MSc Environmental Impact Assessment & Management

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Environmental Monitoring and Modelling Practice

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG70552
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


The unit is run as a series of lectures and practicals where the focus is on preparing the student to be able to select the appropriate technique for measuring environmental data, to be able to analysis data, use Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and apply industry-standard software for hydrological modelling, river modelling, water resource modelling, and glacier runoff modelling in a range of climatic zones around the globe.

Each week a new measurement and modelling approach will be introduced in a lecture and students will then gain hands-on experience in data analysis, using GIS, applying models, and interpreting the model output. This unit has an emphasis on using models used in industry to examine real-world problems rather than focusing on computational detail.

The unit starts by using different models to explore flood hydrology and the mechanism of flooding including techniques to collect and analyse hydrometric data. The unit prepares students to use GIS and apply geospatial analysis techniques to rainfall data. Students apply hydrological models to examine catchment flow dynamics and use 1 Dimensional (1D) and 2 Dimensional (2D) numerical river models to explore channel and floodplain hydraulics for rivers in the UK. The unit then explores glaciers and their hydrological processes in mountain catchments. The unit prepares students to apply a glacier runoff model and perform a model calibration and sensitivity analysis on model parameters. The students make use of hydrometeorological data collected in the Upper Indus Basin, in the Karakoram Himalaya, Northern Pakistan.

The unit also explores low flows, drought, water scarcity and food insecurity. The unit prepares students to apply water balance models as a tool to solve water security problems and help policymakers resolve water conflicts at the basin, regional and global scale. Students use real-world data from the Rift Valley Lakes Basin (RVLB) in Ethiopia and learn how water stress is a constraint to agricultural production and economic development resulting in food insecurity and poverty. Students will be able to estimate water demands from irrigation agriculture and model the sensitivity of water demand to different crop types, cropping patterns, and irrigation practices and model the change in water demands because of a future warmed climate. The unit then examines global future megatrends population growth, urbanisation, and climate change and their impacts on society. The unit introduces students to climate change models and some of the predicted impacts around the world with a focus on East Africa.


To develop a student’s understanding of data analysis, environmental measurement, and the application of environmental modelling approaches in research and/or consultancy.

Learning outcomes

On the successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Apply flood hydrology and be able to estimate design flows used to resolve flooding problems.
  • Assess hydrometeorological data collection and environmental monitoring methods.
  • Categorise different modelling approaches including hydrological and hydraulic (1D 2D and 3D) modelling, water resource modelling, glacier modelling, and climate models and apply using case studies.
  • Be able to use industry-standard software for environmental modelling purposes and recognise their application to real-world problems.
  • Appreciate the importance of the water-food-energy nexus, global water insecurity, causes of water conflicts, and the economics of water scarcity, and how water resources modelling can assist policymakers for food security and poverty reduction purposes.
  • Be able to develop a glacier runoff model and interpret model output, to evaluate model performance and evaluate model parameters through sensitivity analysis.

Teaching and learning methods

• Each theme is taught using video lectures (1 hour) and online computer practical exercises (2 hours) using video guides with a weekly online drop-in help session.

• The lecture videos cover different modelling approaches and themes; the relevant theory; the modelling approach, and usage cases for the model, with real-world examples.

• The weekly computer practicals are taught by guided learning, each computer practical is accompanied by an exercise document and guided videos, where students download and use data and models to simulate environmental processes, and plot / interpret the results based on a theme introduced in the lecture video.

• Software used is freely available online for formative learning which can be used away from the University and students can also remotely access the University computer clusters to access software.

• Weekly activity is supplemented with online video to aid with technical tasks with regular online help through a weekly online video-conferenced help session and via discussion boards and emails.

• The course includes weekly online tests so that the tutor can keep track of individual progress.

• Experts from the industry share their knowledge of environmental modelling via videos using state-of-the-art software available to download at no cost.

• Practicals are supplemented by videos of demonstrations of using the Universities’ Augmented Reality (AR) Sandbox to visualise real-time water-spreading models.

• Summative assessment through online Blackboard tests for each computer practical session with immediate feedback is given each week.

• Summative assessment is through a practical book based on computer-based practical exercises related to each theme taught.

• Practical Book as a summative assessment is split into two parts. Part 1 is the 4 Online Exercise Tests (40% of the total mark) and Part 2 is the written Practical Book of short answers to selected questions in the 5 computer practicals (max 2500 word limit +/-10%)

Employability skills

Develop skills at data interpretation and data analysis including GIS skills; Gain the ability to use 1D river models and hydrological models. Have used industry standard software and used in environmental consultancy which are also applicable to continued research and be able to write analytically. Be able to work independently and to meet deadlines.

Assessment methods

Assessment type

% Weighting within the unit

Hand out and hand in dates



Practical Book:



Part 1

Online Exercise Tests


Part 2 Practical Book – Short Answers from selected questions in the 5 Practicals











Hand in End of Semester 2


2500 words (+/-10%)

Feedback methods

Online within 3 weeks

Recommended reading

R & D Project FD1913 ‘Revitalisation of the FSR/FEH rainfall-runoff method’ Flood Estimation Handbook Supplementary Report. Flood Estimation Handbook (FEH) Volumes 1 – 5. Shaw, E. (1991) Hydrology in Practice.

Ferguson, R. I., 1999. Snowmelt runoff models. Progress in Physical Geography, 23 (2), 205-227.

Fountain, A. G., and Tangborn, W., 1985. Overview of contemporary techniques. In Young, G. J. (ed.), Techniques for prediction of runoff from glacierized areas. International Association of Hydrological Sciences Publication number 149, 27-41.

Lowe, A.T. and Collins D.N. 2001. Modelling runoff from large glaciers basins in the Karakoram Himalaya using remote sensing of the transient snowline. International Association Hydrological Sciences Publication number 267, 99-104.

Richard, C., and Gratton, D. J., 2001. The importance of the air temperature variable for the snowmelt runoff modelling using the SRM. Hydrological Processes, 15 (18), 3357-3370.

Turpin, O. C., Ferguson, R. I., and Clarke, C. D., 1997. Remote sensing of snowline rises as an aid to testing and calibrating a glacier runoff model. Phys. Chem. Earth, 22, 3-4, 279-283.

Various authors, 2003. Mountain Hydrology and Water Resources, Journal of hydrology, Vol. 282, issues 1-4, 1-181.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 50
Practical classes & workshops 50
Independent study hours
Independent study 50

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrew Lowe Unit coordinator

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