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Course content

MSc Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Reconstruction focuses on analysing past, present, and future dynamic environments, providing you with the skills for a career in environmental management or consultancy, and a firm grounding for research in the environmental sciences. 

Concerns over the human impact on the environment have stimulated demand from governments and industry for the monitoring, analysis and modelling of natural processes in environmental systems. This is essential if we are to improve understanding of the interrelation of environmental variables in order to predict and manage their responses to anthropogenic perturbations.

Studying this course, you will gain:

  • advanced theoretical knowledge and practical expertise in order to collect, interpret and analyse contemporary and past environmental data.
  • modelling skills, in order to investigate the interrelationships between environmental variables, and to predict their responses to changing internal and external conditions.
  • intellectual and practical skills, in order to design and undertake field and/or laboratory experiments in contemporary environmental process-monitoring, or palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, and to design and test appropriate environmental models with the data you collect.

We also use the proximity of Manchester to the upland areas of the Peak District; several past MSc students completed dissertation work in close collaboration with various organisations responsible for land management in the Peak District, giving their work direct policy relevance.


Teaching focuses on training in theory, concepts and research skills in the first semester, and practical applications and research experience in the second semester.

We teach course units in small-group interactive styles with a mix of lectures, tutorials, seminars, practicals and presentations. A range of physical geographers provide training in their specialised fields, covering both content and practical research methods.

In a typical week, expect to spend some time in the library, preparing for seminars; in the laboratory, completing practicals; in the dedicated postgraduate computer laboratory, or writing reports; and in the classroom.

The second semester in particular gives you increased opportunities to go out into the field, both for practicals and to gain research experience by doing field research with members of staff. We maintain an intensively monitored catchment on the moors near the Snake Pass in the Peak District and this is the focus of several practical exercises, as well as a source of data to support dissertation work.

Field and laboratory research are essential to your learning process in environmental monitoring, and these form integrated parts of both the taught units and dissertation work.

Teaching and learning

  • Part-time Study

Part-time students complete the full-time programme over 27 months.  There are NO evening or weekend course units available on the part-time programme, therefore if you are considering taking a programme on a part-time basis, you should discuss the requirements with the Programme Director and seek approval from your employer to have the relevant time off. Timetabling information is normally available from late August from the Programme Administrator and you will have the opportunity to discuss course unit choices during induction week with the Programme Director.

Coursework and assessment

Taught units comprise two-thirds of the course and are assessed by a wide range of project work, essays and presentations. There are no formal examinations. The remainder of your course consists of the dissertation. 

Course unit details


These typically cover:

  • Environmental Change and Reconstruction
  • Environmental Monitoring and Modelling Concepts
  • Environmental Monitoring and Modelling Practice
  • Dissertation Support.


Choose three from the following:

  • Applied Study Unit
  • Climate Change, Disasters and Urban Poverty
  • Digital Image Processing and Data Analysis
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Environmental Remote Sensing
  • GIS and Environmental Applications
  • Issues in Environmental Policy
  • Planning for Environmental Change.

Availability of course units may vary from year to year.


Students are allowed to take up to 2 of the following level 4 options:

  • Hydrochemical Modelling
  • Ice Age Earth
  • Managing the Uplands
  • Climate Change and Carbon Cycling
  • Coastal Processes
  • Frozen Planet, Satellites & Climate Change.

Typical course units comprise a minimum of a one-hour lecture per week, or seminar supported by supervised laboratory time. The exact balance varies, depending on the requirements of particular units. Additional contact time is arranged on an ad hoc basis by students to discuss assignments and other matters. By the end of the course, you will have an advanced level of theoretical knowledge and practical experience in:

  • Field/laboratory monitoring techniques for analysis of environmental processes
  • Advanced techniques for analysis of environmental materials field and laboratory techniques for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction based on stratigraphical studies of sediment cores, including microfossil and pollen analysis
  • GIS and remote sensing and advanced statistical methods
  • Designing, planning, funding and executing research projects in environmental monitoring, modelling or palaeoenvironmental reconstruction
  • Processing/analysing results logically, using objective statistical methods and/or mathematical modelling techniques objective, unbiased, and impartial reporting of analytical results and their interpretation, both oral and written, particularly scientific report writing. Normally taken full-time, the course is also well suited to part-time study over two years.


The Arthur Lewis Building provides excellent resources including analytical laboratories, studio facilities, workshops, seminar rooms, an onsite café and dedicated computer clusters including GIS facilities.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: 

Visit the Environmental Monitoring, Modelling & Reconstruction (MSc) page on the University of Manchester website for more details!




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