MEnvSci Environmental Science with a Research Placement

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Practical and Professional Skills Development

Course unit fact file
Unit code EART11300
Credit rating 40
Unit level Level 4
Teaching period(s) Full year
Available as a free choice unit? No


The practical and field based skills elements within this unit are delivered by a practical day each week; this will allow you to participate in one day field courses with up to 6 locations planned that are easily accessible from Manchester such as the university’s own world leading planetarium and arboretum at Jodrell Bank, the wonderful Peak District and the coastal environments of the Wirral peninsula. On campus the practical day will be split into a morning and an afternoon class with each lasting up to 3 hours. In semester two, students will attend a one week residential field course where you will be able to apply the skills learned in the labs to complex real world environments.

You will develop fundamental academic and professional skills as natural scientists through individual, small group and large group exercises. You will develop the digital capabilities and the professional and transferable skills that are expected in the modern workplace, including the critical use of digital technology and the creative development and production of material to communicate your findings to an audience.

The assessment of this unit will be by a practical test at the end of each semester, the completion of two pieces of coursework set by your academic tutor and the completion of a skills workbook.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Understanding the Earth EART11100 Co-Requisite Compulsory
The Natural Scientist's Toolkit EART11200 Co-Requisite Compulsory


The aims of this unit are to provide hands-on training for the essential practical and field skills necessary for students of natural sciences, focusing particularly on geological, biological, and environmental data that are collected and analysed in laboratory and real world settings and to introduce the transferable and professional skills that are required in the modern world of work


Learning outcomes

1. Demonstrate how to assess risks and hazards in the context of health and safety on the university campus and in the field.

2. Follow laboratory procedures to safely use chemicals and solutions as well as biological and geological samples, these will include weighing, measuring volumes and procedures for the isolation of biological molecules

3. Make and accurately record observations to be able to identify a range of common biological and geological samples by eye and using hand lenses and microscopes (both binocular and petrological)

4. Interpret the features drawn on a geological map and integrate diverse information including the geological time scale with the construction of vertical cross sections to illustrate the geometry of geological structures in other than map view.

5. Demonstrate competence in accessing and using the Library’s ‘My Learning Essentials’ and the Careers Service’s ‘My Future’ e-learning facilities.

6. Write individual and co-authored academic documents (e.g., annotated bibliographies, essays, reports, laboratory and field notebooks and posters) and make oral presentations and defend a position or argument in a seminar environment

7. Use a range of digital tools and platforms and applications to achieve complex tasks

8. Explain the concept of ‘graduate professional skills’ and record acquired skills in a ‘Professional Skills Workbook’, with reference to professional bodies’ evidence based early career development pathways (chartership etc.)

9. Appraise individual and group academic and professional performance against course unit aims and intended learning outcomes.

10. Use hand held atmospheric and chemical measurement instruments to investigate environmental conditions of the atmosphere and hydrosphere including surface water and sediments.

11. Record geological and biological field observations in a field notebook, use section logging to record stratigraphic information and identify a range of organisms using appropriate keys and handbooks.

12. Make a geological map on topographic field slips to show structural measurements, annotations, the location of exposures and the interpretation of geologically important boundaries.

13. Interpret geological, biological, atmospheric and water chemistry data in the field to explain the formation and history of locations including analysis of environmental problems.

ILOs 1-13 - Developed. ILOs 1,3,4,5,6,8,11 - Assessed.


Semester 1

Practical Skills

Week 1: P1 Introduction to microscopy

Week 1: P2 Observation skills (maps, notebooks and compasses)

Week2: Field Day – Alderley Edge

Week3: P3 Stromatolites and ancient life

Week 3: P4 Mam Tor- chemistry

Week4: P5 Layers of the Earth – rocks in thin section

Week 4: P6 Mam Tor – landslip

Week 5: Field Day – Mam Tor

Week 6 –Mid term formative assessments

Week 7 P7 How to describe clastic sediments

Week 7: P8 Identifying marine plants and animals

Week 8: P9 Intro to chemistry labs/ risk assessments

Week 8: P10 Sedimentary structures and trace fossils

Week 9: Field Day – Hilbre Island

Week 10: P11 Physical properties of minerals

Week 10: P12 Fossil preservation

Week 11: P13 Urban ecology

Week 11: P14 Urban geology

Week 12: Field Day - Manchester Building Stones


Professional Skills

Week 1: Introduction and meet your academic advisor

Week 2: Academic Study Skills (MLE)

Week 3: Wellbeing and introduction to the Counselling Service

Week 4: Becoming a professional scientist

Week 5: Managing exam stress

Week 6 –Mid term formative assessments

Week 7: Academic study skills (MLE)

Week 8: Careers – further study at the end of your degree

Week 9: Volunteering activities

Week 10:Ethics

Week 11: Careers – meet the professionals

Week 12: Wellbeing activities in Manchester Museum


Semester 2

Practical Skills

Week 1: P1 Phosphatase enzyme assay in an environmental sample

Week 2: P2 Identification skills & the use of taxonomic keys : Plants

Week 2: P3 Identification skills & the use of taxonomic keys : Invertebrate animals

Week 3: P4 Igneous processes

Week 3: P5 Metamorphic processes 

Week 4: P6 Micro-chemistry conductivity titration - build your own apparatus

Week 4: P7 Micro-chemistry - Run experiments and analyse results

Week 5: P8: Intro to Chemistry labs –

Week 5: P9 Parys Mountain ICPMS data analysis

Week 6 –Mid term formative assessments

Week 7: P10 Volcanoes and volcanic hazards

Week 7: P11 Bones and locomotion

Week 8: P12: Analysis of pellets e.g. owls or seagulls Skills: ID, microcopy, biodiversity etc.

Week 8: P13:Ore minerals

Week 9: P14 Drawing sketch maps & constructing cross sections

Week 9: P15: Analysing genetic variation in natural populations

Week 10: P16: Constructing stratum contours

Week 10: P17: Unconformities and practicing drawing cross sections

Week 11: P18 Folds and faults

Week 11: P19: Stereonets

Week 12: Carbon Literacy Training


Professional Skills

Week 1: Assessment details for this semester

Week 2: Manage your time: make the most of it!

Information about the 2nd year of your degree

Week 3: Student Volunteering Week - Big Volunteer Day

Week 4: Careers Making the most of my first year

Week 5: Developing resilience

Week 6 –Mid term formative assessments

Week 7: Graphics Design training

Week 8: Graphics Design training

Week 9: E-portfolio and digital capabilities

Week 10:  Presentation skills: speaking with confidence

Week 11: Student Conference

Week 12: Looking forward to year 2: Pathway information

Teaching and learning methods

Practical classes:

Each class will last between 2 -3 hours in duration. They are hands on and involve the identification and description of samples from both biological and geological examples. The safe use of laboratory procedures and the use of analytical equipment will be taught and developed. Observations, techniques, methods and results are kept in a lab book (either paper of electronic) and this can be taken into the end of semester exams. There will always be lots of help available in the classes from both staff and teaching assistants – asking questions and becoming involved in discussions is actively encouraged. This will facilitate oral feedback in regard to the skills being practised in class. Written feedback is given through the Blackboard site each week. Online guides are provided on Blackboard of minerals.


One day field trips:

The field classes are related to the skills that have been learnt in the previous weeks and allow the students to practise these techniques in real world situations. The field days also allow the students to experience the conditions of working outside and allow them to refine what field equipment they need, including appropriate clothing and footwear for the safe completion of field activities. Guidance on these matters is given by the leaders of the trips. Information on the area and the field activities are posted on Blackboard before the trip so students can prepare.


Professional Skills Classes:

These classes which last up to two hours are delivered in the form of workshops led by the appropriate professional service within the university. These can include the My Learning Essentials team, the Counselling Service and the Careers Service. The students are expected to complete a self-reflected electronic workbook where they must provide evidence for the completion of various activities relating to professional development e.g. time spent volunteering. Individual on-line feedback on their workbooks is provided each semester and face to face help sessions in completing the workbook are given. Guidance on specific on line resources the students can access is provided.



Small group (up to 6 students in a group) tutorials are held in both semesters to help the students to learn and then refine their knowledge of academic forms of communication. The tutors will work with their tutees to develop their ability to defend a position on a subject to be identified by the tutors and the students together. The ILOs are tested by the completion of two pieces of coursework.


Assessment methods

Assessment type

% Weighting within unit

Hand out and hand in dates



How, when and what feedback is provided

ILO tested

General Practical Exam (integrating field days and practical classes)


End of Semester 1 Exam Period

2 hrs

Individual practice exercises focussing on key elements (e.g., map interpretation, observing and describing samples)

1 hr formative general practical open book assesment in mid term assessment week (Semesters 1 and 2).  Meet with your Academic Advisor in week 8 to discuss midterm results.

End of semester cohort-level feedback via Blackboard, and students will be able to view marked exam scrips in a hosted open session.


General Practical Exam (integrating field days and practical classes)

Open book assessment


End of Semester 2 exam period

2 hrs

Individual practice exercises focussing on key elements (e.g., map interpretation, observing and describing samples)

1 hr formative general practical open book assesment in mid term assessment week (Semesters 1 and 2).  Meet with your Academic Advisor in week 8 to discuss midterm results.

End of semester exam cohort-level feedback via Blackboard, and students will be able to view marked exam scrips in a hosted open session.


Report (Individual)


Last week Semester 1

2500 words

Formative feedback given on the Introduction and Methods section submitted in Week 6

Rubric filled in by the tutor and returned to the student


Group digital poster and individual oral presentation


Last week Semester 2

10 minutes

Rubric filled in by the tutor and returned to the student


Professional Skills Notebook


Last week Semester 2


Pass/Fail based on workbook 

Individual formative feedback provided at the beginning of Semester 2


Field course: Field observation and data collection exercises 0% Week 11 Semester 2   Semester 1 one day field course assessments  


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 96
Practical classes & workshops 92
Tutorials 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 194

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Amanda Edwards Unit coordinator
Alison Pawley Unit coordinator
Cecilia Medupin Unit coordinator
Katherine Harrison Unit coordinator

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