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Study information

Environment and Sustainability on the Isles of Scilly

Module titleEnvironment and Sustainability on the Isles of Scilly
Module codeGEO2460
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Jane Wills (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module explores questions of environmental change and sustainability by looking at the practicalities of research design and methodology in relation to the Isles of Scilly, UK. Small island communities are on the frontline of experiencing climate and environmental change as well as trying to find ways to live more sustainably. This makes the Isles of Scilly a perfect location from which to explore the processes of environmental change and socio-ecological response. The module explores these issues as a vehicle for you to develop the conceptual, analytical and practical research skills necessary for you to carry out independent research work, initially within this module, but also with direct applicability to project work through the rest of your degree. We are particularly focused on the skills you need to undertake a high-quality dissertation. The Isles of Scilly is an ideal location in which you will get to think about a range of methodologies used in study, including physical and human geography, and environmental science. In addition, the module will introduce you to key research skills such as project design, sampling, data analysis, interpretation of information, and presentations. During the module you will have access to lecturers to learn new skills and to help develop your plans for your dissertation.

This module is compulsory for students on the BA/BSc Geography, BSc Environmental Sciences, BSc Geography and Geology, and BSc Marine Science programmes.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module has two goals. The first is to highlight the importance of climate and environmental change and the ways in which human beings can respond, looking at the particular experience of the Isles of Scilly as a window on to broader concerns. The second is to prepare you to complete research projects within your degree programme, introducing you to a range of key skills relevant to your chosen discipline by means of enquiry in a particular field environment. It will provide an introduction to a range of research skills such as sampling design, landscape interpretation, data analysis and presentation. Independent research constitutes a central element in your degree programme and is a critical skill in employability. As a whole, the module builds on the introductory fieldwork experiences of Stage 1 and prepares you for your field work and independent research in Stage 3. The module aims will be achieved via staff-delivered content, supported activities, group and individual projects.

You will learn first-hand from active researchers drawing on their own research experiences. The teaching contributions on this module involve elements of research undertaken by module staff, such as work on past environments; environmental sampling and field statistic, environmental change; sustainability, environmental protection and social science.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe a range of specialised techniques and approaches involved in collecting, analysing and presenting geographical and environmental information and apply these with limited guidance
  • 2. Identify/formulate and evaluate questions or problems, including those involving data collected in the field
  • 3. Identify and evaluate approaches to problem-solving with guidance, and apply new ideas to new situations in particular contexts
  • 4. Evaluate the issues involved in applying research design skills within the specific context of field-based research
  • 5. Apply, interpret and use with limited guidance quantitative and qualitative information, including that gathered in the field

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature within module assignments
  • 7. Identify and implement, with guidance, appropriate theories and methodologies for addressing specific research problems in geography and environmental sciences
  • 8. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within geography and environmental sciences
  • 9. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of environmental change and/or sustainability in geography and/or environmental sciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 11. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats and means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience and environment
  • 12. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 13. Where appropriate, use computer and information technology effectively and appropriately and with limited guidance to select, analyse, present and communicate geographical and environmental information
  • 14. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 15. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements
  • 16. Deal proficiently with the issues that collective learning requires (i.e. communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

This module uses the Isles of Scilly as a lens to explore environmental change and the challenges of sustainability. It also uses this context to learn more about research design, delivery, data analysis and communication. We explore the history and contemporary challenges faced by island communities and think about how to design, undertake and deliver research in this particular setting.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Following module material online and completing short tasks
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 4Follow up workshops to explore data and develop analysis for research reports
If it proves possible to complete fieldwork as compulsory or optional teaching and learning (assumed to be a 3 day field-based experience, 8 hours a day)60Orientation to the field, application of field-based research in order to collect original data, consideration of the research process, implications for data and possible application of the results.
Guided Independent Study123Reading and preparation for assignments; independent, data analysis work.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Practical exercises linked to research skillsDemonstration of skills attainment through discussion and/or completion of exercises1-5, 7-16Oral, in the lab or the field

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reflection on research methods30800 wordsAllComments online
A research report based on data already collected on the Isles of Scilly and explored in follow-up workshops702000 wordsAllComments online

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Reflection on research methodsAn essay that outlines the sustainability challenges faced on the Isles of Scilly (1000 words)AllAugust Ref/Def
A research report based on data already collected in the fieldResearch report (2000 words)AllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to redo the assignment as described in the re-assessment table above. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Clifford, N., French, S and Valentine, G. (ed.) 2010 Key Methods in Geography, Sage Publications.
  • Farr, H., & Rogers, A. (1994) Tourism and the environment on the Isles of Scilly: conflict and complementarity. Landscape and urban planning29(1), 1-17.
  • Gomez, B. and Jones, J. P. (ed.) 2010 Research methods in geography: A critical introduction, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Hiemstra, J., Evans, D.J.A., Scourse, J.D., Furze, M.F.A., Mccarroll, D. & Rhodes, E. 2005. The Late Quaternary glacial landforms and sediments of the Isles of Scilly. Quaternary Science Reviews.
  • Petzold, J. (2018). Social adaptability in ecotones: sea-level rise and climate change adaptation in Flushing and the Isles of Scilly, UK. Island Studies Journal13(1).
  • Petzold, J., & Ratter, B. M. (2015). Climate change adaptation under a social capital approach–An analytical framework for small islands. Ocean & Coastal Management112, 36-43.
  • Matthews, H.M. and Foster, I.D. (1986) Fieldwork exercises in human and physical geography. Arnold.
  • Scourse, J.D. 2006. The Isles of Scilly, Field Guide. Quaternary Research Association, London. 180pp.
  • Scourse, J.D. and Furze, M.F.A. 2001. A critical review of the glaciomarine model for Irish Sea deglaciation: evidence from southern Britain, the Celtic shelf and adjacent continental slope. Journal of Quaternary Science 16, 419-434.
  • Scourse, J.D. 1991. Late Pleistocene stratigraphy and palaeobotany of the Isles of Scilly. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B334, 405Ã?¢ï¿½ï¿½448.
  • Scourse, J.D. 1991. Glacial deposits of the Isles of Scilly, in EHLERS, J., GIBBARD, P.L. & ROSE, J. (eds.) Glacial Deposits in Great Britain and Ireland. Rotterdam: Balkema, 291Ã?¢ï¿½ï¿½300.
  • Thomas, C. 1985. Exploration of a Drowned Landscape: Archaeology and History of the Isles of Scilly. London: Batsford.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Physical geography, human geography, environmental science, research skills, fieldwork, Isles of Scilly.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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