How you learn is as important as what you learn. The learning experience at Birmingham combines a wide variety of study methods extending way beyond the lecture theatre, to include extensive fieldwork, practical work and tutorials.
How you will learn
The centre is a place where you can develop your mathematical, academic writing and general academic skills. It is the Centre's aim to help you to become a more effective and independent learner through the use of a range of high-quality and appropriate learning support services. These range from drop-in sessions with support with mathematics and statistics based problems provided by experienced mathematicians, to workshops on a range of topics including note talking, reading, writing and presentation skills.
You will have access to a comprehensive support system to help you make the transition to Higher Education.
- Personal tutors - You will be assigned your own personal tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies. They will provide academic support and advice to enable you to make the most of your time here at Birmingham.
- Wellbeing officers - We have dedicated wellbeing officers who provide professional support, advice and guidance to students across a range of issues. They can meet with you to discuss extensions, disabilities, reasonable adjustments, extenuating circumstances, or talk through any problems you might be experiencing, and help you access wider support on campus and beyond.
- Academic Skills Centre - The centre aims to help you become a more effective and independent learner through a range of high-quality support services. The centre offers workshops on a range of topics, such as note-taking, reading, academic writing and presentation skills.
- Student experience - Our Student Experience Team will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.
During your first year it is important that you have a smooth transition into university. You will be able to talk to your tutors about this and discuss if there are particular areas where you need support.
Seminars and tutorials
Fieldwork is another important component of your study, and you will receive a thorough training in laboratory skills including basic measurement, classification and calibration. The School's excellent microscopy, sedimentology, and analytical chemistry facilities are available to you to support work in individual modules and, if necessary, for your research project.
In the first year, you will attend a residential field course in the Peak district. The field course takes a systems based approach to examine the links between geology, soil, water and biota, considering how an understanding of these can be used in management of systems. You will learn how to use a range of research techniques, including the use of soil coring, water sampling and analysis, and ecological surveys in an informal environment.
In the second year, you will choose a field course, according to your area of interest, from the following:
- The Freshwater Environments field course has a base beside Lake Bala in North Wales, where you will investigate how changes in fish, plankton and macroinvertebrate communities are linked to water quality, changes in land-use, acidification and eutrophication.
- The Physical Processes and Atmosphere field course takes place in Portugal where you will consider the problems of recent environmental changes in Portugal's Alentejo region. These include the impact of natural and accelerated physical processes on the landscape, urban climatology, remote sensing of landscape change, and water resource development.
- The Biogeography and Geomorphology field course is based in Tenerife where you will examine how geological, climatological, geomorphological and ecological processes combine to shape the island’s environment.
- The Environmental Management field course travels to Malta and explores environmental management problems on the island. Prospects for future sustainability in relation to waste, water and marine resources, biodiversity conservation, and tourism are considered. The field course is supported by the staff of the University of Malta.
- A Birmingham field course looks at urban wildlife conservation and management at Kings Norton Nature Reserve. On this course you will investigate the biodiversity of local habitats, including the lake, stream and surrounding woodland. You can choose from a range of small projects linked to the objectives of the reserve management plan.
The costs of travel and accommodation on all compulsory field courses are covered by the School. We will also contribute towards the costs of your independent research project carried out at the end of Year 2. We will make the necessary arrangements to accommodate students with disabilities for field courses throughout their time at Birmingham.
In the second and third year of the programme, some modules may involve additional fieldwork components (usually non-residential). Such work is especially important in ecology, biogeography, and hydrology where experience in field methodologies is essential.
Find out more about fieldwork costs and funding.
Fieldwork experience can also be gained as part of a fieldwork-based research project undertaken in the final year, which may be in your local area or overseas. In recent years students have participated in enjoyable trips to the French Pyrenees, Iceland, Sweden and the Swiss Alps amongst others. Many students have participated in the work of Operation Wallacea in Honduras and Sulawesi, thereby combining academic research with important conservation projects, usually during the summer break.
Past student projects in the final year have included:
- Assessing the possibility of transmission of the psyllid-vectored bacterial strain 'Candidatus Liberibacter europaeus' (Rhizobiales: Rhizobiaceae) to the kowhai tree (Sophora spp.) in New Zealand
- The Effects of Features in and around the enclosure of the captive sumatran tigers (Pathera tigris sumatrae) on their activity patterns and behaviour at the West Midlands Safari Park
- The Hempstead Farm study: an Investigation into the impact of pollinators and pollinator management on the quality of a cherry harvest
- The Cooling Effects of Parks within Birmingham, UK
- Investigating the social and environmental impact of the Ardley Waste Incinerator
- Testing the critical thermal maxima of aquatic macroinvertebrates with the goal of identifying suitable biological indicators of thermal alteration within stream ecosystems
- Evaluating the success of management strategies in reducing air pollution (CH4 and CO2) from the decommissioned North Herts landfill site
- Herd Dynamics and Management Techniques for Population Control of African Elephants (Loxodonta africana)
Lecturers and world leading researchers
You will be taught by a mixture of professors, doctors and doctoral researchers, thereby receiving a rich diversity of academic knowledge and experience.You can find out more about the members of staff in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences where you can read about their qualifications, publication history and specific areas of interest.
Our cutting-edge teaching programme is built on a foundation of over one hundred years of research and teaching excellence. From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner shaping your own intellectual development with us. We have an impressive track record for environmental research, so you will be taught by international experts with a passion for their subjects. The research-led teaching on our flexible degree courses ensures an inspirational and enquiry-based learning environment in the classroom, lab and field.
Resources and facilities
Our facilities are unique and cutting-edge. For example, BIFoR (Birmingham Institute of Forest Research) is the only such facility in the Northern Hemisphere that comes with an entire forest dedicated to investigating the effects of climate change. The new Collaborative Teaching Lab (CTL) will provide a state-of-the-art learning experience with dedicated wet, dry and e-labs, as well as allowing you to work with students from other disciplines. We also have first-class research facilities in environmental pollution monitoring, water science and nanomaterials.
In Years 1 and 2 of your Environmental Science degree you can expect between 12-17 contact hours per week with additional tutorials and fieldtrips. In your final year, more of your time will be spent on independent study and research; therefore, you can expect between 7-10 hours of contact time, depending on your choice of modules.
The Environmental Science degree has a modular structure, and in each year learning is spread over two teaching semesters of eleven weeks, with a third summer term of eight weeks for revision and examinations. Assessment methods used are dependent on the modules you choose, but may involve individual or group project work, examinations, oral presentations, and library or web-based research, in addition to fieldwork assessments.
At the beginning of each module, you'll be given information on how and when you'll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You'll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done for future modules.
Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching at school or college. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with your subject and find things out for yourself. We will support you in making this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time here.
During your first year you will also undergo a formal transition review to see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support. This is in addition to the personal tutor who is based in your school or department and can help with any academic issues you encounter.