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Environmental Hazards & Disaster Management BSc(Hons)

Attendance UCAS code/apply Year of entry
3 years full time F810 2017
4 years full time including foundation year F811 2017
6 years part time Apply direct to the University 2017

Why choose this course?

If you are interested in studying the causes of environmental hazards, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis, and how we plan for related emergencies and manage the effects, this course is ideal.

Dr Stuart Downward talks about what you can expect from studying here:

What you will study

You will study four key themes: natural hazard science; human science; disaster management and emergency planning; and develop skills and techniques to underpin your study (such as fieldwork, data gathering, presentation and research).

Year 1 provides a broad understanding of the major branches of Earth sciences and geography, along with specific coverage of natural hazards. You will study the building blocks of the environmental and human systems – basic geology and hydrological, atmospheric and ecological systems. You will also study modules in geographical information science (GIS) and fieldwork.

Year 2 focuses on developing the theory and practice of disaster risk reduction, alongside enhancing your knowledge of GIS, geomorphology, atmospheric science and tectonic hazards. An overseas trip will provide the opportunity to develop your newly acquired skills through fieldwork.

In Year 3, the modules are designed to further develop your knowledge of disaster management, with an emphasis on recent disaster case studies, as well as research and engagement with currently practising professionals in all areas of disaster management.

An important element of Year 3 will be your independent research project. This involves primary data collection, processing, interpretation and reportage on a topic chosen by you in consultation with staff. You can also choose to complete major hazard assessments, together with disaster planning and management investigations, during an optional field course, currently to South Africa.

Module listing

Please note that this is an indicative list of modules and is not intended as a definitive list. Those listed here may also be a mixture of core and optional modules.

Year 1

  • This module provides coverage of key fundamental topics in global geology and no prior knowledge of geology is assumed. The structure of the Earth is described and the major mineral and rock types found in different geological settings on Earth outlined. The history of the plate tectonics hypothesis is outlined and a description of the major lines of evidence leading to the development and acceptance of this hypothesis is given. Geological processes occurring at the different types of plate boundary are described and the effects of such processes outlined. The major natural hazards encountered in the natural environment are described and the physical, chemical and biological reasons for their occurrence and global distribution covered. Case studies of each hazard, from a variety of geographical regions, are provided to build a portfolio of examples, enhancing students' knowledge of the spatial distribution of the key hazards.

  • This module aims to provide students with an understanding of the basic principles and processes that operate and cause change in environmental systems and show how this knowledge can be applied to sustainably manage environmental problems. The importance of a holistic, 'top-down' approach to problem solving will be introduced along with material on key underpinning scientific disciplines including environmental chemistry and genetics. Practical and fieldwork sessions are designed to develop observation and recording skills.

  • This core module introduces techniques of fieldwork and the principles that form the basis of successful investigations within this, including statistics and subject specific to geographical, geological and environment degrees.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • prepare for and perform basic fieldwork techniques;
    • produce a field report in the appropriate format; underpinned by field observations and records;
    • undertake elementary data analysis;
    • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the fundamental scientific (and other) principles and techniques that are pertinent to the course; and
    • apply undergraduate-level academic skills.
  • Spatial analysis introduces and develops the fundamental geographical skills of data collection, analysis and presentation and the solving of spatial problems using GIS. It concerns data types, representations of reality and key spatial analysis techniques.


Year 2

  • This core module provides training in hazard, vulnerability and risk assessment related to natural hazards. The module introduces the fundamental concepts and methodologies involved in disaster and emergency planning and response in a UK and US context. The role of the emergency planner, risk communication, business continuity management, disaster response are all explained and exemplified. A case study approach is used, with examples of natural hazards from a variety of geographical settings.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Identify a range of environmental hazards, and their associated effects, at different locations and at different time-scales.
    • Describe, use and evaluate the various methods and techniques used in environmental hazard, vulnerability and risk assessment.
    • Conduct detailed research into case histories of disaster risk reduction, identifying the roles of key stakeholders, and disseminate the results effectively.
    • Make a critical assessment of the emergency planning systems and status in developed countries.
    • Demonstrate awareness of analytical techniques available to emergency planners such as hazard-zonation mapping, emergency and impact mapping and modelling.
    • Identify and discuss the costs, benefits and drawbacks of disaster risk reduction strategies, with reference to recent case studies.
  • This module delivers a broad and basic knowledge of different landscape development processes and environments across the globe. This module provides an overview, commencing with the concept of landscape development and geomorphology/sedimentology as sub-disciplines in geography and geology in order to evaluate concepts as well as learning key analytical techniques.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Explain and discuss the major earth-surface processes in a range of environments.
    • Recognise the major controls on physical landscape evolution.
    • Describe the techniques available for the study of landforms and geomorphic processes.
    • Discuss the composition, chemical and physical properties of the atmosphere.
    • Discuss air quality and atmospheric pollution.
    • Assess the effect of temporal variations in the atmosphere-ocean system on environmental change.
  • This module builds upon the fundamental concepts (from Year 1) of the techniques and applications of volcanology, seismology and tsunami studies in hazard management. The module introduces practical and field techniques in these areas and will apply these skills to scenario and field-based exercises. A case study approach is used throughout, with particular reference to recent literature in key hazards journals. The residential field course will involve studying products of past volcanic activity in order to assess risk to future hazard events and to develop disaster risk reduction strategies for given hazard scenarios.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Describe field and numerical techniques in volcanology, seismology and tsunami studies.
    • Apply these techniques to scenario-based and field-based problems.
    • Evaluate key recent literature on geophysical hazard management.
    • Conduct detailed hazard, vulnerability and risk assessments on a residential field course to a given area.
  • Maps are tools for visualising geospatial data to communicate spatial patterns and processes and the results of geographical analysis.

    This module explores the principles of map design and production in a GIS environment. It introduces ground, aerial and space based surveying, exploring the underlying physical principles and geographical/technological concepts. It covers remotely sensed data capture, image processing and data modeling.

    The third element develops skills in spatial data analysis and modelling and to explore the application of techniques with respect to point patterns, spatially continuous data and area based data.


Year 3

  • This module provides extensive training and first-hand experience in the techniques routinely practised by professionals in the fields of emergency planning and disaster management, where practitioners (from search and rescue organisations, emergency services, humanitarian aid organisations, local authorities, government departments and the media) share their experience through intensive training sessions and scenario-based exercises.

  • On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

    • Perform basic first aid on simulated disaster victims.
    • Practice, discuss, and evaluate the effectiveness of, various search and rescue techniques.
    • Identify potential career options in disaster management and develop their own career management skills.
    • Make informed decisions on how to work with the media in disaster management scenarios.
    • Evaluate the effectiveness of aid work in disaster case studies.
    • Plan and implement disaster management strategies in a simulated major disaster scenario.
  • This module introduces the concepts and principal methods used in disaster management: prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. This module also explores the fundamental concepts of managing risk of environmental hazards. Various issues and problems that may arise in managing disaster in both developed and developing countries are outlined.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Describe and discuss the components of disaster management – namely, preparedness, prevention, response and recovery.
    • Identify the range of risk management options.
    • Evaluate the effectiveness of insurance in managing risk of environmental hazards.
    • Explore the sources, nature and impact of uncertainties on catastrophe modelling of hazard risk.
    • Assess the range of management options available to the disaster manager from structural to non-structural mitigation measures.
    • Identify and discuss the issues that complicate disaster management in practice such as gender, education, religion and politics.
  • This module requires you to undertake a pre-planned research project, involving: collection, processing and interpretation of primary data, derived either from laboratory or field studies and producing a report.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Plan and conduct laboratory or field-based primary data collection with a view to producing a coherent research project on a specific topic in geology or hazards and disaster management;
    • Process and interpret this primary dataset, using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques.
    • Produce a major piece of academic writing by way of a 7,500-word research project report.
    • Present an interim seminar, detailing progress towards the final project outcomes.
    • Undertake field-based, or desk-based, data collection, processing and interpretation on a range of contemporary issues relating to geology or the assessment of risk and management of hazards and/or disasters in a specified regional environment (programme dependent).

You will have the opportunity to study a foreign language, free of charge, during your time at the University on a not-for-credit basis as part of the Kingston Language Scheme. Options currently include: Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Study abroad as part if your degreeMost of our undergraduate courses support studying or working abroad through the University's Study Abroad or Erasmus programme.

Find out more about where you can study abroad:

If you are considering studying abroad, read what our students say about their experiences.

Key information set

The scrolling banner(s) below display some key factual data about this course (including different course combinations or delivery modes of this course where relevant).

We aim to ensure that all courses and modules advertised are delivered. However in some cases courses and modules may not be offered. For more information about why, and when you can expect to be notified, read our Changes to Academic Provision.

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This course is taught at Penrhyn Road

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