The aim of the Environmental Assessment and Management option is to provide graduates with the skills to enter a wide range of environmental careers, with particular emphasis on environmental consultancy and regulatory job markets. The option is designed to train students in analysis and assessment methods applicable to environmental contamination problems. Methods applied under the broad title of environmental impact assessment (EIA) have traditionally been qualitatively-based, although there is now a move towards the use of more quantitative environmental assessment techniques. 

The option comprises lectures plus two practical case studies, each with a different technical emphasis. There is a split of the marking between the case studies and the final exam, based on the course material.

A large number of the lectures are given by consultants, regulator and industry professionals, and course alumni, providing the student with first-hand contact with live issues as well as the chance to discuss job opportunities with potential employers. These lectures are supported by a number of site visits to provide practical underpinning of the course material.


Aims

The EAM option is designed to train students from diverse scientific and technical backgrounds in assessment methods applicable to environmental contamination and pollution problems.

The emphasis throughout the course is on the use of quantitative environmental assessment methodologies, including:

  • field sampling and laboratory analysis for direct determination of contaminant concentrations and distributions within environmental systems and;
  • predictive computer modelling techniques to assess the risks and impacts associated with either real or hypothetical contamination scenarios.

To complement and enhance teaching of quantitative aspects of environmental assessment techniques, classical EIA and auditing methodologies are also an important course component.

Throughout the course, teaching stresses the need for all environmental assessment activities to be carried out within relevant national and international legislative frameworks. It is also important to develop an appreciation of the way in which new assessment requirements are driven by policy developments.

The ultimate aim of the course is to prepare students for employment in environmental consultancies and other occupational areas (such as local authorities, government departments and NGOs) in which, increasingly, quantitative environmental assessment skills are required.

 After completion of the course the students should be able to:

  • understand in some detail the fundamental pathways and processes controlling the behaviour and fate of contaminants in environmental systems;
  • design suitable field sampling strategies for the assessment of contaminant distributions in the near-surface atmosphere, surface and groundwaters and soils;
  • suggest appropriate sampling and analytical methods for inorganic and organic contaminants in different environmental media and to liaise effectively with analysts and laboratories specialising in the analysis of individual contaminating substances;
  • organise data sets obtained from field sampling and laboratory analytical studies and be able to configure these in a suitable format for higher level data analysis using a computer tool such as a Geographical Information System;
  • apply suitable computer models to evaluate critical pathways and processes of contaminant transport in the environment or to perform simulations of future impacts of contaminant releases from a variety of sources;
  • understand in detail the legal and policy framework within which quantitative environmental assessment activities are carried out and to apply EIA and auditing methodologies where appropriate.

The overriding objective of the Environmental Assessment and Management option is to train students who will be effective team players in the often inter- and multidisciplinary environment of consultancies and related work places.

Specifically, the emphasis placed on the use of case studies involving role play, team work, meeting of deadlines and verbal presentations is intended to engender a pragmatic and real-world approach to problem solving in the general area of environmental assessment.


Themes

The emphasis throughout this option is on the use of quantitative techniques of analysis for direct determination of contaminant concentrations and distributions within environmental systems as well as statistical and computer modelling techniques for analysis of data.

A thorough grounding in physical, chemical and biological processes of contaminant behaviour in the environment is provided as the basis for understanding the impacts of chemical contamination. This is strengthened by the introduction to, and use of, predictive modelling techniques for assessing risks and impacts associated with either real or hypothetical contamination scenarios.

The option is divided into three modules, covering all the major areas of environmental concern, and there is a significant interdisciplinary element throughout, reflecting the philosophy of the MSc as a whole. They should not be considered as stand-alone, but should be seen as a closely integrated whole: 

Circular Economy

Aims to provide an understanding of the circular economy, technical and practical issues involved in waste and resource management, and the potential opportunities for business it generates, and its contribution to sustainable development. The module will focus on opportunities and constraints for existing businesses in adopting circular business models. These issues will be explored through the Veolia Project (case study). This will provide an opportunity for students to work on a typical resource management problem which could be given to consultants to gain experience of the process in which analysis, synthesis, and teamwork are required to produce a concise quality report and oral presentation.

Integrated Land and Water Quality Management

To enhance students understanding of the pathways in the environment that pollutants follow from source to receptor and provide students with a working knowledge of the investigation of a contaminated site.  Within the project the key experience of site investigation, chemical analysis, the legislative environment, team working, report writing and presentation to a genuine client will be acquired.

Assessment Tools and Decision-Making

To introduce students to some of the most important tools and techniques in Environmental Assessment, Decision-Making and Management. Through group work and site visits, students will have the opportunity to discuss latest developments in integrated environmental management, policy and practice with individuals and organisations involved in their practical implementation and practice skills learned.


Careers

The majority of the graduates enter environmental consultancy both in the UK and abroad usually within the risk assessment and contaminated land areas, but this is not an exhaustive list. A second path of graduates is to regulatory agencies/government bodies such as the Environment Agency of England & Wales and the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. Other paths have included further study, the retail sector and banking. To date, the EAM option has had an excellent track record of employment with over 90% of graduates employed within 12 months of completing the MSc.


Fieldwork

Students undertake two assessed pieces of coursework. One piece of coursework is undertaken in collaboration with the Integrated Water Management option of the MSc, and provides a "real-world" case study of contaminated land and water on Hounslow Heath, near Heathrow Airport, in close collaboration with Hounslow Borough Council.  The second coursework is a waste management project (VWMP) in collaboration with Veolia Waste Management Services Ltd. The key aim of the VWMP is to provide an opportunity for students to work on a typical waste management problem which could be given to consultants to gain experience of the process in which analysis, synthesis, and teamwork are required to produce a concise quality report and oral presentation. At the outset of the project visits to waste management facilties are organised so that students acquire a basic understanding of the real-world processes involved with the management of municipal wastes.


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