UCL Department of Geography
MSc Environmental Mapping
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MSc Environmental Mapping


EO-1 ALI image, courtesey of NASAThe programme in Environmental Mapping is a development of the well-established masters programmes in UCL Geography and offers students an all round education and training in environmental mapping. The course includes techniques for acquisition of geospatial data across a range of scales, from ground to airborne and spaceborne sensors such as satellite remote sensing, GNSS, LIDAR, and others. The course also encompasses techniques for the analysis, processing, interpretation, and display of spatial data as well as introducing the range of environmental mapping applications including: resource mapping, oil and mineral exploration, surveying, oceanography, fire monitoring, climate change, deforestation, agriculture, conservation, food security and humanitarian applications.

The programme takes elements of the programmes in Remote Sensing, as well as those in GIS, Surveying, Hydrographic Surveying and Photogrammetry offered by the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, and although based at UCL, draws expertise and teaching from various institutions in London including King’s and Imperial Colleges, and from elsewhere. It provides students with the opportunity to study, at an advanced level, the ways in which spatial data can be collected, processed and analysed to map and understand the environment.

Topographic surveyingWho will benefit from the programme?

The MSc is designed to appeal to students from a range of disciplines looking to understand the environment. It will appeal not only to those with backgrounds in environmental sciences (such as geography and geology) but also to those with a background in more quantitative sciences (physics, engineering) who wish to exploit their skills in an environmental science context. The programme also caters for those who have been in employment and wish to change career. The MSc will appeal to individuals interested in developing research training while acquiring vocational skills for work in environmental and mapping related positions in public and private sector institutions. The MSc is also a suitable training for those wishing to undertake higher level work as a prelude to a PhD.

Students receive core training in mapping science, analytical methods, GIS, image processing, and other fundamentals of geomatics. They may then choose from a wide range of optional courses in the second term, selecting from a list that includes all the major application areas of modern mapping and geomatics. Examples include renewable natural resources, environmental GIS, positioning, oceans, the coastal zone, airborne laser scanning, global earth observation, and advanced topics in GIS.


Fires across northern Argentina, mapped from the NASA MODIS satellite (image from NASA Visible Earth)The MSc in Environmental Mapping runs over a full year. The Core Programme takes place in term 1 (autumn) and consists of four core courses which establish the fundamentals of mapping, data acquisition and processing, computing and mathematical methods, and provides students with the requisite technical skills necessary for the remainder of the degree. In Term 2 (spring) students take advanced courses on specialist subjects. These courses make use of the wide range of academic expertise and research interests among the staff, and take place at UCL or Imperial College. Computing training runs throughout the first term and is compulsory for all students. Student learning is supported by tutorials, transferable skills training and research supervision throughout the year. The final element of the degree, the individual research project, is completed over the summer term and vacation. There may be small changes in the option courses offered from one year to the next. A course in Environmental GeoScience, taught at Imperial College, will normally be available in alternate years (2010-2011, 2012-2013 etc). An overseas field course is part of this module.

The following modules will be available for 2016/17. Please note these may be subject to change.


Module code

Module title

UCL Credit value

GEOGG121 Analytical and Numerical Methods
15 credits
GEOGG122 Scientific Computing
15 credits
CEGEG034 Mapping Science 15 credits
GEOGG141 Principles and Practice of Remote Sensing
15 credits


Module code

Module title

UCL Credit value

GEOGG101 Surface Water Modelling
15 credits
Terrestrial Carbon: Modelling and Monitoring
15 credits
GEOGG134 Climate Modelling
15 credits
GEOGG142 Global Monitoring of Environment and Society
15 credits
GEOGG065 Environmental GIS 15 credits
CEGEG075 Image Understanding 15 credits
CEGEG085 Airborne Data Acquisition 15 credits


Students on the MSc programme embark on a Dissertation (60 credits) after the examinations in May, which lasts until the end of the programme in September. The department enjoys strong links with industry, and projects are often carried out in collaboration with organisations outside the college. With the range of expertise available in the department, this leads to a very wide variety of possible topics for investigation.

Industrial Visits

Students are encouraged to visit and liaise with industry throughout the programme, but most particularly when working on their project in the second half of the year.


Lidar image of submarine topography, Johnsons Reef, Australia (image from NASA Visible Earth)

  • Breadth of teaching across departments and institutions and exposure to mix of academic and commercial sectors
  • Exposure to cutting edge research via involvement of UCL researchers in the National Environment Research Council Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), and international space agencies such as ESA and NASA
  • Students consistently go on to successful careers in a range of commercial, government and academic areas
  • Opportunities to carry out cutting-edge research as part of the dissertation process – including fieldwork, and publication in academic journals

Fees and Applications

Fees information is at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/current-students/money/2016-2017_fees


For information on UCL scholarships, please visit: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/scholarships/

The minimum entry requirements are a good second class honours degree in a cognate subject or related discipline, from a UK university or the equivalent from an overseas institution. Acceptable degrees include oceanography, marine studies, geography, civil engineering, geology, mathematics, and physics. Extensive work experience covering related areas will be considered. Formal qualifications in mathematics are not a prerequisite for entry to the programme but students are expected to have an aptitude for mathematical studies and if necessary to undertake revision prior to the start of the programme. Advice is available from the programme tutor (Prof. Philip Lewis).

Overseas applicants will need a recognised English language qualification. Some information relating to your country and UCL can be found here. To find out if your degree is recognised by UCL please contact the Admissions Office.

Please visit the Application & Entry website for downloadable and online application forms and details of application procedure as well as information on fees, living expenses and scholarships.

If you have any queries you can contact us on (+44) (0)20 7679 0518 or email geog-masters@ucl.ac.uk. The course convenor is Prof. Philip Lewis p.lewis@ucl.ac.uk, www.geog.ucl.ac.uk/~plewis)

Further Information


Flux tower measuring Carbon, water and energy exchange in a coniferous forest (M. Disney)The programme is based at University College London (UCL). Lectures are held in the Department of Geography and Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering at UCL. Teaching is also carried out in the Department of Earth Science Engineering, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (IC) and in the Department of Geography, King’s College London. Computing facilities are available across all sites and library facilities at UCL and IC.

Department of Geography UCL

The Geography Department has a network of about 40 multi-user Linux (RedHat) workstations with high quality LCD monitors and a total data storage capacity of > 10Tb. The Department has the usual peripherals including standard A4 PostScript laser printers, an A3 colour scanner and printer and a selection of backup devices. The Department UNIX system also forms the core of the Department's WWW and e-mail services (we run both our own web-server and e-mail server). It is possible to access the UCL's Windows Terminal Server (WTS) system via the Solaris and Linux workstations. Some of the Geography machines are available via secure shell networking from outside UCL so many applications can be run remotely. The Department also has a number of open-access computer rooms for students with numbers of quite new PCs connected to the College's managed PC system. The Geography Department also has access to the Chorley Institute 100 cpu linux cluster for large processing and modelling tasks.

Dust plumes off the coast of Namibia (image from NASA Visible Earth)Software
Software for the UNIX workstations includes ARC/INFO, ArcView GIS, GRASS, and UNIMAP (digital mapping/GIS); ORACLE (relational database); Ramtek TERRAIN SPIDER, HIPS and ER Mapper. There is also the FORTRAN and C ’NAG’ libraries, the C, C++ and Prolog (programming languages), plus a great deal of free/open scientific software. There are also some 20 licenses for IDL/ENVI, as well as a site license for ERDAS Imagine and Arc/Info and Arc/GIS. The department has its own computer support team who cover staff and student hardware and software support for all PCs, Macs and UNIX/Linux workstations.

Department of Earth Science Engineering, Imperial College

The Department of Earth Science and Engineering provides full hardware and software support for the teaching of Image processing core module and Geoscience option module, including a fully equipped PC lab and a UNIX lab with ER Mapper image processing software and ArcGIS as the principal teaching packages for these modules together with RiverTool, Envi, etc. to support MSc project work.

Textbooks & Journals

Recommendations on references will be given during the programme by individual lecturers.


Main libraries are located at UCL (Science Library) and at IC (Central). Departmental collections of books and journals are also available at:

  • Earth Science (IC)
  • Space and Atmospheric & Physics (IC)
  • Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (UCL)
MSc Environmental Mapping FlyerMSc Environmental Mapping Handbook
A short brochure can be downloaded here. A more detailed course handbook can be downloaded here.

Potential applicants often ask about the maths requirements for these courses. We do expect a basic level of mathematical skill, but we accept students from a wide range of backgrounds and have long experience on getting everyone up to speed during the course, so don't let this put you off. The link below gives a broader indication of the requirements, plus some background reading: