Skip to main content


NES2209 : Research Methods in Environmental Pollution

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Shannon Flynn
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 80 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This module will introduce the theoretical and practical aspects of environmental pollution analysis. The aim is to enable students to develop their knowledge and understanding of the principles and theory of environmental pollution analysis, the selection of appropriate instrumental (such as ICP-OES, ICP-MS, Ion-Chromatography) and to provide a training on assessing data quality and interpretation.

Outline Of Syllabus

NES2209 takes students through the process of environmental monitoring starting with why we should care about water quality. The module is designed as an experiential learning experience beginning with collecting water samples and then analysing the samples for inorganic pollutants, assessing data quality, and finally reporting and communicating our findings to resource managers. The module includes a review of basic chemistry to ensure that all students have sufficient chemical knowledge to complete the module. Lectures will introduce and cover the theory of topics including best field sampling practices and design, instrumentation selection, analysis of samples with ion chromatography (IC) and inductively plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES), data analysis, and scientific communication through posters.

The practicals are used as opportunities to put into practice the topics covered in lectures, such as sample collection field measurements and analytical standard preparation. With later practicals focusing on learning techniques to assessing data quality and data interpretation, such as method accuracy, precision, detection limits, and charge balances.

By the end of the term, students will be able to understand the principles of environmental monitoring from sample collection to data analysis. The module prepares second-year students for their three-year dissertation project and a diversity of potential environmental career paths by providing a course-based undergraduate research experience beginning with where data comes from and what to do with it.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion16:006:00Take home problem set
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials181:0018:00A combination of short recordings of lecture material and guided reading
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00Data analysis and poster preparation all semester and on going
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical43:0012:00PiP - Data analysis Practicals class
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching12:002:00Chemistry and Factor Labelling Workshops
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops13:003:00PiP - Standard preparation and sample dilutions
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops22:004:00PiP - Pollution and me, Map activity
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork14:004:00PiP fieldtrip to local water body to practice water sampling techniques
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity182:0036:00lecture, workshop and practical review and follow-up
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork14:004:00PIP Lab tours/instrument demonstrations
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study171:0071:00Includes background reading and reading lecture notes for full understanding of material.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Specialist knowledge and understanding are primarily imparted via lecture classes, supported by computer-hosted reference materials. Subject specific skills are taught through video tutorial soil sampling techniques, guided step-by-step sample preparation demonstrations, and synchronous data analysis practicals. Students are encouraged and expected to learn through independent reading and subsequent reflection. They are supported in this by the provision of a module specific reading list. Practical skills are learnt by active participation in synchronous data analysis practicals. Key skills are practiced during soil sampling and data quality and analysis practicals, and in the communication of the results of the study.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Poster1M80Poster presenting an assessment of the water quality of a stream system based on provided datasets.
Written exercise1M20Problem set 800 words
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Prob solv exercises1MThere are 6 tutorials that act as Formative Assessment throughout the term to prepare the students for the summative assessments
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The problem set will examine the progress of the students in developing the skill to calculate solution concentrations, prepare standards, calculate alkalinity, and determine the quality of data.

The poster assessment will assess specialist skills, knowledge, and understanding imparted during this module. Throughout term students will practice the skills (e.g. calculating method accuracy, precision, and detection limits) required for the poster assessment using the samples they collected on the field trip. For the poster, students will have the choice of assessing data from one of three streams in the North of England known to suffer from water quality impairments.

Individually the students will apply the skills learn in the lectures and practical sessions to illustrate their ability to analyse, interpret and present scientific data.

Formative assessment: Each tutorial is part guided and part group or independent work. These sessions are designed to be formative and give students a chance to develop new skills through structured activities with the support of lecturers and demonstrators available to provide assistances with concepts, and calculations, and provide feedback to students as they work.

Reading Lists