Field work

Field courses are at the heart of our teaching and are a fundamental component of your degree. Led by expert staff, we believe they are one of the foundations to your development as a geographer, or environmental or human scientist. For many students, field courses are the highlights of their degree, with several describing the residential trips as among their most memorable and enjoyable experiences.

Each field course is designed to bring theory to life, providing practical examples of important concepts and ideas discussed in the classroom. Examples cover a range of spatial scales, from issues affecting people in local areas to global issues with importance for millions of people.

Our field courses enable you to experience a variety of teaching styles and to work in small teams undertaking your own practical research. What’s more, our academic staff are on hand to offer advice and share their knowledge and enthusiasm.

The two main field courses you will take part in are*:

* Please note that field course destinations are subject to change.


West Cornwall is home to an incredibly diverse range of cultural, ecological and physical landscapes, as well as some of the UK’s finest coastal scenery, and is recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which combine to provide the perfect setting for geographical exploration. From the deep geological time to the present, you will see how landscapes have changed from the beaches to the hilltops. You will also study environments under threat from a range of pressures, and gain an insight into how people and landscapes interact.

The residential field class to West Penwith will introduced you to the fantastic ecology, geomorphology and environmental and cultural landscapes of the area. You will have the opportunity to explore the effects of climate change on dynamic ecosystems such as the Lizard and Zennor Moor or the coastal environment at Godrevy Beach and the effects of global capital shifts on former mining and fishing communities like Penryn and St Ives.


You will learn about science and social science techniques, including participant observation, sampling techniques, experimental design and quantitative analysis tools, which are essential for your future career as geographers and environmental scientists. You will also participate in a two-day volunteering exercise with a local environmental organisation getting hands on with practical environmental stewardship and enhancing your future employability.

The immersive residential field course in your third year is likely to see you travel to California, New York, Kenya or Iceland*. Depending on your choice of location, the field course will form the basis of your practical understanding of some of the biggest environmental and social issues facing society. You could find yourself exploring the massive-scale environmental changes affecting California and the Sierra Nevada; expanding your awareness of the significance of place, space and time in the distinctive urban environment of New York; discovering solutions to the problems of providing food, water and energy to the diverse cultures and wildlife of Kenya; or understanding how the people of Iceland cope with volcanic risks and hazards.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity allows you to explore a range of complex and diverse environments, visit inspirational natural and cultural landscapes, and experience and research the links between human and physical environments.

During this module, with the support of our staff with their extensive field experience, you will be introduced to advanced data collection techniques and theories, carry out guided field exercises and develop and conduct research projects to investigate these environments. Upon your return help sessions will be provided to support you as you write up your research project. This will build on your learning in the previous two years of your degree and act as a strong foundation for your final year.

As well as providing context and real-life experiences to complement the rest of your degree programme, and research project experience prior to the majority of your dissertation work, this field course will help you develop skills in data analysis and communication, team work, project planning and management which will be directly relevant to your future career. The course specifically addresses the growing demand from environmental sectors to foster awareness and training in the way people interact with natural and urban environments.

* Please note that field course destinations are subject to change.

The fieldtrip was amazing! It allowed you to get a good understanding of a range of environmental management practices within the physical world, which could be used as in depth examples. The trip provided a good grounding in analysis and statistical methods and their limitations in preparation for the dissertation, and there was a good level of work and travelling, as well as free time. In addition, our tutor was really helpful and prepared us well for our dissertation proposal.

Second Year Geography undergraduate

So many of the things that you are talking about in the classroom are right here in Cornwall – it’s just brilliant to get out and see these things. That is why this field trip is so good.

First year Geography undergraduate

West Penwith field course video

Exploring West Penwith on the Geography/Environmental Science first year field course. View full size.

Scilly Isles course video

Environmental Science; Studying BSc/MSc on the Isles of Scilly 2017. View full size.