examples of animal behaviour, we demonstrate how an understanding of natural and sexual selection can explain the diverse evolution of body structures, reproductive behaviours and life-history strategies.
This module investigates the geological processes and materials that shape our natural world. Assuming no prior knowledge of geology, you will gain valuable experience of volcanic, sedimentary and deformation processes – both theoretical and practical. You will learn to identify common rocks and minerals and describe the geological processes that formed them. Five topics are studied: minerals as building blocks of rocks; volcanism and plutonism; metamorphism; sedimentation, and deformation. This will enable you to interrogate the rock record to understand how our planet evolved in the past and how it may continue to do so in the future. This module is an ideal starting point if you are aiming for a career in the oil industry, hazard management, town planning, cartography, environmental consultancy, etc, but is aimed at anyone with a broad interest in the way the Earth works and who is curious to know more.
This module examines how the biosphere reacts to environmental change. It concentrates on the responses to changes such as increasing drought, global warming, ozone depletion, and air pollution. Emphasis is placed on understanding plants as the driving force for the effects of environment change on other organisms within terrestrial ecosystems. This will range from consideration of changes in complex natural ecosystems through to effects on humans, through changes in global food production. The module will also consider the direct effects of environmental change on human populations.
You will learn to describe the effects of global warming and pollution on plants and terrestrial ecosystems as well as the links between basic plant physiology and the consequences of environmental change. We also explore the direct and indirect effects of environmental change on human populations. You will take part in workshops that look at the effects of the environment on carbon fixation and water use, and human health and environment change.
Floods and water pollution are common side effects of our economic development. In this module we explore how to study rainfall, groundwater, evaporation and rivers and how to use this information to solve problems in the water environment. To introduce you to the subject of hydrology we use two case studies. The first is the impact of rainforest logging on the water environment in northern Borneo. In the second case study we look at how hydrology can provide insight into the water pollution risks from a proposed radionuclide repository at Sellafield.
A fieldtrip to gauge stream-flow in White Scar Cave and a number of laboratory practical sessions will help you to relate the hydrological theory to the solution of real-world environmental problems.
This module provides an introduction to the chemistry of environmental systems for students without A-level chemistry. It focuses on the fundamental chemical behaviour of elements and compounds especially as they relate to the environment. Students will learn the basic chemical characteristics of substances and understand what is meant by a chemical reaction and why they occur.
Workshops are an important feature of the course where students will learn about atomic structure, molecular properties and instrumental chemical analysis.
Depending upon the degree programme, students who hold an A-level in chemistry do not have to take this module and as such will have a further optional module to choose from.
Billions of people are at risk from natural hazards, and the cost of natural disasters to the global economy is steadily increasing. This module examines the distribution of, and hazards associated with, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods. The underlying geological and meteorological processes are described, along with the most commonly-used intensity scales and monitoring and forecasting methods. Students will then consider how human vulnerability to these hazards can be reduced, drawing upon risk mitigation case studies from around the world.
In the practicals, students will apply simple equations and measurements from a variety of maps and graphs to understand and quantify concepts such as scale, speed and intensity of hazardous phenomena. They will be taught to contour spatial data by hand, and interpret the deformation of a volcano in terms of magma chamber depth. Students will learn about disaster preparedness through playing a team-based game, and will consider a wide range of potential careers in which knowledge of natural hazards can be applied.
The coursework will develop students’ scientific writing skills and ability to integrate their own figures and interpretations with information derived from their background reading.
This module is designed to give students a foundation in the numerical skills required for studying environmental science. It focuses on developing explicit links between mathematical analysis and the physical processes that govern environmental systems. Workshop sessions with members of teaching staff provide an informal atmosphere for you to refresh your mathematical knowledge, to learn how numerical skills can enrich your understanding of the environment, and to develop a scientific approach to solving a range of environmental problems. We employ environmental case studies throughout the module and analyse a number of environmental data sets.
Depending upon degree programme, students who hold an AS-level in maths do not have to take this module and as such will have a further optional module to choose from.
Following the earlier module ‘Numerical Skills I’, students will gain a more complete understanding of the numerical skills required for studying the environment. Environmental case studies will be used in a mixture of lectures and workshops where students will learn to manipulate trigonometric equations, describe the basic principles of calculus and solve simple equations. These concepts will be applied to environmental examples including radioactive decay, atmospheric pressure scale height and chemical kinetics.
Depending upon degree programme, students who hold an AS-level in maths do not have to take this module and as such will have a further optional module to choose from.
Introducing you to contemporary human geography, this module focuses on the interactions between society and space, and between people and places at a variety of spatial scales and in different parts of the globe. We introduce the key processes driving geographical change affecting society, economies, the environment, and culture. We critically analyse relevant issues using theoretical models, with examples from across the world. The module encourages you to think critically, argue coherently, appraise published material, and relate real world issues to relevant theoretical frameworks.
This module takes you on a journey to the centre of our planet, investigating evidence for the composition and behaviour of the Earth's crust, mantle, outer core and inner core. You will gain an overview of the Earth’s 4.5 billion year history, and understand current theories which explain how plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions have shaped the Earth’s surface and influenced the atmosphere, climate and evolution of life.
This module will provide you with an understanding of how and why organisms are classified and named, and an appreciation of how identification keys are constructed and used. You will learn to construct simple classificatory and evolutionary trees, and to indicate their significance.
Evolutionary relationships will be evaluated using anatomical and other characteristics, and the distinctive features of major groups of animals will be outlined so that you are able to indicate the functional, evolutionary, and, in some cases, ecological and economic significance of them.
Practical sessions will enable you to take part in the identification of both invertebrate and vertebrate groups.
Being a Geographer in the contemporary world means engaging critically with questions about how geographical knowledge is produced and applied, and developing skills that can transfer beyond academic settings during and after life at University. This module, which involves a programme of tutorials, lectures and online learning activities, focuses on these aspects of your development as a Geographer. It considers, first, a series of issues that provide a way of looking critically at what Geography is now, as well as understanding how it has developed over time and the intense debates that have periodically erupted about its practice, politics and ethics. This includes engaging with racism and calls for decolonising the geography curriculum; gender equality and inclusion of marginalised forms of knowledge; and ethical responsibilities in relation to injustice and harm to both humans and non-humans. These broad issues are then connected through applying ethical principles and practical skills to being a geographer, and specifically in designing research and producing new geographical knowledge. By the end of this course, you will be able to critically engage with contemporary ethical issues for the discipline of geography, and display an understanding of the history of the development of geographical knowledge and practice, and its relevance to contemporary debates.
This module contains a series of four interactive workshops that cover all stages of career planning from exploring options to succeeding at recruitment and selection. It provides knowledge of the graduate labour market and techniques for developing personalised career plans to successfully and confidently transition into work or further study.
Students will also come to develop an understanding of the benefits of professional networking, and how to access opportunities for connecting with others in a professional manner. To this end, an effort to create a 'personal brand', which includes an awareness of both strengths and areas for development, is encouraged and can be extremely beneficial after graduation.
The module will be delivered during the summer term (weeks 5 to 8) through a number of timetabled sessions which will help to accommodate a variety of other commitments such as dissertations and summer exams.
This module will address data collection and analysis through a series of practical classes on Physical Geography research methods. This course will cover data collection techniques using observations, measurements and experimental approaches in both the field and the laboratory. Sessions on data handling skills will allow students to analyse and interpret the data obtained, whilst a session on writing techniques will allow students to understand how data findings can be communicated effectively through writing. Data and learning obtained throughout the course will then be used to produce a short research paper as a coursework assignment. After completing this course, you will have a working knowledge of how to utilise a variety of methodological approaches to physical geographical enquiry, be confident in using a range of statistical techniques for data processing and analysis, and understand the strengths and limitations of each of the techniques studied.
More data has been generated in the last 2 years than over whole history of humanity prior to this. Of this data, 80% has spatial content. This module is about understanding properties of spatial data, whether derived from the map, an archive or the field or from space. The module will explore how these data are represented in computer systems and how, through spatial integration, new forms of information may be derived. There will be a focus on major sources of spatial data (topographic, environmental, and socio-economic) and their properties, major forms of analyses based on spatial relationships, and on effective communication of spatial data through adherence to principles of map design.
Students will develop an understanding of what makes spatial data special; this will be taught through exposure to data from a variety of primary, secondary, contemporary and historic data across the breadth of the geographic discipline. The module will introduce common forms of spatial analysis and will provide an understanding of which to use under given the situations. Students will learn the principles of map design and effective cartographic communication, as well as gaining practical experience of critiquing digital outputs. Finally, the module will offer students significant 'hands-on' experience of using state-of-the-art GIS software to capture, integrate, analyse and present geographic information.
This module provides a deeper understanding of atmospheric physics and chemistry, and begins by laying the foundations with the physical properties of the atmosphere and how they affect the movement of air. A major objective is to bring familiarity with meteorological analyses and forecasts. The module covers topics varying from small scale flow in the atmospheric boundary layer affecting pollutant transport to global scale circulation of the atmosphere including important phenomena such as monsoons and El Niño.
Practical sessions and a field trip to the Hazelrigg meteorological station will enable students to gain familiarity with mid-latitude synoptic systems, cyclones and fronts. This is built on by giving students sufficient knowledge about the chemical composition of the Earth's atmosphere, of the fluxes of C, S and N to and from the atmosphere and of the main chemical processes that occur in the atmosphere to allow them to understand how the Earth's atmosphere 'works' chemically within the framework of physical process already covered.
Successful completion of this module will show evidence of students’ ability to describe the structure and behaviour of the atmosphere with reference to meteorological observations and pathways of atmospheric transport from analysis of meteorological charts, in addition to the range of skills required to draw schematic diagrams of the general tropospheric circulation, whilst identifying the major processes (and underlying forces) that drive this circulation. Students will gain knowledge of the methods necessary to calculate atmospheric quantities, such as potential temperature, and use the results of these calculations to describe the state of the atmosphere. Students will also be equipped with the level of understanding needed to list the components of the unpolluted troposphere, including the trace gases of chemical significance, and draw annotated schematic diagrams of the atmospheric cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and sulphur.
The module aims to introduce concepts, plus measurement and analytical techniques used by professional hydrologists to solve water-related problems in catchments (notably flood forecasting and water quality remediation). Through a series of lectures and workshops, students can expect to study topics including the processes, measurement and analysis of rainfall, evapotranspiration and water quality measurement and treatment.
The module aims to develop higher level scientific skills in measuring the natural environment, quantifying dynamic processes numerically and digesting scientific literature. Students will gain the skillset required to describe catchment hydrological processes in a quantitative manner, therefore utilising a developed understanding of fundamental hydrological processes, their field measurement ('hydrometry') and basic aspects of dynamic catchment modelling. Additionally, students will gain a range of transferrable academic skills, such as the ability to use data and basic models to derive solutions, and applying subject-specific literature to help understand theory and limitations of theory, measurements and models.
The provisioning of affordable, low carbon and secure energy is a central challenge for the UK Government. This module provides an overview of energy technologies and the energy system within the UK. Students will focus on each of the key energy technologies learning how to detail its importance, its forms and uses, how much is produced, and its cost and environmental impact. Relevant policies and its current role in the energy mix will be outlined while energy distribution networks, overall policy drivers and future energy mixes will also be explored.
This module will equip the students with an understanding of the economic, political, technological, resource and environmental factors that affect decision making, which while specific to energy are applicable to the provisioning of other resources. It will offer the opportunity to think broadly across UK energy provisions and options for the future. The students will also get the chance to build on their numerical skills and understanding of energy units. They will also critically evaluate the importance of competing factors and summarise a complex concept in an easy to interpret infographic format.
Evolution is the fundamental concept in biology and an understanding of its processes and effects are important for biologists in all disciplines. The module aims to show how the morphology and behaviour of animals and plants is adapted to their environment through interactions with their own and other species, including competitors, parasites, predators and prey, and relatives. Students will explore the concept of adaptation to natural and sexual selection pressures at the level of the individual and the effects on the wider population.
Students will gain the ability to describe the roles that variation, heritability and selection play in the evolutionary process, along with a developed understanding of how numerical changes in population occur, and enhanced knowledge of how to analyse such shifts in order to make predictions about future changes. This module will also reinforce students’ understanding of the application of theoretical models, the changing effects of costs and behaviours due to circumstance, and how conflicts of interest might influence the reproductive success of individuals.
Students taking this module will gain a range of transferable skills including: report writing, data analysis and presentation, team working, verbal presentation, summarising technical texts and design of scientific enquiries.
A record of Earth’s geological history – its metamorphic, igneous, sedimentary and tectonic processes, and its surface paleogeography and climate – can be extracted from the analysis and interpretation of its rocks, minerals and fossils. Expanding on an earlier module in geology, this module examines such processes and products (rocks), focusing on how to interpret the geological history from the rock record. This is a strongly practical-based course, designed to provide students with key geologic skills required to interpret the rock record. Students will develop skills in the identification of minerals in thin section, identification of rocks and fossils in hand specimen, geologic map interpretation, use of topographic and geologic maps and field note books, field sketches, compass clinometers and stratigraphic logging, in addition to a range of skills in synthesising data in order to produce overall interpretations.
Students will gain the necessary skills required to describe and classify rocks in a specimen, and identify minerals in thin section. Students will develop a working understanding of how rocks are dated, and will utilise stereonets to extract sedimentological and structural data. Additionally, students will be able to interpret geologic maps, including sedimentological and structural data, and will determine past sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic environments of formation and the processes by which deformation and exhumation occur, along with developing the ability to apply Earth science field techniques in order to unravel the geologic history of an area.
This course provides an advanced overview of the processes that determine the nature of the Earth's surface features. It will introduce you to glaciology, hydrology, hillslope processes, Aeolian activity, and the impact that these have on both the Earth's surface and on the sediments beneath. The aim is to help you develop a clear and detailed understanding of physical geography and to provide a firm foundation for developing deeper insights through specialisation into different elements of the subject in your third year.
Eco-innovation, being the development of new products, processes or services that support business growth with a positive environmental impact, is one of the key enabling instruments identified by the European Union for the transition to a more resource efficient economy. It is embedded in the Europe 2020 strategy for supporting sustainable growth. This module will provide several case studies which outline the way in which businesses have applied eco-innovation in practice Students will gain knowledge of the key approaches to, and models of, eco-innovation in a range of business and policy contexts in addition to a reinforced understanding of how innovative ideas can be turned into practical solutions for complex socio-environmental problems, and how different business models and financing approaches can be used to make the solution commercially viable and potentially profitable.
Students will gain knowledge of eco-innovation and understand how the concept relates to business opportunities for environmental goods and services. In addition, students will gain the knowledge and skillset required to analyse how both small businesses and large global organisations apply eco-innovation into their business planning, whilst
Evaluating business opportunities related to the environment in the context of products and services to address flooding or other complex problems. Students will learn how to create proposals for eco-innovation, and prepare presentations for a panel of experts, and will develop the necessary level of understanding required to analyse technical, financial, and environmental information from a wide range of sources in order to comprehend and evaluate strategies to address complex environment-society problems and challenges.
Recent emphasis on global change and biodiversity has raised awareness of the importance of species and their interactions in determining how sustainable our lifestyle is. This module explores the factors that drive population and community dynamics, with a strong focus on multi-trophic interactions and terrestrial ecosystems.
Students will be introduced to population ecology and will discover the abiotic factors that regulate populations, life history strategies of populations, competitive interactions within populations, and meta-population dynamics, in addition to an understanding of how species interact both within and across trophic levels. The module exposes students to the belowground system and will look at how the species interactions and soil communities discussed impact on community structure and dynamics. The module aims to give students a fundamental understanding of ecology - such knowledge is essential for informing conservation and sustainable land-use practices, and efforts to mitigate climate change.
In order to complete this module, students will develop the ability to outline the primary factors that drive population dynamics, whilst critically discussing examples, and will reinforce their understanding of the implications of species interactions for community dynamics. Students will also gain a critical awareness of biotic responses and their contribution to climate change.
This module aims to provide students with broad understanding of the discipline of conservation biology. The module starts by defining biodiversity, discussing its distribution in space and time, and its value to humankind, before examining the key anthropogenic threats driving recent enhanced rates of biodiversity loss. The module then focuses on the challenges for conservation of biodiversity at several levels of the biological hierarchy: genes, species, communities and ecosystems, and the techniques used by conservationists at these levels. The final part of the module looks at the practice of conservation through discussion of prioritisation, reserve design and national and international conservation policy and regulation.
Students will develop a range of skills including the ability to discuss the principle threats to global biodiversity and the rationale for biodiversity conservation, in addition to application of a range of metrics to quantify biodiversity. Students will gain a critical understanding of the various approaches to conserving genetic, species and ecosystem diversity, as well as an enhanced knowledge of quantification of popularisation approaches to prioritisation of conservation goals, and how nature reserves can be designed to improve conservation potential.
This module aims to introduce and demonstrate the nature and properties of soils in an environmental context. It will provide an introduction to soil formation, soil description (including field work), chemical and physical properties, and biology, which will lead to the application of soil science to a variety of practical problems. This module gives exciting grounding in the nature and importance of soils in context with wider environmental issues. As well as detailed knowledge of fine scale soil processes, students will learn interdisciplinary thinking that helps them connect different and complex strands of knowledge from around the earth system.
Students will be able to describe the nature and roles of soils in the environment, and will gain the level of understanding required to describe the nature and role of soils in the environment. Successful students will be able to give a basic account of soil chemical and physical properties, as well as soil biology, and will develop the ability to discuss applied aspects of soils, specifically nutrient recycling and carbon storage.
You will spend your third year working in a graduate-level placement role. This is an opportunity to gain experience in an industry or sector that you might be considering working in once you graduate.
Our Careers and Placements Team will support you during your placement with online contact and learning resources.
You will undertake a work-based learning module during your placement year which will enable you to reflect on the value of the placement experience and to consider what impact it has on your future career plans.
The dissertation project is an individual and individually supervised extensive project ending in submission of a substantial dissertation report. Students will choose from a set of dissertation research areas or topics based on a LEC-wide list compiled by the module conveyor. There will be regular meetings with dissertation supervisor, and students will develop a specific dissertation topic, along with research questions, aims, objectives and methods. This will be followed by a period of background reading, discussion and planning, before their dissertation drafts are analysed, marked and a final draft of up to 10,000 is submitted in week 11 of the term.
Students must take active involvement in the module and make good use of interaction with the supervisor in order to deepen their subject specific knowledge and ability to work independently. Depending on the discipline, style and topic, students may focus on methods, field techniques, lab techniques, or a combination of computer and software tools.
You will have the option of taking either a Dissertation or a Dissertation with External Partner. However, please note that students taking a Study Abroad year must take the Dissertation option.
This intensive week-long residential fieldtrip to south west Switzerland is a new collaborative third year module, jointly offered by the University of Lausanne and Lancaster University. It is a unique intercultural exchange in knowledge, with Lancaster and Lausanne students working together. The module provides students with training in the design and implementation of research to understand alpine environments. Students will collect significant amounts of field data and focus on one of six interconnected study themes, spanning: alpine climate and hydrology; glacial processes; alpine rivers; streams; soils; and ecosystems. The module will provide students with an in-depth understanding of a particular thematic focus of alpine environments.
This module explores climate change in the context of it being a ‘wicked problem’. The aim is to provoke students to look beyond the simple narratives pushed at us about climate change and to start to think critically as wicked problems require us to do. In doing so, students are invariably forced to abandon often naive assumptions about what can and can't be done to tackle climate related risks.
This module employs developing and using an Integrated Assessment Model (IAM) as its primary learning device because, for all their deficiencies, IAMs have become the most important way synthesising the various components of the climate change 'problem'. Practical decision making is a theme running through the module supported by quantitative analysis. However, this necessarily involves debate and discussion over the normative values we use in our analysis of climate change and students will be expected to actively participate in this debate, holding and developing their line of argument both in small groups and in class wide discussions.
By the end of this module, students will recognise the role of societal and climate dynamics in climate change management, and will gain the necessary knowledge required to comprehend the basis of sustainable development in the context of climate change management. They will also be able to perform simple, yet meaningful evaluation of a range of climate related options.
Students will learn both the principles on which remote sensing systems operate, and how useful environmental information can be derived from remotely sensed data. From this, students will be able to compare the information provided by remote sensing sensors from several areas of research such as ecology, biology, geography, geology, marine and atmosphere science.
They will also develop image processing skills and learn how remote sensing data can be used to extend our understanding of ecosystems and global environmental changes.
The aims of this module are fulfilled by initially examining the physical basis of remote sensing in terms of the characteristics of electromagnetic radiation and its interactions with the Earth's atmosphere and biosphere. This physical basis is also examined in terms of how the sensors and satellites operate in a modern earth system observatory. The techniques used to analyse and interpret images will then be used to understand local, regional and global environmental changes.
This is followed by an investigation of the environmental applications of remote sensing. Here, satellite images from NASA, ESA and several international space agencies are used to illustrate the increasing importance of remotely-sensed data for environmental and climate applications.
Laboratory practicals allow students to study the physical principles of remote sensing, and computer practicals are used to demonstrate image analysis techniques using ENVI Imagine: a state-of-the-art software package.
This module covers both the principles of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and GIScience, and provides practical experience in the use of GIS using ArcGIS, a leading windows-based package. Students will engage with a number of theoretical issues, such as the problems of representing real world phenomena in GIS databases, and will consider emerging trends within the discipline such as WebGIS and the Open Source GIS movement. Lectures also explore the use of GI in government, commercial and academic sectors and related employment opportunities, and are complimented by a series of practical sessions in ArcGIS. Initial exercises are concerned with creating, manipulating and querying spatial data using the core functionality of the software, and subsequent exercises demonstrate more sophisticated forms of spatial analysis using a range of extension products including Spatial Analyst, Network Analyst and ArcScene.
Over the duration of the module, students are required to source their own data, conduct appropriate analyses and produce a project report. This combination of concepts, theories and practical experience provides students with the requisite skills to enter the graduate workplace, and they will learn how to explain how data may be modelled, captured, stored, manipulated and retrieved from within GIS. Additionally, the module will enhance students’ abilities in a range of areas, such as the design and implementation of a spatial database and appropriate forms of analysis, knowledge of the latest developments and emerging issues and trends in GIS and GISc.
This module takes a broad look at geological hazards, covering contemporary events, to those that have shaped the Earth over geological time. Specific hazards are addressed, including earthquakes and tsunamis, terrestrial and sub-marine landslides at a variety of differing scales, landslide triggering and principles of run-out, volcanic hazards (eruption styles, plumes and pyroclastic flows) and extreme events which civilisation has yet to witness.
The module explores in depth the fundamental processes involved, and to what extent events can be predicted. Case histories of national and international disasters will be used to illustrate these hazards, with the inherent risks and potential mitigation measures discussed. The module develops a sense of human-place in the geological world, promoting an understanding of how the geological world impacts human society, and what can be done to limit that impact.
Students will be able to describe and explain the processes responsible for the occurrence, recurrence and magnitude of geological hazards, and will gain the knowledge needed to evaluate hazard prediction methods. Additionally, students will gain a critical understanding of risk mitigation strategies, with reference to examples from around the world, and will gain the practical knowledge required to apply simple principles of analysis of slope failure using a variety of natural hazard situations. Students will also be able to demonstrate how simple probabilistic models may be applied to forecasting earthquakes, and discuss the uncertainties inherent in these techniques.
This module will give you an insight into the physical dynamics and ecological interactions within glacial systems. We begin with the concept of mass and surface energy balance, determining when and where snow and ice melt may occur. This determines how water flows through a glacier and introduces the concept of hydrological regime. We then study the implications that this has for glacial dynamics and the legacy of past glacial systems in the environment. Where ice sheets and glaciers overlie active volcanic systems there is currently very little understanding of how the two forces interact - does volcanic activity control glacier behaviour or is it the other way round? We introduce the concept of studying glaciers as ecosystems, rather than just physical systems in the landscape, and discuss recent advances in glacier hydrochemistry in the context of climatic change.
The aim of this module is to introduce the concept of the Earth system and how the different components interact with each other to shape the Earth's climate and control how the climate might change. The module begins with underlying concepts that shape the Earth's, before considering natural and human drivers of climate change, including volcanoes, solar output, greenhouse gases and land use change. In addition, it will also introduce the computer models and global observation networks that scientists use to understand the Earth system as well as the IPCC process.
This module provides students with an introduction to the physical processes which influence global climate change, leading to a better understanding of Earth system science and give them a clear understanding of the Earth system and the human impacts on it, and how scientists investigate this area with Earth system model.
Students will gain the level of experience and knowledge necessary to demonstrate subject specific skills, such as how to calculate a global 2-compartment radiative budget, along with an understanding of the major parts of the Earth system and how they interact. Students will develop the communication skills required to describe what an Earth system model is, and will be able to explain pollutant sources and sinks.
This course is based at the Slapton Ley Field Studies Centre, South Devon in the summer and centres on a study of the hydrological processes governing nitrate eutrophication of Slapton Ley, a coastal freshwater lake of ecological significance. The course offers a unique opportunity to examine an actual environmental problem - eutrophication - through the integration of field measurements and laboratory analysis. Field measurements, in small groups, will combine qualitative observations with borehole hydraulic testing and some geophysics. Laboratory analysis will include contaminant breakthrough experiments, soil physical properties, nitrate chemistry and topography-based simulation modelling. Your understanding of the nitrate remediation measures will be reinforced through a field visit on 'Catchment Sensitive Farming' led by Natural England staff.
This module introduces the underpinning aspects of geophysical and remote sensing techniques used to investigate the Earth's surface and near surface. The techniques covered are illustrated by case studies demonstrating their advantages and limitations, for example, for the investigation of contaminated sites and sites suitable for exploitation (e.g. for minerals or for hydrothermal energy) and for monitoring hazardous regions such as volcanoes. The module delivers a synoptic view of active and passive techniques, seismic, gravity, magnetic, radar and electrical methods for sub-surface characterisation and GPS, radar and laser techniques for surface measurements. The techniques are linked through developing an understanding of measurements in terms of both spatial and temporal coverage and resolution.
Students will develop a range of skills necessary to describe the range of applications of geophysical measurements, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different geophysical and remote sensing techniques. Students will gain the practical experience required to assess appropriate measurement strategies for specific environmental problems and identify sources of geophysical measurement error. Additionally, students will be able to relate different geophysical measurements in terms of spatial and temporal coverage and resolution.
In this module, students will be shown how, through manipulation of species, communities and ecosystems, habitats can be managed in a sustainable way that preserves and enhances their aesthetic, scientific, recreational, and often utilitarian, value. The creation of new habitats will be considered, as well as management of existing areas of conservation interest. The module is largely taught by external lecturers who are directly involved in the application of ecological principles to practical problems.
Students will develop the level of ability required to describe the nature of selected habitat types, as well as explaining a series of underlying ecological processes which necessitate management. Students will also be able to identify the techniques used for conservation management specific to a range of habitat types, in addition to reinforcing a range of transferrable skills, such as the ability to present scientific data clearly and concisely, in both written and oral format. Students will learn to work autonomously as well as being involved in group work.
Join a discussion and debate where you are encouraged to critically examine primary literature and ideas on topical issues in conservation biology in the UK and globally. Gain an understanding of the key factors that constrain conservation and of the interdisciplinary nature of conservation problems in the real world.
This module covers primarily the physical processes and phenomena that govern the nature of lakes, rivers and estuaries. It also covers the biological and chemical processes that operate within the framework of their physical structure and investigates how the physical, chemical and biological aspects of lakes, rivers and estuaries influence and relate to each other.
Students shall become well versed in the following areas: the nature and functioning of aquatic environments, the ways in which physical, chemical and biological processes and phenomena interact in the environment, and ways in which fundamental scientific concepts play out in the environment.
From this, they will be able to determine the water quality and ecological health of these areas. Students will also acquire the skill of interpreting data sets generated by instrumentation that are widely deployed for monitoring and management purposes in lakes, rivers and estuaries.
They will also learn how curiosity-driven scientific understanding can be applied in the exploitation, management and conservation of aquatic environments.
Modern resource-intensive agriculture has proved incredibly successful in delivering relatively abundant, cheap food (at least in the developed world), but sometimes at considerable environmental cost. Therefore the general public is usually keen to embrace "sustainable agriculture" but is generally unaware of the economic and food production costs of proposed changes in crop management. By emphasising the concept of crop resource use efficiency, this module focuses on the viability of less intensive agricultural systems.
Students will critically examine primary literature on topical issues concerning the sustainability of different agricultural systems. They will gain an understanding of the key factors constraining food production, and the environmental and food production consequences of different crop production systems.
In addition to gaining the ability to identify key issues affecting the sustainability of agriculture, students will critically appraise the literature on these issues, and will develop the skillset required to recognise the economic and societal problems constraining the adoption of more environmentally sustainable agriculture. Ultimately, students will gain the ability to discuss alternative scenarios and solutions for key environmental problems associated with agriculture and document said issues in a cogent and critical manner.
In this module, students will learn the mechanisms by which radiation damages the body and the systems by which we measure and control exposure to radiation. The sources of naturally occurring radioactivity and radioactive contaminants and their behaviour in the environment will be studied in order to better understand how people can become exposed. Students will become better equipped to understand and evaluate the risk to human populations of nuclear accidents.
Through the study of specific radiation-related case studies, students will develop an understanding of risk in a wider context, being able to contribute more thoughtfully to nuclear-related debates in society. They will practice and develop their numerical skills through the determination of radioactive decay, learning to manipulate and solve basic radioactive decay law equation in the process.
Laboratory classes will be used to demonstrate concepts addressed in lectures, and students will be encouraged to put the data generated into the wider context. For example, students will practise dose assessments, and linking those back to the processes that control the fate and distribution of radionuclides in the environment, hence developing skills in synthesis and evaluation.
This module expects students to apply a range of skills already developed in previous modules Geology, Natural Hazards, Geoscience in Practice and Geological Hazards. It allows students to improve their theoretical and practical knowledge of volcanic processes by studying the evolution of a basaltic volcano. Students will explore a wide range of the complex physical volcanic processes that take place both on the surface and beneath volcanoes, including lava flow emplacement, intrusive and explosive events. This problem-based learning module covers two levels of problems: the higher-level problem (e.g. understanding the plumbing system of a complex volcano or the role of ‘volcano spreading’ or slope instability in the evolution of volcanoes) will occupy the entire module. Lower level problems will be solved at a number of key localities where students will be expected to unravel the processes involved.
On completion of this module, students will express the ability to systematically observe and interpret field evidence for emplacement processes of volcanic rocks, along with gaining the knowledge required to describe the intrusive, effusive and explosive processes that take place during volcanic eruptions. Students will also demonstrate the ability to recognise the role of regional tectonics, gravitational deformation of the volcano and major slope instabilities on the evolution of basaltic volcanoes. The module will also prepare students with the level of practical knowledge necessary to explain the problems of dealing with volcanic hazards on heavily populated active volcanoes.
Water is fundamental to life and is therefore a critical natural resource for human society and for all ecosystems. Employers of graduates from a wide range of environment-orientated degrees increasingly value understanding of the frameworks and technologies through which water resources can be conserved and restored, alongside the interactions between water and other natural resources such as land. This module focuses on providing this understanding, drawing on a wide range of real-world examples from the UK water sector. Students will cover the major UK and European regulatory frameworks that currently drive water resource management, the technologies available to treat wastewater, the approaches used to assess chemical and biological water quality, and the links between agricultural and urban development and water quality. This learning will be reinforced by field visits to wastewater treatment works, and by practical work dealing with datasets collected by the Environment Agency of England and Wales.
Over the duration of the module, students will be required to apply standard Environment Agency statistical procedures to assess chemical water quality, along with applying standard Environment Agency procedures to evaluate biological water quality. The module will enhance students’ ability to identify the strategies for assessing and managing water quality in the UK, and they will be able to derive simple dilution models to describe pollutant concentrations in river networks. Finally, students will gain the knowledge required to be able to explain and describe the fundamentals of water treatment processes.
Students undertaking this module will learn about the human and physical aspects of the Mediterranean environment. The module will focus on the distribution, allocation and use of water, whilst exploring the ways in which land use or land management affect the water environment.
Students will learn about the physical constraints on water availability whilst analysing the role of government institutions and private companies in developing and managing water for a range of purposes.
By participating in a four-day field course, students will have the opportunity to experience the distinctive environmental, cultural and socioeconomic nature of the Istrian peninsula. Generally, the module is designed to develop students' independent and group-based skills and enhance their knowledge related to water, particularly in the Mediterranean environment.
We set our fees on an annual basis and the 2024/25 entry fees have not yet been set.
As a guide, our fees in 2023/24 were:
Students will be required to pay for travel to field sites and will have to purchase wet weather clothing, boots and waterproof notebooks for fieldtrips for which the estimated cost is approximately £110. The course offers optional field trips and students will have to pay for any travel and accommodation costs. If students undertake placements then they may incur additional travel costs. Students on certain modules may wish to purchase a hand lens and compass clinometer but these may be borrowed from the Department.
There may be extra costs related to your course for items such as books, stationery, printing, photocopying, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits. Following graduation, you may need to pay a subscription to a professional body for some chosen careers.
Specific additional costs for studying at Lancaster are listed below.
Lancaster is proud to be one of only a handful of UK universities to have a collegiate system. Every student belongs to a college, and all students pay a small college membership fee which supports the running of college events and activities.
For students starting in 2022 and 2023, the fee is £40 for undergraduates and research students and £15 for students on one-year courses. Fees for students starting in 2024 have not yet been set.
To support your studies, you will also require access to a computer, along with reliable internet access. You will be able to access a range of software and services from a Windows, Mac, Chromebook or Linux device. For certain degree programmes, you may need a specific device, or we may provide you with a laptop and appropriate software - details of which will be available on relevant programme pages. A dedicated IT support helpdesk is available in the event of any problems.
The University provides limited financial support to assist students who do not have the required IT equipment or broadband support in place.
In addition to travel and accommodation costs, while you are studying abroad, you will need to have a passport and, depending on the country, there may be other costs such as travel documents (e.g. VISA or work permit) and any tests and vaccines that are required at the time of travel. Some countries may require proof of funds.
In addition to possible commuting costs during your placement, you may need to buy clothing that is suitable for your workplace and you may have accommodation costs. Depending on the employer and your job, you may have other costs such as copies of personal documents required by your employer for example.
Details of our scholarships and bursaries for 2024-entry study are not yet available, but you can use our opportunities for 2023-entry applicants as guidance.
Check our current list of scholarships and bursaries.
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The information on this site relates primarily to 2024/2025 entry to the University and every effort has been taken to ensure the information is correct at the time of publication.
The University will use all reasonable effort to deliver the courses as described, but the University reserves the right to make changes to advertised courses. In exceptional circumstances that are beyond the University’s reasonable control (Force Majeure Events), we may need to amend the programmes and provision advertised. In this event, the University will take reasonable steps to minimise the disruption to your studies. If a course is withdrawn or if there are any fundamental changes to your course, we will give you reasonable notice and you will be entitled to request that you are considered for an alternative course or withdraw your application. You are advised to revisit our website for up-to-date course information before you submit your application.
More information on limits to the University’s liability can be found in our legal information.
We believe in the importance of a strong and productive partnership between our students and staff. In order to ensure your time at Lancaster is a positive experience we have worked with the Students’ Union to articulate this relationship and the standards to which the University and its students aspire. View our Charter and other policies.