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Course content

Environmental issues such as eutrophication, habitat degradation and climate change threaten the sustainability of our aquatic resources. Responding to these threats the Aquatic Science MSc equips students with an interdisciplinary understanding of the structure and functioning of aquatic environments, encompassing lakes, ponds, rivers, wetlands, groundwaters, estuaries and shallow seas.

About this degree

Students focus on integrated freshwater and coastal systems and gain extensive training in field sampling, study design and species identification. Distinctive features include: integration of aquatic ecology with hydro-geomorphology, aquatic landscape ecology, analysis of sediment cores for environmental change reconstruction, design of aquatic monitoring programmes and modelling of aquatic system dynamics. Students come away with a sound knowledge of current-day links between aquatic science, legislation and conservation.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of four core modules (60 credits), four optional modules (60 credits) and a research dissertation (60 credits).

A Postgraduate Diploma - four core modules and four optional modules all 15 credits (120 credits, full-time nine months, part-time two years) is offered.

A Postgraduate Certificate - four core modules only at 15 credits each (60 credits, full-time twelve weeks, part-time two years) is offered.

Core modules

  • Aquatic Systems
  • Aquatic Monitoring (includes field-trip to Scottish Highlands)
  • Environmental Data Acquisition and Analysis
  • Scientific Basis for Freshwater and Coastal Conservation (field-based module in Norfolk, England)

* modules running are dependent on staff sabbaticals

Optional modules

Students choose four of the following:

  • Lakes
  • Coastal Change
  • Politics of Climate Change
  • Marine Conservation
  • Surface Water Modelling
  • Wetlands
  • Aquatic Macrophytes (field-based module in Dorset, England)
  • Climate Risks to Hydro-ecological Systems
  • Biological Indicators of Environmental Change
  • Non-biological Indicators for Environmental Reconstruction
  • Environmental GIS
  • Ocean Circulation and Climate Change

* modules running are dependent on staff sabbaticals

Dissertation/report

All students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a dissertation of 12,000 words. Dissertation placement positions are offered linked to external conservation bodies and research-orientated consultancies.

Teaching and learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, practical classes, laboratory sessions, case-studies and residential field classes. Assessment is through coursework and the dissertation, which includes an oral presentation of the research proposal.

Fieldwork

Field classes around the UK, these may include trips to Norfolk, Suffolk and the Scottish Highlands.

Optional module Aquatic Macrophytes - approximately £200

Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: Aquatic Science MSc

Careers

This programme provides an ideal foundation for PhD research, or for employment with environmental protection and conservation agencies, the water industry and environmental consultancies.

Recent career destinations for this degree

  • Catchment Partnerships Officer, South East Rivers Trust
  • Land Use Adviser, Natural England
  • Education Officer, Norfolk Wildlife Trust
  • PhD in Pond Conservation, UCL
  • PhD in the Macroecology of Deep Sea Jelly Fish, University of Southampton

Employability

The MSc provides students with the science background and practical skills necessary for a career working in aquatic conservation and environmental protection agencies, environmental consultancies and stakeholder agencies. The MSc is also an ideal platform for further PhD study. We aim to expose students to potential employers from the outset and students receive expert tuition in field sampling and monitoring programme design, conservation biology, taxonomy of key species groups, knowledge of important conservation principles and legislation and working with stakeholders.

Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2013–2015 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.

Why study this degree at UCL?

The Aquatic Science MSc is run by UCL Geography which enjoys an outstanding international reputation for its aquatic environmental research and teaching. The degree has a strong emphasis on field working with three major residential classes to the North Norfolk Coast, Scottish Highlands and Dorset.

The programme is taught by world-leading researchers specialising in Recent Environmental Change & Biodiversity and Environmental Modelling and Observation which has specialist input from the Thames Estuary Partnership

Speakers from environmental organisations including the UK Environment Agency, the Rivers Trusts, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, the UK Wildlife Trusts, National Trust and Natural England lecture on the programme and take part in fieldwork. By bringing together students, researchers and practitioners, a vibrant and informal academic environment is created encouraging mutual discovery and ongoing debate.

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.

The following REF score was awarded to the department: Geography

81% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)

Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.


Visit the Aquatic Science (MSc/PGDip/PGCert) page on the University College London website for more details!

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