Environmental Geoscience (MESci)

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

It builds upon and augments 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.

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 and that our MESci students might research in a dissertation.

Set in an outstanding natural landscape but with 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. And as an MESci student you will get an opportunity to specialise through your project work and through small group research tutorials.

As well as fieldwork in South Wales and Arran, this scheme also has residential trips to The Netherlands to study water management and coastal defence and to the volcano of Tenerife to study "the total island concept" linking geomorphology, hazards, soils, plants, water and sustainability. In year four the MESci students choose their own fieldtrip destination, often a Mediterranean island, where they undertake research level fieldwork in their own discipline.

Key facts

UCAS CodeF645
Duration4 years
AccreditationsGeological Society
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 150 places available
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 740 applications
Scholarships and bursaries
Typical A level offerAAB. At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths.
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerWBQ Core will be accepted in lieu of one A-level, excluding the required science/Geology/Geography A-level(s). At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths.
Typical International Baccalaureate offer32-33 points, including at least two Sciences at Higher Level
Other qualificationsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome.

Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course.
QAA subject benchmark

Earth sciences, environmental sciences and environmental studies 

Academic School
Admissions tutor(s)

Dr Andrew Kerr , Admissions Tutor

    The evolution of our present environment and its future development is a key subject for present global enquiry. It includes the problems of climate change and the effect of human activities on the environment. The MESci in Environmental Geoscience provides a basis for investigation of these key areas of current international interest. By its nature Environmental Geoscience neatly divides into two streams: an applied and a global stream. The applied stream tends to focus on pollution and contamination and provides suites of modules geared to providing you with the skills needed to identify and resolve these environmental problems. The second area focuses on global problems such as climatic change and anthropogenic effects on the planetary environment. This suite of modules provides you with the knowledge and understanding which enables you to investigate these problems.

    Year one

    The course structure is very flexible. All Cardiff's School of Earth and Ocean Science degree programmes share a common first Semester. This is designed to give you a sound foundation in Earth Sciences upon which to build. At the end of your first Semester you will decide whether to continue with your original degree choice or choose another of Cardiff's Earth Science degrees.

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    The Sedimentary SystemEA110210 credits
    Life Through TimeEA110810 credits
    MESci Earth Science FieldworkEA112520 credits
    Earth MaterialsEA111210 credits
    Research Tutorial with Earth Science SkillsEA112410 credits
    Earth and Planetary System ScienceEA110120 credits
    Formation of the British IslesEA110710 credits
    Natural Resources and EnergyEA110610 credits
    Geological Maps, Sections and StructuresEA111010 credits
    Dangerous EarthEA110310 credits

    Year two

    In year two you will study the following modules:

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    Data Acquisition and AnalysisEA210110 credits
    Applied GISEA213010 credits
    Structural GeologyEA210810 credits
    GeoecologyEA211310 credits
    PalaeoecologyEA210610 credits
    Catchment GeomorphologyEA214010 credits
    Geophysical ExplorationEA210710 credits
    Environmental Geoscience Field Skills and Research TutorialEA212020 credits
    Sedimentary Processes, Petrology and StratigraphyEA213520 credits
    Environmental PollutionEA211610 credits

    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 research into any area of environmental geoscience you choose and learn how to prepare a research paper for publication. You will present the results of this research at the annual MESci Research Conference.

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    Environmental Case StudiesEA310810 credits
    Global GeomorphologyEA310310 credits
    Environmental Geoscience FieldcourseEA310910 credits
    Research SkillsEA314010 credits
    Engineering GeologyEA312310 credits

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    Environmental Geoscience ProjectEA313030 credits
    Environmental Geoscience Placement ProjectEA313330 credits
    Environmental Management, Science and PolicyEA311010 credits
    Integrated Coastal ManagementEA311410 credits
    Water ResourcesEA311710 credits
    PalaeobiologyEA312710 credits
    GeomicrobiologyEA313210 credits
    Environmental LawEA313410 credits
    Hazards and RiskEA313910 credits
    Marine MicrofossilsEA310210 credits
    GlaciologyEA314610 credits
    PaleoclimateEA314710 credits
    Advanced Sedimentology and StratigraphyEA311810 credits
    Global GeomorphologyEA310310 credits

    Year four

    You will complete a Masters research dissertation in any Environmental Geoscience 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 that 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. The research dissertation is complemented by a Research Frontiers module, in which the latest ideas in Earth Sciences research are discussed. In addition to a year four fieldcourse you have a choice of optional modules.

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    MESci FieldcourseEA410510 credits
    MESci Research ProjectEA412070 credits

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    Contaminated LandEA410310 credits
    Evolution of AntarcticaEA410710 credits
    Process Geomorphology - from Source to SinkEA411010 credits
    ExtremophilesEA411610 credits
    IPCC: The Physical Science BasisEA412310 credits
    MESci Professional Engineering GeologyEA412610 credits
    Coastal Science and PolicyEA411710 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.

    The School of Earth and Ocean Sciences has an excellent tradition of teaching in the Earth Sciences.  This educational experience is enhanced by frontier earth scientists from a wide variety of disciplines, involved in national and international research programmes, teaching alongside its students as they learn. This team ensures students receive the highest quality teaching, delivered by lecturers at the cutting edge of international research. 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 programmes. These cover a wide range of modern geosciences from the traditional geology approach to the more industry focussed exploration and resource geology through to the equally applied environmental geoscience and water borne marine geography. The first semester is common to all degree schemes and you then confirm your chosen programme in January of your first year. Thus there is a chance to sample university teaching styles before committing to a particular degree programme or pathway.

    Teaching in the School is conducted by a variety of methods:

    • formal lectures
    • laboratory practicals
    • IT practicals
    • fieldwork – both on land and for the Marine Geography students on the sea in the School's own research vessel too

    Formal lectures and practical classes have the emphasis on students taking ownership of their own learning programme and "learning how to learn". Fieldwork is a vital format for understanding the earth sciences and all students go on at least one residential field trip each academic year as well as numerous specialist day trips.  All students are assigned a tutor who will hold timetabled tutorials: fortnightly in year one and monthly during other years. Your tutor will be a specialist in your degree programme and will advise on both academic and pastoral matters.

    As well as conventional BSc programmes, an optional one year industrial placement is available for some of the BSc degrees. These placements provide an opportunity for students to gain in-depth experience in a range of relevant industries.  Students are supervised and visited by University staff while enjoying the experience and career enhancement that results from a 'year out'. The four year MESci schemes focus on research training and critical analysis making students who take these programmes very employable in a range of professions.

    Most modules will contain some element of course work so the ability to work independently is crucial. Formal unseen exams and presentations are a key component of the way you are assessed. You will also undertake group work and project work, with all students producing a substantial dissertation on a topic of their choosing in the final year.

    In 2012, 86% of the School of Earth and Ocean Science's graduates were in employment within six months of graduation, or were engaged in further study, 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.

    Careers case studies

    Victoria Evans BSc Environmental Geoscience 2009 and MSc Applied Environmental Geology at Cardiff 2010
    Victoria is currently studying for a PhD at Manchester University looking at microbial ecology and biogeochemistry of nuclear waste storage facilities, with field and laboratory work at Sellafield. Studying how radioactive waste interacts with the biosphere and how micro-organisms control the environmental behaviour of radionuclides.

    Victoria says: "The School offered excellent teaching and fantastic field trips including Scotland, the Netherlands and Tenerife, along with a high level of academic flexibility, allowing me to adapt and focus my learning to meet my individual needs."


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

    Fieldwork is an integral part of degrees at Cardiff's School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, giving our students hands on experience in real field situations. The fieldwork programme has been designed to give students the widest range of field experiences linked to classroom-based teaching. Specialist equipment for working in the field and at sea will be provided by the School and students will be issued with specialist equipment appropriate for their degree after enrolment.

    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. As an Environmental Geoscience student you will take part in induction activities with all our new first years but will also go as a cohort to the Garth mountain South Wales where you will see first-hand some of the environmental issues and get a chance to meet students on your course.

    Years one and two

    Throughout year one you will undertake various local day trips as well as a residential fieldtrip to Arran, learning field skills such as sedimentary logging, mapping and environmental analysis. Fieldwork is a major component of all degree schemes in year two, as an Environmental Geoscience student you will go on a residential trip to Portugal at the start of your second year as well as undertaking an extensive fieldwork programme of day trips around South Wales focussing on geomorphology, ecology, water and the impact of industrialisation. As an MESci student you will also be expected to investigate an aspect of your fieldwork and produce and present a research poster to staff and students later in year two.

    Individual project

    Between year two and year 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 get supervision from a member of staff and depending where you are based you may also get a visit in the field.

    Year three

    In year three (for those of you not on the International scheme) the fieldwork programme is more research-led, focussing on interpretative skills, field techniques, teamwork projects and independent study. Again you will undertake field day trips to local areas and also a residential trip to Tenerife looking at hazards, climate and biomes. Those of you on the International scheme will find yourselves in one of our partner institutions (such as Miami, USA who currently offer a residential fieldtrip to Ecuador).

    Final year

    In your final year when you are all back in Cardiff your residential fieldtrip takes place in an area in the UK or abroad selected by the student cohort. In recent years the MESci fieldtrip has taken place in northern Pennines, Malta, Ibiza, Scilly and Naples. Students carry out field-based projects designed by themselves, to explore their individual research interests with academic staff on hand to direct and help out.


    4 Year(s)

    Next intake

    September 2016

    Places available

    Typical places available

    The School admits 150 students each year to its undergraduate degree programmes, usually ~ 20 on the MESci programmes

    Applications received

    Typical applications received



    QAA subject benchmark

    QAA subject benchmark

    Earth sciences, environmental sciences and environmental studies 

    What are the aims of this Programme?

    The MESci programmes provide students with the opportunity to extend their knowledge and understanding of Earth Sciences beyond that normally possible within a 3-year degree scheme and to provide a systematic understanding in the relevant discipline to masters level. The MESci involves a combination of classroom, laboratory and field-based teaching and includes a substantial component of original research and the writing of a research dissertation under the supervision of a leading scientist. The MESci programmes are thus designed to provide students with the necessary skills to pursue a career in research in the earth sciences, whether at doctoral level or in industry. Graduates from these programmes will have a combination of advanced knowledge and skills, making them highly attractive both to potential employers and research establishments. The MESci in Environmental Geoscience applies this philosophy by focussing upon environmental factors (climatology, hydrology and geochemistry) in their geological context  and with consideration of their human impact.

    What is expected of me?

    Students should attend lectures and are expected to attend all relevant seminars and timetabled laboratory and fieldwork sessions. Students are expected to engage in independent study alongside the taught module programme and within module guidelines. In both Year 3 and 4 students are expected to work more independently than on BSc programmes.

    Students are expected to adhere to the Cardiff University policy on Dignity at Work and Study.

    How is this Programme Structured?

    The is a full time 4 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 4 students undertake a major research project as well as specialised optional modules. 

    Will I need any specific equipment to study this Programme?

    No specific equipment required

    What skills will I practise and develop?

    Students will have the opportunity to practise and develop a number of oral and written skills, including academic, subject-specific and more generic ‘employability’ skills. These include the ability to work constructively in small teams, find and synthesize relevant information from diverse sources, and to produce and interpret a wide range of quantitative and qualitative data. Particular skills include the keeping of a field or laboratory notebook, making and recording observations in the field or laboratory, making quantitative measurements in the field or laboratory, and making maps or recording spatial data. Students will be experienced in the planning and management of research projects to strict deadlines and in risk assessment in the field and in the laboratory. Students will develop and acquire a wide range of IT skills including use the internet, databases, spreadsheets, word processing, graphics packages as well as specialist software related to Geographic Information Systems.

    How will I be taught?

    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 schemes with, in addition, specialist research training including in Year 1 a Literature Review and Analysis; Year 2 a research poster; Year 3 a laboratory or field based research project and writing of a scientific paper to publishable standard; and in Year 4 an extended research  project. The fieldwork programme spans all four years and includes both residential and day trips in the UK and abroad. Year 2 posters and Year 4 oral presentations of research comprise the annual MESci Research Conference which is open to all staff and students.

    How will I be assessed?


    The taught modules within the MESci in Environmental Geoscience are assessed by

    • Written examinations
    • Essays
    • Practical tests
    • Research posters
    • Research project reports
    • Oral presentations
    • A research dissertation (not more than 15,000 words)


    Feedback is provided through pastoral tutorials, research seminars, field courses and laboratory exercises. Continual feedback is provided at practicals through all 4 years and by individual research project supervisors in Year 3 and 4.

    How will I be supported?

    Modules within the programme make extensive use of Cardiff University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Learning Central, on which students will find course materials and links to related materials. Students will be allocated a nominated supervisor when undertaking their Year 3 and Year 4 research projects, who will schedule regular meetings to discuss progress, provide advice and guidance. Opportunities for students to reflect on their abilities and performance are made available through the Learning Central ‘Personal Development Planning’ module and through scheduled meetings with personal tutors.

    What are the Learning Outcomes of this Programme?

    Graduates from this programme will be able to:

    ·        Demonstrate systematic understanding of knowledge in Environmental Geoscience to masters level and to a research level in many areas.

    ·        Critically evaluate current research and methodologies in Environmental Geoscience.

    ·        Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship.

    ·        Propose new hypotheses and suggest methods for testing them.

    ·        Demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional level.

    ·        Collect, evaluate, synthesise and interpret qualitative and quantitative data in a variety of ways, including preparing a research poster, writing a scientific paper in a form suitable for publication in a scientific journal.

    ·        Plan, conduct and manage an individual research project to professional standards and write an extended dissertation

    .        Communicate scientific conclusions clearly by oral presentation

    Other information

    In consultation with staff, students may seek to publish the principal results of their research projects in the scientific literature.

    Admissions tutors

    Dr Andrew Kerr , Admissions Tutor

      Key Information Sets (KIS) make it easy for prospective students to compare information about full or part time undergraduate courses, and are available on the Unistats website.