BSc Mathematics and the Environment

UCAS code GF19
Duration 3 Years
Typical offer A*AA-AAB; IB: 38-34
Discipline Mathematics
Location Cornwall (Penryn Campus)


Iceland field course

You will experience at first hand “extreme” ecological habitats, human exploitation of the environment and several types of renewable energy sources and associated technologies.

Planet earth is facing many simultaneous threats. Impacts of climate change, populations under pressure because of dwindling resources, human health, guaranteeing clean water, food security and animal welfare present numerous and multi-faceted challenges for scientists, governments and policy-makers.

Mathematics is essential for understanding and finding solutions to these challenges. By studying on this programme, you can make a real difference. With your expertise in mathematics and statistics, combined with your first-hand experience of solving real-world problems, you will be part of the solution by helping to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues.

Whilst acknowledging the need to learn core mathematical skills, this flexible mathematics programme will take mathematics education out of the classroom into field trips with expert guides, overseas field courses, and working in collaboration with local, national and international organisations and businesses.

Employability is a key element: as well as catering for traditional areas of employment for mathematics graduates, your career opportunities will be enhanced to include new and emerging areas related to conservation, sustainability, renewable energies and environment policy. This is supported through related work experience and local, national or international placements.

Absolutely first-class. Every day on the media we learn that we are moving into an unprecedented, uncertain future, with the probability of major changes to weather patterns, driven by global warming. It is the graduates of this kind of innovative degree programme that will be vital for an understanding of such events, and how we survive, and try to reduce them. It has the potential to become a flagship degree for the University of Exeter, building on the success of the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, with its high-ranking group of ecologists.

Professor Byron Morgan (Kent) External Assessor.

Programme structure

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Year 1

Your first year involves three key components. In the four core modules you will develop your knowledge in the fundamental university level mathematics of calculus, matrix algebra, computing and statistics. An expert-led module will allow you to develop mathematical and interdisciplinary approaches to, and understanding of, key applications areas in ecology, environmental science, energy engineering, society and health. The flagship module of the programme, Mathematics of the Environment, uses classroom-based mathematical investigations, intertwined with half-day field work trips, to embed your mathematical knowledge in environmental applications.

Compulsory modules

ECM1901 Mathematics of the Environment I 30
ECM1902 Fundamentals of Interdisciplinary Mathematics 30
ECM1903 Calculus 15
ECM1904 Numbers, Vectors and Matrices 15
ECM1905 Computing 15
ECM1906 Data Modelling 15

Year 2

In your second year, core mathematics modules develop the key concepts and techniques needed in both mathematics and also applications in ecology, environmental sciences, renewable energy, society and health. You may start to specialise in one applications area by suitable choice of options. Mathematics of the Environment continues to provide the spine of the programme and combines classroom-based activities, guided fieldwork, peer-to-peer presentations and group work aimed at developing communication skills.

Compulsory modules

ECM2901 Mathematics of the Environment II 15
ECM2902 Calculus and Dynamics 15
ECM2903 Statistical Modelling 15
ECM2904 Computational Modelling 15
ECM2905 Systems and Transforms 15

Optional modules

GEO2428B Atmosphere and Ocean Systems 15
BIO2414 Evolutionary Ecology 15
CSM2318 Applied Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics 15
CSM2045 Energy Management 15
BIO2435 Evolutionary Conservation Genetics 15
CSM2277 Mechanics of Materials 15
GEO2431 Natural Hazards and Risk 15
BIO2407 Population and Community Ecology 15

Year 3

The third year is packed with exciting features. There is the unique field trip module that will put your mathematics knowledge to the test. There is the culmination of the Mathematics of the Environment module. Data collected and concepts developed in the first and second years are brought together in sophisticated mathematical modelling and analysis tasks. You will be able to further develop your communication skills and enhance your employability by peer-to-peer mentoring of first year students through presentations and assisting with guided fieldwork. There are a wide range of mathematical and statistical options which allow you to focus your studies towards mathematics. There are also a diverse range of more applied modules from disciplines across the Penryn Campus, and a project involving dual supervision from mathematics and a relevant applications area that allow you to tailor your studies towards specific vocations.

Compulsory modules

ECM3901 Mathematics of the Environment III 15
  Field Course 30
  Project 30

Optional modules

BIO2423 Wildlife Disease 15
BIO3117 Animal Life History, Diversity and Conservation 15
BIO3128 The Behavioural Ecology of Information Use 15
BIO3401 Co-evolutionary Interactions 15
CSM2319 Wind Energy 15
CSM3055 Marine Renewable Energy and Hydropower 15
CSM3373 Geothermal Energy 15
ECM3904 Mathematics of Renewable Energy 15
ECM3906 Statistical Ecology 15
GEO3415 Issues in Climate Change 15
GEO3434 Landscape and Environmental Modelling 15
GEO3437 Climate Change and Society 15
BIO3129 Climate Change, Evolution and Public Perception of Science 15
ECM3706 Mathematical Biology and Ecology 15
  Ecology and Evolution of Disease 15
CSM3372 Energy Generation from Biomass and Waste 15
ECM3908 Frontiers in Interdisciplinary Mathematics 15
ECM3907 Mathematics of Environmental Change 15
CSM3376 Modelling, Simulation and Control 15
  Social Behaviour: Genes, Ecology and Evolution 15
CSM3371 Solar Power 15
  Smart Energy and Energy Storage Technologies 15
  Trends in Environment and Sustainability 15

Entry requirements 2015

Typical offer

A*AA-AAB; IB: 38-34

Required subjects

GCE AL Maths grade A; IB Maths HL6. 

Candidates may offer GCE AL Maths, Pure Maths or Further Maths.

International students

International students should check details of our English language requirements and may be interested in our Foundation programmes.

Further information

Please read the important information about our Typical offer.

For full and up-to-date information on applying to Exeter and entry requirements, including requirements for other types of qualification, please see the Applying section.

Learning and teaching

By choosing to study mathematics in Cornwall you will have the opportunity to develop your core and advanced mathematical skills in an inspirational setting, and apply these skills to important global challenges including biodiversity, energy security, environmental change, human health and wildlife disease.

Mathematics and the Environment is interpreted in the broad spirit of UNESCO’s ‘Mathematics of Planet Earth’ initiative, and you will develop mathematical and statistical knowledge alongside ideas from biology, ecology, geography, health and disease, renewable technologies, or sustainability and social sciences. Because of the interactive elements and field trips essential to the programme, student numbers are capped at 40 per year – this will ensure small class sizes and personalised support.

Your studies will benefit from

  • Research led teaching: all academic staff are research active and draw on close links to the Environment and Sustainability Institute or the European Centre for Environment and Human Health;
  • Flexibility and choice: many options in mathematics and across applied disciplines allow you to tailor your studies to your personal interests, eg, in mathematics, biology, geography and energy engineering;
  • Interactive learning and innovative assessment: many modules draw on research led activities that inspire inquiry and investigation. These activities include field trips, panel debates and expert-led discussions. Assessments are tailored to learning outcomes and include poster and oral presentations, computer code, technical reports and log books aimed at demonstrating your knowledge, skills and expertise;
  • Inspirational location: Cornwall is a perfect natural environment offering numerous opportunities for you to develop skills via hands-on experiences and to understand the challenges facing our planet.

Field work

Iceland field course
The focus of Mathematics and the Environment is on using and developing mathematics and statistics to understand the environment and our interaction with it. The Iceland field course is taken in year three and gives us the opportunity to test our mathematical knowledge in real applications and to assess our understanding of key environmental issues. You will experience at first hand “extreme” ecological habitats, human exploitation of the environment and several types of renewable energy sources and associated technologies.

The field trip to Iceland will use two bases – Reykjavik in the South and Akureyri in the North. The field trip will start in Reykjavik (4 nights), journey to Akureyri (5 nights) and then return to Reykjavik (2 nights).

We will make a number of scientific and technological visits and trips. These will include: visits to the 150MW hydro-electric power station on the River Blanda and the 75MW geothermal power station at Svartsengi, and field work on the lake ecology at Lake Pingvallavatn.

This first hand experience of the ecology, geography and clean technology of Iceland will inspire and motivate three substantial case studies to be carried out during the field course:

  1. an ecological study, which will focus on the stratification of populations in thermal isoclines;
  2. a geographical study, which will explore the influence of declining isolation, due to globalisation, on community structure;
  3. a technological study, which will assess the make up of Iceland’s 100% renewable energy mix and the lessons other countries might learn from this success.

The spectacular natural wonders of Iceland underpin its tourism industry - we will visit the Blue Lagoon thermal spa and the volcano at Eyjafjallajökull (both near Reykjavik), and go whale watching from Husavik in the north.


A degree from Exeter is highly valued by employers. Management and personal skills are built into our programmes and our students take advantage of the wide range of extracurricular and personal development opportunities offered by the University, from study abroad (for certain programmes) to volunteering and playing an active role in student societies.

We have excellent links with employers and support students to consider their careers from an early stage. Our Employability Officer is active in developing aspects of our programmes and services that improve the employability of our students. We also have a dedicated Careers Consultant who provides specific services such as careers workshops tailored to careers in mathematics and support in matters such as applications and job interview skills. The Career Zone runs several careers fairs throughout the year and these have been particularly successful in putting major UK employers in touch with Exeter students. Relevant employers visit the department from the first year to meet with students, with the aim of helping them to develop their career ideas at an early enough stage to help with module choices and placement decisions.

Each year a number of our graduating students choose to undertake further study and there is a fast track application process for Exeter students to our postgraduate programmes. Of those choosing the postgraduate route, around half choose to remain at Exeter, which reflects well on their satisfaction with the University and the range of courses available.

A wide range of employers from industries as diverse as banking, insurance, medical, transport, power generation, software, and the armed forces, know the department as a provider of excellent graduates who are able to apply their problem solving and analytical skills in the real world.

For further information about what the Employability Service offers, please see

Here are just a few examples of the destinations of our recent graduates:

  • Occupations
  • Software Engineer
  • Sport Analyst
  • Audit Assistant
  • Trainee Health Economist
  • Pricing Analyst
  • Corporate Tax Assistant
  • Junior Consultant
  • Maths Teacher
  • Market Risk Analyst


  • Renishaw
  • Centrica
  • Siemens
  • KPMG
  • Allianz
  • BP
  • HSBC
  • Towers Watson
  • 3M
  • Ford
  • The Met Office

Examples of further study followed by our graduates are:

  • MSc Environmental Economics, University College London
  • MSc Modern Applications of Mathematics, University of Bath
  • PGCE Primary Mathematics, University of Exeter
  • PhD Mathematics and Plant Science, University of Nottingham
  • PGCE Secondary Mathematics, Oxford Brookes University
  • MSc Economics, University of Exeter


All our undergraduate students can choose to take an optional Commercial and Industrial Experience module during the vacation before the third year (subject to availability). This is a very rewarding opportunity that allows you to gain paid work experience while earning credits towards your degree. Following the placement you write a report on your experience which, alongside a report from the employer, enables you to count your placement as a third-year optional module.

Contact us

Penryn Campus, Cornwall

Phone: +44 (0)1326 371801

Website: Visit the Mathematics website

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Prof. Stuart Townley talks about Mathematics and the Environment.

Listen to Professor Stuart Townley talk about the programme.

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