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CEG2102 : Environmental Systems and Quantification

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Paul Quinn
  • Lecturer: Professor David Werner, Professor Thomas Curtis
  • Owning School: Engineering
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


The aim of this course is to equip students with a conceptual grasp of the fundamental elements of environmental systems and processes at a variety of scales. The environmental systems include the water cycle, geochemical cycles and ecological processes. The course aims to enable students to place subsequent more detailed modules on hydrology, environmental engineering and sustainability within the context of a sound understanding of the Earth’s fundamental cycles and processes.

Students will also learn skills required for characterization, instrumentation and quantification of environmental systems in situations relevant to civil engineers. The course will relate to the digital theme of the civil engineering syllabus, addressing data acquisition technologies, informatics and quantification methods to create environmental metrics.

Civil Engineering involves interventions in and interactions with environmental systems at a range of scales. This module will train students about hydrological and geochemical cycles and ecological processes both as abstract components of the Earth’s systems and as “forces of power in Nature” that engineers comprehend, characterise and engineer. The module will start with an introduction of the Earth’s ‘grand cycles’, (water, carbon, nutrients etc.) and will develop understanding of how human intervention has modified these cycles and the consequences for climate and natural resources. The course will then focus upon the cycles and spatial scales of most relevance to civil engineers. Thus in the hydrological cycle you will be introduced to analysis of the quantity and quality of water as it moves through the climate system and through catchments including soil, hillslopes, groundwater and rivers. You will learn how to measure and quantify components of the water balance, rainfall, evaporation and runoff in catchment systems. You will learn key concepts, methods and terminology in current use in Civil Engineering and Environmental Management. We will use the carbon and nitrogen cycles as exemplars of geochemical cycling and use them to illustrate key concepts driving both the earth system and engineered biological systems. We will teach you how to instrument the environment, both spatially and temporally, and hence quanitify key elements within the elemental cycles in both the lab and the field. These cycles are mediated by ecological processes at a variety of scales. You will get an engineer’s eye view of these processes at a macro and microscale and learn how key ecological concepts can be used in engineering design.

Outline Of Syllabus

Introduction to the Earth’s systems

The operating limits of the earth

Health and Safety of quantification

Hydrological Cycle

Rainfall and Evaporation and transpiration

Soil water and runoff


River processes Hydroecology

Generic concepts in ecology Microbial ecology and kinetics Pathogen ecology

Carbon Cycle

Organic water pollution Nitrogen cycle Eutrophication Persistent pollutants

Contaminated land, soil and sediments

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion120:0020:00Revision for exam
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture141:0014:00PIP Lectures or Online Synchronous
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion115:0015:00Lab report based on field work, laboratory methods and determining Ouseburn catchment metrics
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical33:009:003 hrs - field, visiting Ouseburn site/Hydro-meteorological equip 3 hrs - lab 3 hrs flowgauging
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study142:0028:000028:00 Self-taught materials, videos and informatic exercises to underpin quantification method
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study114:0014:00Includes background reading/reading lecture notes for a full understanding of material
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Introductory concepts to be taught through stimulating lectures and tutorials that also contain solid engineering content including theoretical knowledge and basic calculations. Fieldwork, sampling and subsequent laboratory is to back up the concepts add local case study in pollution and flooding that must be written up.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A60Unseen written assessment
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M40Report of up to 10 pages
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Introductory concepts tested through examination of knowledge and basic calculations to be backed up by fieldwork, lab work and quantification methods using informatic tools that must be written up.

Semester 1 Study Abroad students would be required to submit an essay. This environmental systems essay will require the student to call upon the course material, using examples and case studies. Students will be expected to compose coherent arguments about water and chemical cycling relevant to Civil Engineering. Diagrams, maps and pollution. The essay would be up to a 10-12 page Word document.

Reading Lists