The University of Southampton

ENVS3015 GIS-Environmental Functions & Applications

Module Overview

The effects of climate change will vary over space. The environmental impacts of a large-scale development may be reduced if it was sited in a different location. Invasive species move through complex habitat mosaics. Spatial analysis is key to understanding such complex environmental problems. This module builds on the core GIS skills learnt in ENVS2008 and will provide you with the skills to make effective use of the wealth of environmental data that is available. You will develop a bespoke GIS tool designed to solve a specific problem related to an area of environmental sciences of interest to you. You will explore the world of FOSS GIS (free, open source GIS). You will learn how GIS is used in large organisations, and in cutting edge environmental research.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This module aims to further develop students’ GIS skills, becoming independent learners able to solve complex spatial problems.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The need for both a multi-disciplinary and an interdisciplinary approach in advancing knowledge and understanding of Earth systems, drawing, as appropriate, from the natural and the social sciences
  • The processes which shape the natural world at different temporal and spatial scales and their influence on and by human activities
  • The terminology, nomenclature and classification systems used in environmental science
  • Methods of acquiring, interpreting and analysing environmental science information with a critical understanding of the appropriate contexts for their use
  • The contribution of environmental science to debate on environmental issues and how knowledge of these forms the basis for informed concern about the Earth and its people
  • The contribution of environmental science to the development of knowledge of the world we live in
  • The applicability of environmental science to the world of work
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Recognising and using subject-specific theories, paradigms, concepts and principles
  • Analysing, synthesising and summarising information critically, including prior research
  • Applying knowledge and understanding to complex and multidimensional problems in familiar and unfamiliar contexts
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Receiving and responding to a variety of information sources (eg textual, numerical, verbal, graphical)
  • Developing an adaptable and flexible approach to study and work
  • Communicating appropriately to a variety of audiences in written, verbal and graphical forms
  • Preparing, processing, interpreting and presenting data, using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques and packages including geographic information systems
  • Solving numerical problems using computer and non-computer-based techniques
  • Using the internet critically as a means of communication and a source of information
  • Identifying individual and collective goals and responsibilities and performing in a manner appropriate to these roles
  • Recognising and respecting the views and opinions of other team members
  • Evaluating performance as an individual and a team member
  • Developing the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (eg working independently, time management and organisation skills)
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Collecting, recording and analysing data using appropriate techniques in the field and laboratory
  • Referencing work in an appropriate manner


The syllabus will cover both technical and applied aspects of GIS within an environmental context. In terms of the technical content, students will learn about a range of different GI software. They will consider how to assess its usefulness according to the setting in which they may be operating, taking into account aspects such as financial cost, system requirements and user-friendliness. The issue of data management will also be explored, with discussion of how to implement best practice in terms of both individual project work and within a larger organisation. Combining both the technical and applied aspects, students will learn to develop and deliver bespoke GI tools according to a client specification. For example, this may be a tool that enables novice GIS users to carry out basic analyses relating to an EIA.

Special Features

The module will include a trip to the Ordnance Survey head offices to see how GI software is used and structured within a large organisation.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be delivered by lecture, computer laboratory sessions and a field-trip. The sessions will be delivered by the module leader, with assistance from postgraduate demonstrators. Learning activities include: - Attendance at lecture and practical sessions. - Self-directed learning – additional reading and computer based exercises accessed via Blackboard. - Private study – research for the module assignments.

Completion of assessment task50
Wider reading or practice30
Follow-up work10
Preparation for scheduled sessions22
Practical classes and workshops22
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Heywood, I., Cornelius, S. and Carver, S., (2011). An Introduction to Geographical Information Systems. 

Longley, P. A., Goodchild, M. F., Maguire, D. J. and Rhind, D. W., (2011). Geographic informationsystems and science. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Practical assessment 32.5%
Practical assessment 32.5%
Review 35%


MethodPercentage contribution
Practical assessment 32.5%
Practical assessment 32.5%
Review 35%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: ENVS2008 GIS for Environmental Scientists


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Travel Costs for placements

You will need to provide and wear your own suitable clothing when attending field courses, e.g. waterproofs, walking boots. You can purchase these from any source and costs will vary depending on your preference. You will be expected to purchase your own lunch and any additional refreshments. ()

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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