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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
SummaryThis is a 20-credit course that provides the background in soil science, environmental physics and hydrology required to tackle critical issues such as land degradation, climate and land use change and microclimate modification.
Course description The complex nature of the world's ecosystems arises from the inter-relationships between the physical environment, ecology and human intervention. The course structure reflects this interaction between soil, water and atmospheric processes within environmental systems. We begin with the inputs to the system of energy (radiation) and water (precipitation). Next the internal dynamics of the environmental system are examined (including topics of soil composition and properties, soil moisture and groundwater). Finally we cover the system outputs - water in gaseous and liquid form (as evaporation to the atmosphere and river runoff).
The majority of the course focuses on developing a sound understanding of the physical and chemical processes that occur in the soil, atmosphere and freshwaters at the sub-regional scale. Case study lectures are interspersed amongst process-based lectures to demonstrate why an understanding of soil, water and atmospheric processes is required for effective environmental management.
Through the course lectures, practicals and tutorials we will also begin to quantify soil, water and atmospheric
processes as a basis for estimating environmental resources (such as water availability or nutrients for plant growth) and predicting the effects of environmental change. By the end of the course you will have an improved understanding of the world around you and will be better equipped to analyse environmental systems in a scientific manner.
The course is relevant to all those with an interest in how environmental systems function: from whole organism biologists and ecologists to geologists and environmental chemists.
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 2023/24, 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) To be completed
Feedback During the course, students will have the following opportunities for feedback:

1. Verbal feedback during practical classes and tutorials.
2. Verbal and written feedback on formative and summative assessments submitted during the course.
3. Following release of course results, all students will be able to view feedback on their exam scripts or be invited to an examination feedback session to see their exam scripts and discuss them with staff.
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. Understand the controls on physico-chemical properties of the soil, water and atmospheric environment and how they interact with ecosystem components.
  2. Appreciate how a knowledge of soil, water and atmospheric processes is important for understanding ecosystem functioning and environmental management.
  3. Display a range of routine skills such as: constructing an energy balance for a range of surfaces; constructing a water balance for a catchment and showing how it is affected by land use change; calculating return periods for extreme events such as floods and drought; carrying out soil and water quality surveys.
  4. Understand the errors involved in measurements of soil, water and meteorological properties.
  5. Critically analyse some of the main concepts associated with the functioning of the soil, water and the atmospheric systems.
Reading List
Ashman, M. R. and Puri G. (2002) Essential Soil Science: A Clear and Concise Introduction to Soil Science. Blackwell Scientific, Oxford.
Weil, R. R. and Brady, N. C. (2016) The Nature and Properties of Soils (15th Ed, Global Edition). Pearson Education.
Davie, T. (2008) Fundamentals of Hydrology (2nd Ed). Routledge.
Oke, T.R. (1987) Boundary Layer Climates (2nd Ed). Routledge.
Robinson, M. and Ward R.C. (2017) Hydrology: Principles and Processes. IWA Publishing.
Rose, C.W. (2004) An Introduction to the Environmental Physics of Soil, Water and Watersheds, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information Total Hours: 200 (Lecture Hours 28, Tutorial Hours 3, Supervised Practical Hours 8, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Formative Assessment Hours 7, Summative Assessment Hours 6, Revision Session Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 142)
Course organiserDr Saran Sohi
Tel: (0131 6)51 4471
Course secretaryMiss Francesca Nadal Finnegan
Tel: (0131 6)50 4842
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