ENVU6EA: Methods and Application in Environmental Sciences

Co-ordinator: Dr Christian Schröder

Prerequisites: GEOU9IS or SCIU5T5 or ABR001

Module Description

The module will introduce standard analytical methods for the analysis of solid, liquid, and gaseous environmental samples. To connect the analytical work to the real world, samples to be analysed will be collected doing field work along the Water of Leith in Edinburgh, in collaboration with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. The module will lay the theoretical foundations of spectroscopy, chromatography, and mass spectrometry and covers each technique in practical applications, for example X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) measurements, High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Gas Chromatography (GC), or Inductively-Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). The Water of Leith management plan is coordinated by the Water of Leith Conservation Trust, and analyzing sample form the river provides an opportunity to engage with other stakeholder contributing to the management plan, e.g. SEPA, Scottish Water, The City of Edinburgh Council, Forth Ports authorities, or SNH.

Module Objectives

  • lay the theoretical foundations of spectroscopy, chromatography, and mass spectrometry.
  • introduce practical use of standard analytical methods for the analysis of solid, liquid, and gaseous environmental samples.

Details of Learning and Teaching Activities

  • weeks 1-5: Lectures on physical and chemical principles behind analytical methods (3 lectures per week)
  • week 7: three hour practical to prepare field sampling; 
  • week 7: field sampling at the Water of Leith in Edinburgh (whole day); the class will be divided into groups of ~5 students and each group will be assigned a specific sampling site
  • weeks 8-12: working in research labs in the small groups to analyse collected field samples; each group will apply all techniques to the samples collected at their site.
  • Each group will write a report of their results, which is provided to the other groups
  • Individual peer-review of reports
  • After peer-review, each student will get access to all reports and integrate the results in an essay evaluating changes in environmental chemistry along the length of the Water of Leith river

Core Learning Outcomes

  • attain a conceptual understanding of the physical and chemical principles underlying environmental analytical chemistry techniques 
  • select and apply an appropriate technique for the analysis of different environmental samples (e.g. sediment, water, or air)
  • report measured results in an accurate, statisitcally sound way
  • critically review environmental analytical chemistry results reported by others
  • Compare results and put them into an environmentally relevant context


Total Study Time 200 hours
Scheduled Learning & Teaching 38 hours: lectures, seminars, practical classes and workshops, external visits, scheduled on-line discussions or similar
Guided Independent Study 162 hours: both directed learning undertaken in student's own time, and their own self-directed study for assessment
Placements 0 hours
Fieldwork 8 hours
1-to-1 0 hours


  • Three online multiple choice tests to assess learning of physical and chemical principles
  • Group reports after peer-review will be marked, assessing knowledge and application of techniques, and accurate reporting of results
  • Individual essays will be marked, assessing knowledge and application of techniques as well as ability to put results into wider context
Coursework 100%
Examination 0%
Practical 0%
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