UCL Department of Geography
MSc Environmental Modelling
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MSc Environmental Modelling



Wave modelling (SWAN) results for the Suffolk coast

Modelling expertise has been identified as the most wanted skill in the environment sector by a recent government review, with multidisciplinarity a close second. This arises from a growing need for qualified professionals with expertise in environmental modelling, not just from the scientific community but also from the perspective of environmental management and the need for critical interpretation and evaluation of model-based environmental science. The UCL MSc in Environmental Modelling is a multidisciplinary degree that provides rigorous technical and scientific training for the next generation of environmental modelling professionals.

The programme draws upon the unrivalled strengths of the UCL in modelling across a broad range of environmental science disciplines. Our expertise encompasses state-of-the-art global and regional general circulation and ocean models, advanced hydrodynamic and hydrological simulations, palaeoclimate reconstruction over geological to recent historical timescales, and earth observation-derived vegetation and carbon cycle modelling. We also have a particular focus on model-based assessment of climate change impacts on coastal, estuarine and freshwater systems.

The programme aims to equipped students with a well-rounded training in the role, implementation and application of models in environmental science. Core modules provide a critical perspective on model-based science, and introduce core computational and numerical methods. The course is contextualised with reference to the challenges of understanding both natural and human-induced changes to a variety of environmental systems.

Who will benefit from the programme?

The UCL MSc Environmental Modelling is designed to appeal to students from a range of disciplines looking to obtain a sound appreciation of model-based approach to environmental science and management. It will appeal not only to those with backgrounds in environmental sciences (such as geography, geology and oceanography) but also to those with a background in other sciences (physics, biology) or engineering who wish to develop their skills in an environmental science context. The MSc provides an ideal foundation for PhD research, or for employment with environmental monitoring and protection agencies, industry and environmental consultancies.

The MSc is run by UCL Department of Geography, which enjoys an outstanding international reputation for its research and teaching. Research groups contributing to the MSc include those concerned with Environmental Modelling; Environmental Change; and Environment, Landscape and Society. Students on this degree will join a vibrant but informal academic environment of mutual discovery and free-ranging debate.


The MSc Environmental Modelling runs over a full year, but can also be taken part-time over two year. All students take four core modules in Term 1 (autumn). These establish the fundamentals of modelling, the environmental contexts within which it is applied and introduce key computing and mathematical methods, to provide students with the technical skills necessary for the remainder of the degree. In Term 2 (spring) students take four advanced option courses on specialist aspects of environmental modelling. These draw upon the wide range of academic expertise and research interests at UCL. 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. Depending on staff availability, there may be small changes in the option courses offered from one year to the next.

The following modules will run in Term 1 2016-17, second term modules are examples of those available. Please note these are subject to change.


Module code

Module title

UCL Credit value

GEOGG120 Models in Environmental Science 15 credits
GEOGG121 Analytical and Numerical Methods 15 credits
GEOGG122 Scientific Computing 15 credits
GEOGG131 Global Environmental Change 15 credits


Module code

Module title

UCL Credit value

GEOGG065 Environmental GIS 15 credits
GEOGG095 Ocean Circulation and Climate Change 15 credits
GEOGG100 Coastal Change 15 credits
GEOGG101 Surface Water Modelling 15 credits
GEOGG124 Terrestrial Carbon: Modelling and Monitoring 15 credits
GEOGG134 Climate Modelling 15 credits

Additionally, students undertake a piece of original research with the support of an academic supervisor, leading to a dissertation of up to 15,000 words (60 credits).


FV-COM post-processing GUI (morales, 2013).jpgEnvironmental models come in many different flavours – each with its own software language, user interface (hopefully) and limitations. Rather than attempting to tackle all conceivable models, this course distills the common ground between them. It provides an overarching view of environmental modelling through a novel combination of underlying theory, practicalities and detailed case studies.

The MSc Environmental Modelling aims to:

  • develop a strong interdisciplinary understanding of the role and nature of models in environmental science
  • provide structured training and practical skills in the selection and implementation of an appropriate modelling approach.
  • provide a critical perspective of the human impacts on the Earth’s natural systems including the challenges associated with modelling these.
  • introduce more specialised modelling problems associated with the impacts of climate change, surface and groundwaters, estuarine and coastal change
  • foster an ability to conceptualise a problem and to formulate and manage a research project.
  • impart a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of scientific computing, including the software coding to obtain and manipulate datasets.
  • produce highly marketable graduates who will be able to take leading roles in academic, government or industrial sectors.

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/

Groundwater head with flow vectorsPotential applicants are expected to have a first or upper second-class Honours degree in a relevant discipline (e.g. oceanography, marine studies, geography, civil engineering, geology, mathematics, and physics) from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Applicants with relevant professional experience in environmental science or environmental management will also be considered. Formal qualifications in mathematics are not a prerequisite for entry, but students are expected to have an aptitude for mathematical studies and if necessary to undertake revision prior to the start of the programme.

Application materials may  be downloaded at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate-study/application

If you would like to contact the Department about the programme please mail Fiona Mannion at f.mannion@ucl.ac.uk.

Further Information

Computing resources to support environmental modelling

The Geography Department has a network of about 50 multi-user unix (Red Hat Enterprise and Scientific Linux) workstations, on a 1Gbit network with a total data storage capacity of > 100Tb. MSc classes benefit from new quad-core workstations, which are also available for individual project work. The Department has the usual peripherals including A4 and A3 colour PostScript laser printers, A3 colour scanners and a large format A0 map scanner. We also run Windows-based applications via Oracle VirtualBox and it is possible to access the UCL's Windows Terminal Server (WTS) system via all our workstations. Selected Geography workstations are available via secure shell networkingso many applications can be run remotely from outside UCL. Students can also connect their personal laptop computers to the internet via our wireless Eduroam service and hotdesk space is available in a newly refurbished common room. The Geography Department also shares the co-located Chorley Institute's 100 cpu Linux cluster for large processing and modelling tasks.

We maintain a wide variety of modelling packages and have experience with the Hadley Centre HadCM3 climate model, Telemac, FVCOM and RMA-2 ocean and hydrodynamic models; SWAN ocean wave generation and propagation model; MIKE SHE distributed catchment hydrological modelling system; QGIS and ArcGIS; Stella visual model building software; and many other specialised models. We also support programming and model development in Fortran, C/C++, prolog, Matlab and python. The Department has its own computer support team who coverhardware and software support for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows-based workstations and PCs.

External links
The Department maintains strong external links with a range of partners. It is anticipated that the MSc dissertation will be developed with involvement from one or more of these partners. Examples of the links are below:


MSc Environmental Modelling FlyerMSc Environmental Modelling Handbook
A short brochure can be downloaded here A more detailed course handbook can be downloaded here.