BSc Environmental Earth Sciences

Environmental Earth Sciences at St Andrews takes on some of the greatest challenges facing society in the 21st century, including climate change, clean water supply, and ocean acidification. The BSc Environmental Earth Sciences degree will equip you with a dynamic training in the Earth System, integrating study of the oceans, atmosphere, biosphere, and geosphere to understand the processes and impacts of environmental change. The degree provides a firm foundation in the Geosciences, and incorporates insights from across Chemistry, Physics, and Biology to understand Earth’s surface environment both past and present. Teaching is strongly integrated with our leading research programmes, and students can take advantage of laboratory-based research projects to answer questions ranging from the dawn of atmospheric oxygen, to the stability of major ice sheets, and the impact of volcanoes on climate. Applied training focusses on the environmental impact of extraction and use of Earth’s natural resources, and includes hands-on experience with state of the art techniques in the field and laboratory.

Teaching style and degree structure

Our teaching philosophy is to provide a thorough understanding of the Earth Sciences, grounded in experiential learning via field and lab-based study, first-hand experience in collecting data and testing hypotheses, and student-led investigative research. Alongside training in the Earth Sciences, we emphasise the development of critical thinking, written and oral presentation skills, and intellectual creativity.

All of our undergraduate degree pathways share classes in the sub-honours years, which are the first two years of your degree. This provides a broad foundation in the Earth Sciences, from which you can find your specific interests and strengths before specialising in your final (honours) years. During your sub-honours years you also have the option to take modules from other subjects, providing the dynamic inter-disciplinary scholarship for which St Andrews is internationally renowned.

Each sub-honours module consists of 4-5 lectures and 1 laboratory session per week, several single-day field excursions during each semester, and tutorial sessions to hone your problem solving skills. Assessment is split between coursework and examination, including both practical and written components.

Honours classes consist of core training, furthering your skills and understanding in key aspects of the earth sciences, and optional modules, allowing you to focus on particular areas of interest and conduct your own research projects. Assessment is either split between coursework and examination, or is based entirely on project work.

Example honours level modules in BSc Environmental Earth Science include:

 

  • Advanced Environmental Field Methods
  • GIS for Earth Science
  • Geochemistry
  • Global Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Sedimentology & Stratigraphy
  • Global Climate Change
  • Water in the Environment

With some of the most iconic and diverse field sites right on the doorstep, St Andrews is perfectly placed to study Earth Sciences. The Department is full of enthusiastic and supportive staff, and there are always opportunities for undergraduates to assist with cutting-edge research. The extensive fieldwork on offer, high-quality teaching and training in state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, ensure students graduate with the very best career prospects.

Tanya

Stanmore, Middlesex, England

Fieldwork

Fieldwork is a key component of our undergraduate degrees, and our graduates are valued as independent and confident field scientists. In total, students participate in at least 70 supervised field days over the length of the degree, and in most cases the amount of fieldwork is over 100 days with the research project component. Time spent in the field not only provides an immersive learning experience, but also builds lasting friendships, and generates the bonds that define our School’s strong sense of community.

Field courses are fully integrated within all of our undergraduate programmes, developing and enhancing material taught in laboratories and classes. Trips range from day-long excursions to the world-class localities on our doorstep, to 2-week trips across Europe.

Field trips in the BSc Environmental Earth Science degree include:

  • The “Highland Fling” (5 days, first year) – renowned geological sites in the Scottish Highlands
  • Rio Tinto (6 days, second year) – investigating the geochemistry and geobiology of acid mine drainage in Southern Spain
  • West Coast Cruise (5 days, third year) – oceanography, marine biology, and sedimentology on a research vessel on Scotland’s beautiful West Coast
  • Pyrenees (14 days, fourth year) – a tailored environmental research and mapping course in the central Pyrenees, integrating skills, knowledge, and understanding from throughout your degree

Research dissertation projects in fourth year incorporate both field and laboratory work, and in recent years have included study of conditions favourable for life on Mars, and reconstructing of rapid climate change in the North Atlantic.

Careers

The School is proactive about developing career opportunities, and career activities are provided for all students from first year onwards. There are a wide variety of career options for Earth and Environmental Sciences graduates, both specifically in the energy, natural resources, and environmental sectors, as well as in wider science and policy areas. Several of our honours level courses feature lectures and laboratories run by industry professionals, providing hands-on experience with industrial problem solving. Many students undertake research in PhD programmes before embarking on careers in industry or academia. Our graduates are recognised internationally as being highly trained, independent thinkers with the appropriate skills required to problem solve in a variety of research or applied areas.

Our BSc Environmental Earth Science degree is accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences, a professional recognition that our teaching is of the highest standard. Accreditation is a benchmark of quality and employability, and provides a faster track to chartered status. Recent employers of our BSc Environmental Earth Science graduates include the British Geological Survey, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Maersk Oil Ltd, BHP Billiton, Shell, Norsk Hydro, Neftex, Geotechnics Ltd., Scottish Natural Heritage, and Balfour Beatty.

For more information on careers please click here.

Our placement record has been consistently above 80% and graduates have gone on to jobs across the academic, industry and environmental sectors.

Richard Bates

Reader, Director of Impact, Careers and Enterprise, University of St Andrews

Admissions

All aspects of application to our undergraduate degree programmes are considered carefully, including school grades and the personal statement.  Specific entry requirements and further information on how to apply are available on the Earth and Environmental Sciences Courses webpage.

Further details on the content and structure of the Honours programmes are provided in the Honours Handbook. A full list of the current Core and Option modules is available from the University Course Catalogue.

Further Information: University of St Andrews Admissions

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