KE4015 - Environmental Challenges - Global to Local

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will learn about the fundamental principles of chemistry and physics governing natural environment, and interactions between geosphere and biosphere including anthropogenic impact. You will learn key environmental analysis skills, including field and laboratory methods to obtain and examine both ecological and chemical materials. You will develop skills to collect suitable environmental samples, and how to process and report on your findings.

Some of the key topics you will cover in lectures and seminars include:
• Chemical composition of the natural environment.
• Interactions and feedbacks between the Earth's sub-systems' cycles, processes and "spheres" – in particular hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere
• The chemistry of the global climate and processes affecting the release and sequestration of greenhouse gases.
• Pollution of surface water sediments, soils and groundwaters.
• Climate- and environment literacy.
• History of humans impacts on natural environment and processes.

The field- and laboratory-based skills will include:
• Water, sediment and suspended matter sampling techniques
• Field water measurements (pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen)
• Laboratory measurements of water and sediment composition

The developed soft skills will include:
• Efficient planning and performing water- and sediment-sampling campaign (teamwork effort)
• Integrating observational and analytical data
• Assessing the river water quality
• Contextualising local data in the reginal and global scope

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn though a mixture of lectures, seminars, fieldwork and laboratory sessions. Your timetabled activities will be supplemented by substantive online learning tools made available via the module’s electronic learning platform (eLP) to broaden and deepen your understanding.

Lectures will be used to introduce key concepts and principles, with an emphasis on real world case studies; helping you to understand the causes of current global, regional and local issues (e.g. microplastic and heavy metal pollution, global warming, urban and rural development) and how they may be addressed and managed in the future. Seminars will provide you with a fuller appreciation of select topics with group discussions around interactive reading lists.

You will develop new field and laboratory based practical skills through fieldwork, sample collection and analysis.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Initially, you will receive a series of lectures to give you the fundamental framework and knowledge needed to understand environmental chemistry and human impact on our planet. During the lectures and seminars you will be able (and encouraged to) discuss and ask questions. Fieldwork and associated practicals will allow you to work in small groups with a range of teaching staff whilst you conduct your own environmental research, exploring a natural environment and how its influenced by human impacts. In the field and in the lab you will interact closely with teaching staff who will provide formative support and feedback on activities leading up to the assessment tasks,
Staff will support you whilst you put to practice your theoretical knowledge by teaching you new field techniques and skills.

Class materials will be supplemented by a series of online resources on the module eLP site. This includes electronic reading lists and a series of guided lectures that can be followed in your own time.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• MLO 1: Discuss the key chemical and physical principles associated with global and regional scale processes.

• MLO 2: Explain how humans influence natural environmental systems.

• MLO 3: Conduct environmental research and present the findings clearly.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• MLO 4: Demonstrate key field and laboratory based analytical skills.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• MLO 5: Work effectively as part of a team during fieldwork and laboratory work towards presenting final report.

How will I be assessed?

Theoretical knowledge will be tested in a short-answer open-book 24h test, which will contribute 50% of the overall module assessment. (MLOs 1,2). The test will be held in the middle of the semester

Field- and laboratory skills and soft skills will be assessed in a written final report. In small groups, you will collect, measure and analyse a range of abiotic (physical and chemical) and biotic (invertebrates) parameters. Formative feedback will be provided to each group during the data gathering and analysis process, and prior to report delivery. Using collective data from all groups, and your individual observations you will also produce reports worth 50% toward the overall module assessment (MLOs 3, 4 and 5).





Module abstract

In this module you will learn about the natural environment and how humans are affecting it. The module covers a broad range of topics, focusing on the chemical basis upon which we can understand our global and local surroundings, and identify how they are undergoing change.. Your will gain a deeper understanding of critical issues related to global environmental change and Earth System Science concepts though a series of lectures, seminars and online resources. Covered topics include anthropogenic impacts like e.g.: microplastic pollution and global warming, and the mitigation measures. The class teaching will be complemented by hands-on field enquiry and laboratory practical, allowing you to develop analytical skills, and train you in interpreting diverse measurement types (e.g. chemical and ecological data).
As a core Level 4 module, you will meet a series of research active staff and learn key skills necessary to equip you for the rest of your degree programme.

In addition to learning key concepts that will be needed throughout your degree, you will also gain a deeper appreciation of current issues that face the world today and approaches that can be used to help mitigate its impact (climate- and environment literacy).
On completion of the module, you will have learnt fundamental skills that will open up new employment opportunities.

Course info

UCAS Code F840

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Geography and Environmental Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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