Environmental Geoscience (MESci)

Entry year

2017 2018

The four year MESci course at Cardiff involves hypothesis testing, critical analysis and problem solving whilst learning about the process and outcomes of research.

What determines the nature of the surface of the Earth, both physically and biologically, temporally and spatially, and how has mankind impacted upon it? This is the sort of question that our Environmental Geoscientists are trained to answer.

The MESci builds upon the equivalent BSc programme by means of a fourth year which enables you to undertake a specialist research project in the area of your choice. It is designed for high-quality candidates who might aim to pursue a research career in academia, government or industry.

Set in an outstanding natural landscape which has been subject to a long and heavily polluting industrial history, South Wales offers study sites that include not only upland geomorphology and coastal environments but also landfills, heavy metal contamination, acid mine drainage, derelict land and mining subsidence, making Cardiff an excellent place to study Environmental Geoscience.

It is an applied degree that will challenge you to think holistically about subjects ranging from water quality to landscape evolution, from the evolution of the biosphere to climate change and from contaminated land to sustainability.

Fieldwork is an integral part of our degrees, giving you hands-on experience in real field situations. The fieldwork programme has been designed to give you the widest range of field experiences linked to classroom-based teaching.

As well as fieldwork in South Wales, this scheme currently offers residential trips to Portugal for geological mapping training and geoecology and to the volcano of Tenerife to study ‘the whole island concept’ linking geomorphology, hazards, soils, vegetation, water and sustainability.

For students interested in professional research careers in Environmental Geoscience, the four-year MESci provides a strong basis for investigation and research in this subject.

Distinctive features

This programme involves a common first term allowing you to experience aspects of Earth Sciences and Geography before finally deciding upon which honours degree course you wish to pursue.

It also includes residential field courses abroad in year two and the final year, which involve highly research active staff.

You will undertake a major summer project between years two and three building on training throughout the year – as an Environmental Geoscientist you will either do an independent project or an independent placement project with a company.

In year four you will complete a master’s research dissertation which will help widen your career options.

I found the course in Cardiff great fun and learned absolutely loads. It was brilliant value for money when you think about how much teaching and lab work we did. Perhaps most importantly the field trips were unbelievable!

Paddy Staunton, Mesci Environmental Geoscience 2011

Key facts

UCAS CodeF645
Next intakeSeptember 2017
Duration4 years
ModeFull time
AccreditationsGeological Society
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 150 places available.
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 740 applications.
Admissions tutor(s)

Entry requirements

Typical A level offerAAB. At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths.
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerAAB. WBQ Core will be accepted in lieu of one A-level, excluding the two required Science/Maths/Geology/Geography A-levels.
Typical International Baccalaureate offer32-34 points, including at least two Sciences at Higher Level.
Alternative qualificationsAlternative qualifications may be accepted. For further information on entry requirements, see the School of Earth & Ocean Sciences admissions criteria pages.
English Language requirementsIf you are an overseas applicant and your first language is not English, please visit our English Language requirements page for more information on our accepted qualifications.
Other requirementsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome.

We are currently working with our students to update and improve the content of this course. The information shown below reflects the current curriculum and is likely to change. The review of the course is expected to be completed by August 2017 and this page will be updated by end of October 2017 to reflect the changes.

This is a full-time four-year programme which follows the BSc route with the equivalent title for the first three years, but with additional small-group teaching on the methodology and philosophy of research. In year four you will undertake a major research project as well as taking specialised optional modules. 

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2017/18 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2017.

Year one

The programme structure is very flexible. All of our degree programmes share a common first semester. This is designed to give you a sound foundation in Earth sciences upon which to build. In total you will earn 120 credits for the year, through a mixture of 10-credit and 20-credit modules.

You will study the following general topics: The Sedimentary System; Earth Science Fieldwork; Earth Science Skills; Life Through Time; Earth Materials; Earth and Planetary System Science; Formation of the British Isles; Natural Resources and Energy; Geological Maps, Sections and Structures; and Dangerous Earth.

At the end of your first semester you will decide whether to continue with your original degree choice or choose another of our Earth Science degrees.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Planet EarthEA120110 credits
Earth Surface ProcessesEA120220 credits
Dangerous EarthEA120310 credits
Geographical Information SystemsEA120410 credits
Earth Science Field SkillsEA120520 credits
Earth MaterialsEA120920 credits
Geological Maps and StructuresEA121010 credits
History of LifeEA121110 credits
Chemistry of the EnvironmentEA121210 credits

Year two

In year two the modules you will take are chosen to provide a wide knowledge base and transferable skills base to make you as employable as possible in a competitive job market. In total you will earn 120 credits for the year, through a mixture of 10-credit and 20-credit modules.

The modules studied in year two range from more ‘applied’ modules that will facilitate your understanding of site-specific geo-environmental issues, such as contaminated land, rock engineering and geo-technics to modules that address more ‘global’ geo-environmental issues.

This provides a base for studies on subjects like climate change and sea level rise, or specialism in biological interaction with past and present environments.

You will study the following general topics:  Field Skills in Environmental Geoscience; Data Acquisition and Analysis; Applied GIS (Geographic Information System); Structural Geology; Geoecology; Catchment Geomorphology; Palaeoecology; Geophysical Exploration; Sedimentary Processes, Petrology and Stratigraphy; Environmental Pollution.

The School provides a range of potential projects. Students often choose or devise projects that relate to geoenvironmental issues close to their homes or that have an impact on their lives in the past. Often the projects are undertaken with help and advice from local authorities or an environmental agency.

Dedicated environmental training takes place around Easter, and this addresses issues that have not been covered in previous modules. This is also an opportunity for you to start acquiring more specific skills that will be required for your own project work. For example, if you undertake a project that requires you to do geo-chemical analyses, you will be taught the protocols required to work in a modern geo-chemical facility.

Year three

You will complete an environmental project based on the practical field or laboratory work you have done in the summer vacation between years two and three. In some cases, you will have taken an industrial placement during this vacation and you will complete your project on this industrial placement.

You will learn how research is formulated, funded and executed.

The compulsory topics are Environmental Case Studies (10 credits); Environmental Geoscience Field Course (10 credits); Research Skills (10 credits); Engineering Geology (10 credits).

Optional modules will vary from year to year and there are sometimes restrictions in availability due to lack of demand, oversubscription, timetable clashes or the need for you to have taken certain other modules first.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Environmental Case StudiesEA310810 credits
Environmental Geoscience FieldcourseEA310910 credits
Engineering GeologyEA312310 credits
Research SkillsEA314010 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Global GeomorphologyEA310310 credits
Environmental Management, Science and PolicyEA311010 credits
Integrated Coastal ManagementEA311410 credits
Water ResourcesEA311710 credits
Advanced Sedimentology and StratigraphyEA311810 credits
PalaeobiologyEA312710 credits
Environmental Geoscience ProjectEA313030 credits
Environmental Geoscience Placement ProjectEA313330 credits
Environmental LawEA313410 credits
Hazards and RiskEA313910 credits
GlaciologyEA314610 credits
PaleoclimateEA314710 credits
Evolving BiosphereEA314810 credits
Isotope GeoscienceEA321410 credits
Marine MicrofossilsEA322710 credits

Year four

You will complete a master’s research dissertation in any Environmental Geoscience related topic that can be supervised in the School. You will work one-to-one with a research supervisor and probably interact with a research group.

Since the School is very large and of international research standard, this means you have a wide choice of dissertation topic. Many students develop their own topics and contact a researcher to see if they can supervise it. Alternatively a list of projects is published each year for you to choose from.

In addition to a year four field course and the Research Project module you have a choice of optional modules.

In consultation with staff, you may seek to publish the principal results of your research project in the scientific literature.

Module titleModule codeCredits
MESci Research ProjectEA412070 credits
MESci FieldcourseEA412720 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Contaminated LandEA410310 credits
Evolution of AntarcticaEA410710 credits
Process Geomorphology - from Source to SinkEA411010 credits
ExtremophilesEA411610 credits
Coastal Science and PolicyEA411710 credits
IPCC: The Physical Science BasisEA412310 credits
The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

The School of Earth and Ocean Sciences has an excellent tradition of teaching, delivered by lecturers who are experts in their field. In addition the School is able to maintain a friendly and informal approach brought about by staff-student interactions during fieldwork.

The modular course structure enables the School to offer an exciting and relevant spectrum of vocational degree courses. These cover a wide range of modern geosciences from the traditional geology approach to the more industry-focused exploration and resource geology through to the equally applied environmental geoscience and water-borne marine geography.

The first semester is common to all degree programmes and you then confirm your chosen programme in January of your first year. This offers you a chance to sample university teaching styles before committing to a particular degree or pathway.

Core and advanced knowledge and understanding are acquired via a diverse range of teaching and learning styles including lectures, practicals, seminars, fieldwork, laboratory projects, guided study and small group tutorials with a research scientist.

For the first three years the taught content parallels the relevant BSc degree with, in addition, specialist research training including:

  • in year one a literature review and analysis
  • in year two a research poster
  • in year three an understanding of how research questions are formulated, funded and executed.
  • in year four an extended research project.

The fieldwork programme spans all four years and includes both residential and day trips in the UK and abroad.

Year two posters and year four oral presentations of research come together for the annual MESci Research Conference which is open to all staff and students.

How will I be supported?

All students are assigned a personal tutor who will hold timetabled tutorials. Your tutor will be a specialist in your degree programme and will advise you on both academic and pastoral matters.

You will have a nominated supervisor for your major final year project.

You will have access through the Learning Central website to relevant multimedia material, presentations, lecture handouts, bibliographies, further links, electronic exercises and discussion circles. Opportunities for you to reflect on your abilities and performance are available through the Learning Central ‘Personal Development Planning’ module.

The University offers a range of services including the Careers Service, the Counselling Service, the Disability and Dyslexia Service, the Student Support Service, and excellent libraries and resource centres.


You will receive written feedback for written coursework assignments, oral feedback for assessed presentations. 

How will I be assessed?

Modules will be assessed to test knowledge and understanding through:

  • practical assignments
  • essay assignments
  • fieldwork
  • oral presentations
  • dissertation
  • formal examinations.

What skills will I practise and develop?

You will acquire and develop a range of valuable skills, both those which are discipline specific and more generic ‘employability skills’.

These include:

  • communicating ideas, principles and theories effectively by oral and written means
  • work effectively in a team and as an individual
  • using the internet, databases, spreadsheets, word processing and graphic packages
  • effective time management and organisational skills
  • a commitment to lifelong learning through engaging in the process of personal development planning and ownership of your own learning
  • problem solving, reliability, loyalty, social conduct, tact, attitude to learning and research, leadership, resilience, decision-making and reasoning. 

Based on responses from the 2013-14 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey 96% of our graduates were in employment or engaged in further study within six months of graduation, with others taking time out to travel.

Employers included local government plus companies and organisations such as the Environment Agency, BAM Construct UK, Airbus and Wales and West Utilities.

Career destinations included the water industry, local authority waste management, environmental adviser in the construction industry, software analyst in surveying, environmental consultant and pollution monitoring.


  • Waste Management
  • Environmental Advisor
  • Software Analyst
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Pollution Monitoring

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2017/18)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

Visit our tuition fee pages for the latest information.

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Students from outside the EU (2017/18)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

Tuition fees for international students are fixed for the majority of three year undergraduate courses. This means the price you pay in year one will be the same in years two and three. Some courses are exempt, including four and five year programmes. Visit our tuition fee pages for the latest information.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

Specialist equipment for working in the field and any other equipment appropriate for your degree will be provided by the School.

Fieldwork is an integral part of this degree, providing hands-on experience in real field situations. The fieldwork programme has been designed to give you the widest range of field experiences linked to classroom-based teaching.
You will be out in the field with us during the first week of teaching, taking part in a variety of induction events which will help embed you in Cardiff, meet other students on your programme in informal surroundings, meet some of your lecturers away from the constraints of the classroom and see some of our local field areas.
Throughout year one you will undertake various local day trips as well as a residential field trip, learning field skills such as sedimentary logging, mapping and environmental analysis.
Fieldwork is a major component of all degree schemes in year two and as an Environmental Geoscience student you will go on a residential trip abroad for geological mapping training and geoecology as well as undertaking an extensive fieldwork programme of day trips around South Wales focusing on geomorphology, ecology, water and the impact of industrialisation.
Between years two and three all students undertake a five-week individual project, training for which has been undertaken throughout the year. As an Environmental Geoscientist you will either do an independent project or an independent placement project with a company. Every student will have supervision from a member of staff and depending where you are based you may also have a visit in the field.
In your fourth year when you are back in Cardiff your residential field trip takes place in an area in the UK or abroad selected by the student cohort. In recent years the MESci field trip has taken place in the northern Pennines, Malta, Ibiza, Sicily, Naples and Southern Spain. Students design and carry out field-based projects to explore their individual research interests with academic staff on hand to direct and help out.

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