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Environmental Studies

Course aims

This course will equip you with the knowledge and understanding to study the environment around us in a scientific context.

Entry requirements

You will require a grade B in science or a grade 6 in maths, in addition to the general entry requirements.

Course content

Unit 1 - The Living Environment

Topics include the conditions for life on Earth, biodiversity, conservation of wildlife on a global scale, conservation of environments in the UK, coral reefs, Antarctica and tropical rainforests. Students will investigate the legal and ethical issues surrounding the conservation and protection of these environments plus some of the conflicts which occur. The management of ecological relationships between organisms and their abiotic(non-living) and biotic(living) environments is also considered. Food webs, predator and prey relationships plus competition between species is analysed, and skills in the practical evaluation of data relating to changes in environments are also studied.

Unit 2 - The Physical Environment

Topics include the atmosphere including its structure and characteristics, global climate change, ozone depletion and the El Nino effect, the impacts of humans on atmospheric processes and the hydrosphere, including the hydrological cycle and the impacts humans have on this natural system. The lithosphere is also studied such as rocks and soil, including the formation of different rock types and the development of soils in the environment. Practical work in soil analysis is undertaken in the laboratory and skills in evaluating the results of experiments are developed. Students will also investigate the exploitation and management of the physical environment in areas such as mining, water abstraction, and the natural nutrient cycles such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous. The concept of sustainability will be explored in relation to the physical environment.

Unit 3 - Energy Resources and Environmental Pollution

This unit involves studying the current and future problems of energy supply and how these may be resolved. Nonrenewable and renewable energy resources are studied with regard to both contemporary and proposed usage and the impact this has on the environment. New developments in energy resources such as the use of hydrogen, wind power and biofuels will be covered, alongside the more ‘ traditional’ energy resources. Pollution and the properties of pollutants are investigated to explain causes of environmental damage. Different forms of pollution are studied, including atmospheric, aquatic, radioactive, noise and terrestrial pollutants such as waste disposal. Strategies to minimise impacts and manage damage from these pollutants are also investigated.

Unit 4 - Biological Resources and Sustainability

The growth of human population and increased materialism are considered in relation to demands placed on the planet’s resources. Food production and nutrition are studied, alongside specific agroecosystems. Forestry systems are analysed in terms of types of forests, resources, production and deforestation. How these might be managed are also investigated. Aquatic food production systems including ocean fish stocks and commercial fish farming are studied with consideration of the future issues relating to management of aquatic food production systems. Sustainability of human lifestyles allows synoptic consideration of all modules.

Course assessment

Written examinations.


Recommended textbooks to be advised by your tutor. Extensive use will be made of the Internet and relevant websites will be an important source of material to study this course.


Higher Education to study earth sciences, teaching or surveying. Employment with environmental agencies.


0800 783 6095