ENVU6SP: Spain Field Course

Co-ordinator: Professor Alistair Jump

Prerequisites: ENVU5A5 or SCIU5T5 or ABR001

Module Description

The Spanish field course will take you to one of the driest regions of Europe to experience environments and environmental issues that are radically different to those in Scotland. You will view landforms and understand geomorphological processes that are in stark contrast to your previous experience through your degree, learn about the ecology of plants and anaimals in water-limited environments and also understand how historic and current day societies manage scarce resources and some of the tensions and environmental problems that this creates. The module is taught through field-based (experiential) learning - you'll be out there learning where its all happening. Its an amazing opportunity to gain a deep understanding of how different environments work and shape the human populations that depend upon them.

Module Objectives

This module seeks

  • to introduce to you a semi-arid landscape and environments which are totally different to those you are used to observing in Scotland,
  • to begin to understand how this semi-arid climate has determined the natural components of this environment, such as geological agents and geomorphological processes, and the biotic components, as well as the human adaptations to the environment, seen in thetraditional uses of the region
  • to explore the often complex relations between the major agencies of environmental change
  • to identify the major environmental problems that confront this region and to see what remedial actions have been and are being carried out.

There is a second set of purposes, which have more to do with your development as students and environmental scientists. The excursion provides almost the first opportunity in your undergraduate career to live in and think about environmental science in a sustained way. We will introduce the landscapes and their environmental problems through a series of visits to ‘classic’ localities. Although these visits will be led by the academic staff, we NEED your active participation in understanding what you are observing. Because of their newness to you, these landscapes will present lots of new questions. There will be a lot that you do not understand. We want to encourage a spirit of questioning in you - to allow you to ask questions of the staff as tutors, but also ask questions of the landscapes you work in. This questioning approach will help in understanding how research is undertaken. You will all involve yourself in this process in your dissertation topics later this year, so this excursion is a real opportunity to understand how to set about the philosophical and technical issues in doing research.

This field excursion also provides experience of group work, with a series of structured research projects led by the academic staff. These projects should allow you to develop mature approaches to the design and execution of project work.

Above all, the field course is highly informative and important for your development in your degree but also fun.

Core Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the module you should

  • be confident in the role of hypothesis testing in science
  • have the ability to develop research methodologies and techniques
  • be able to make, record and interpret field observations
  • be familiar with the development and human use of semi-arid landscapes
  • know how Mediterranean landscapes have evolved
  • understand how differences in water availability impact plant ecology
  • understand how human activities and land uses have shaped the environment


Acquired Skills

  • Field observation
  • Maintaining a comprehensive field notebook
  • Analytical techniques in soil science, ecology and Quaternary geology
  • Group work, discussion and communication
  • Presentation and interpretation of data
  • Report writing


Total Study Time 200 hours
Scheduled Learning & Teaching 80 hours: lectures, seminars, practical classes and workshops, external visits, scheduled on-line discussions or similar
Guided Independent Study 120 hours: both directed learning undertaken in student's own time, and their own self-directed study for assessment
Placements 0 hours


This module is assessed via class test at the end of the field course in conjunction with a series of written practical reports due approximately one month after your return from Spain

Coursework 100%
Examination 0%
Practical 0%
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