CEG1101 : Environmental Systems

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 the basic skills required for characterisation of environmental systems in situations relevant to civil engineers.

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 quantify components of the water balance, rainfall, evaporation and runoff. 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 characterise key elements within the elemental cycles in the lab and the field. These cycles are mediated by ecological processes at a variety of scales. You will get an engineers 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
Human interventions in the Earth Systems
Hydrological Cycle
Evaporation and transpiration
Soil water and runoff
River processes
Generic concepts in ecology
Microbial ecology and kinetics
Pathogen ecology
Carbon Cycle
Organic water pollution
Nitrogen cycle
Persistent pollutants
Contaminated land, soil and sediments

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture201:0020:00Lectures
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion200:3010:00Revision for exam
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00Exam
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion114:0014:00Lab report based on field work
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical23:006:003 hours in the field and 3 hours in the laboratory
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching41:004:00Tutorials and coursework support
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study144:0044:00Includes background reading and 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 Examination1201A80Unseen written examination
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M20Report of up to 1000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Introductory concepts tested through examination of knowledge and basic calculations to be backed by fieldwork 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 equations should be used to demonstrate key concepts reflecting real world issue such as floods, droughts and pollution. The essay would be a 10-12 page word document.

Reading Lists