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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Ecological Science

Undergraduate Course: Soil, Water and Atmospheric Processes (ECSC08003)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe study of the near-surface processes that underpin the exchange of gases, water and nutrients at the scale of the organism to the landscape. This course provides a background in soil science, environmental physics and hydrology required to tackle issues such as land degradation, climate and land use change and microclimate modification.
Course description 2020/21 course syllabus
Week 1: Introduction to SWAP
Weeks 1-2: System Inputs
Week 2: Case Study 1
Weeks 3-6: Internal System Dynamics
Weeks 7-9: System Outputs
Week 10: Case Study 2
Week 11: Conclusions and revision

By the end of the course, students will have developed a broad knowledge of the connected near-surface processes that underpin gas, water and nutrient exchange at the scale of the organism to the landscape. Students will gain an understanding of soil science, environmental physics and hyrology which will enable them to tackle professional issues such as land degradataion, climate and land use change and microclimate modification by following routine lines of enquiry. Students will be expected to be able to explain how microclimate can be modified, the factors affecting the drainage of a soil, how rainfall reaches river channels and explain the role of soil organic matter in soil fertility and structure.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 28, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 3, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 16, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Formative Assessment Hours 6, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Revision Session Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 139 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 70 %, Coursework 30 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Assessment details
Written Exam: 70%, Course Work: 30 %, Practical Exam: 0%.
The Degree Exam in June will cover theory and practical aspects of the course. Three Practical exercises and three Tutorials comprise the coursework along with one class test; three summative assessments each worth 10% of the total mark available for the whole course will be drawn from the tutorial and practical exercises. Please note that there are no assessed attendance requirements on this course.

Assessment deadlines
See Handbook discussed at Lecture 1 at the start of the course; available online through Learn.
Feedback Students will receive formative feedback from Teaching Assistants following the tutorials. Verbal feedback will be given during weekly practical classes. Feedback will be given on summative assessment at the end of the course and all students will be invited to an examination feedback session following release of course results. Examples of feedback can be found here: All details related to extensions procedures and late penalties can be found in the School of GeoSciences General Information Handbook.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)2:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Display a range of routine skills such as carrying out soil and water quality surveys, constructing a water balance for a catchment and showing how it is affected by a change in land use, constructing an energy balance for a range of surfaces, calculating return periods for extreme events such as floods and drought.
  2. Appreciate the interaction between surface water and groundwater in the catchment hydrological cycle.
  3. Understand how distinct soil horizons and soil series develop under the influence of factors such as parent material, topography and climate, and discuss the principles of energy exchange in organisms.
  4. Understand the errors involved in measurements of soil, water and meteorological properties and discuss the factors (including pH and CEC) affecting the availability and the fixation of essential nutrients and potentially toxic elements in soil.
  5. Critically analyse some of the main concepts associated with the functioning of the soil, water and the atmospheric systems.
Reading List
- Rose, C.W. (2004) An Introduction to the Environmental Physics of Soil, Water and Watersheds, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Although this textbook is the closest fit to the course content it does not cover all aspects of the course material. You will therefore need to consult the textbooks listed below. Many textbooks are in the Reserve sections of University libraries; if there are any difficulties in obtaining these books, please let the Course Organiser know.
- Oke, T.R. (1987) Boundary Layer Climates. 2nd Ed. Routledge. ISBN 0415043190 (the best textbook for the Atmosphere section of the course)
- Ashman, M. R. and Puri G. (2002) Essential soil science: a clear and concise introduction to soil science. Blackwell Scientific, Oxford. (A good basic textbook, suitable for this course but not for more advanced environmental science study).
- Brady, N. C. and Weil, R. R. (2008) The Nature and Properties of Soils (14th Ed). Pearson Education. (The latest edition of the classic soil textbook which goes beyond this course and will stand you in good stead for most undergraduate soil science).
- Ward, R.C. and Robinson, M. (1999). Principles of Hydrology (4th Ed). McGraw - Hill. (Well-respected hydrology textbook with good coverage of hydrological processes. Will stand you in good stead for most undergraduate hydrology. The 3rd Ed is also suitable).
- Davie, T. (2002) Fundamentals of Hydrology. Routledge. (A good basic textbook, cheaper to buy than Ward and Robinson).
Please see the course handbook for information about supplementary reading and further information about readings for each lecture.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information 3 one-hour lectures per week.
Various practical and tutorial sessions.

Please see detailed course timetable on Learn for full details of class delivery.
Course organiserProf John Moncrieff
Tel: (0131 6)50 5402
Course secretaryMrs Nicola Clark
Tel: (0131 6)50 4842
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