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School of Environment, Education and Development

Student of environmental monitoring and modelling at The University of Manchester
MSc Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Reconstruction
Develop your environmental fieldwork skills, data handling and analysis at master's level.

MSc Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Reconstruction / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
GIS and Environmental Applications

Unit code GEOG60951
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The unit is divided into four blocks. The following is an indicative outline of course contents. Course contents are subject to modification and will be confirmed at the start of the unit.

Block 1 is a non-assessed orientation. It provides an introduction to the key theoretical and practical foundations for the rest of the unit. This block is formatively assessed with an opportunity for students to submit work via the online submission system and receive feedback to assist with preparation for the subsequent assessed practicals.

Block 2 is the first assessed block. It provides the theoretical and practical foundations for carrying out spatial analysis of environmental applications using GIS. It is delivered through lectures and practicals with one practical surgery. The block also has staff-directed reading.

Block 3 is an introduction to the automation of GIS-based analysis and data interrogation/manipulation. Work on this block is group-based in order to encourage interaction and facilitate peer learning activities.

Block 4 is about applying the knowledge and skills gained through a project centred on an environmental topic. Most students work on a set scenario, though an alternative project can be agreed with the unit leader. Block 4 provides the opportunity to apply and further extend the theoretical grounding and practical skills covered in taught classes. Guidance on developing & designing a GIS project is provided and an introduction to the set scenario. Consultation sessions (progress meetings) and practical surgeries are used in order to encourage a staged approach to the design and delivery of the project work.



There are no prerequisites. However, absolute beginners who are interested in ArcGIS training are not encouraged to take the unit. All registered students can access self-training options through ESRI Virtual Campus. This is the most suitable route for those wishing to gain a basic knowledge of ArcGIS software. For more information and ESRI Virtual Campus access codes please contact the School of Environment, Education and Development’s GIS and Remote Sensing Officer (


To provide students with a foundation in the principles and practice of using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in environmental research.

Teaching and learning methods

There are 3 hours per week of timetabled sessions. In some weeks timetabled slots are optional, e.g. practical surgeries or allocated for progress meetings. In slots allocated to progress meetings contact time with the lecturer/demonstrator is not for the full session.

As a guide, the course comprises around 22 hours of compulsory formal elements with the remaining 11 hours of timetabled sessions used for optional informal elements:

- around 11 hours of formal lectures (with lecturer)

- around 9 hours of formal practicals (with lecturer & demonstrator).

- 2 hour formal session for the delivery of the F2 non-assessed task (see section 6).

- around 6 hours of optional practical surgeries (with lecturer/demonstrator depending on demand)

- optional slots within around 5 hours of timetabled progress meeting to support work on unit assessments (with lecturer/demonstrator depending on demand)

Additional opportunities for assistance and clarification are available throughout the semester through regular office consultation hours. These are open drop-in session.  

The unit is supported by a Blackboard e-learning site through which students can obtain copies of presentations, practical handouts and data. Reading lists and materials for further independent work are also provided through the Blackboard e-learning site.

The unit is normally taught using ESRI’s ArcGIS desktop software. In 2016/7, teaching was carried out using ArcGIS version 10.2.1. The software and version will be confirmed at the start of the unit. Students may obtain their own copies of GIS software for home working.


Knowledge and understanding

An understanding of key GIS and spatial analysis principles (normally including spatial interpolation, density estimation, distance functions and overlay using multi-criteria techniques); an appreciation of the principles and methods associated with automating GIS tasks; knowledge of a range of environmental applications of GIS; knowledge of GIS project design

Intellectual skills

Skills in handling and applying technical concepts; skills in critical assessment and evaluation of GIS data, analysis and results; enhanced skills in spatial thinking; research skills.

Practical skills

Extended practical skills in GIS; skills in importing a range of geospatial data from external repositories; enhanced abilities to prepare and deliver a GIS analysis project, including producing and delivering map outputs, geospatial metadata and GIS logic charts.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Experience of communicating and expressing geographical ideas and results in written and visual (map-based) form, report-writing and spatial data handling and management.

Assessment methods

F1: Submission of work associated with the non-assessed practical. The non-assessed practical is in a similar style to the following assessed practical. Deadline Week 2.  (Mix of short-and longer answers with map/chart deliverables) Formative

A1: Submission of a practical write-up based on the practicals completed as part of Block 2. Deadline Week 5.  (Mix of short-and longer answers with map/chart deliverables (1,500 words) 40%

F2: Submission of the Block 3 presentation and its delivery. (Group task). Deadline Week 9. (Presentation & demonstration of developed tool ) Formative

A2: The design, preparation and delivery of a GIS analysis project on an environmental topic. Deadline Week 12. (2,000 word report with map outputs) 60%


Feedback methods

F1: Verbal feedback, individual marks and written comments (Week 4)

A1: Verbal feedback, individual marks and written comments (Week 8)

F2: Verbal feedback,  peer and tutor written comments (Week 12)

A2: Individual marks and written comments (start of Feb 2016)

Recommended reading

Heywood, I., Cornelius, S. & Carver, S. (2011) An Introduction to Geographical Information Systems, Fourth Edition, Prentice Hall : Harlow. 

Longley, P. A. Goodchild, M. F. Maguire, D. J. and Rhind, D. W. (2010) Geographic Information Systems and Science John Wiley and Sons: Chichester 3rd Edition.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Demonstration 2
Lectures 11
Practical classes & workshops 9
Supervised time in studio/wksp 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 122

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