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The University of Southampton

ENVS6036 Advanced GIS and Spatial Analysis

Module Overview

Almost all environmental phenomena vary over space and time. Some examples would be the spread of a pollutant from a point source, the occurrence of an infectious disease, the global threats from earthquakes, and the incidence of elephant poaching. One of the greatest challenges in environmental science is to model where things happen, why and what will change in the future. The purpose of this module is therefore to introduce you to the world of environmental modelling where there is a strong spatial, and often temporal, element leading to some assessment of risk. Work of this nature is at the cutting-edge of environmental research because it has huge implications for the planning of environmental futures e.g. at government level in the setting of policy surrounding climate change adaptation, to biodiversity conservation in predicting the future of threatened species, and in the insurance industry in relation to assessing the risks of hazards. This module builds on the core GIS skills you should have acquired in a previous module. It assumes you can use ArcGIS and will instead focus on spatial analysis rather than GIS operations, although any new essential tools will be taught. In order to bring you up to the level where you are able to run analyses of real practical value, this module will focus on two main projects that build your skill set week by week. On completing the module, you will be capable of undertaking new work in new settings unaided. This will provide you with a strong basis for employment in environmental modelling and spatial analysis, or the foundation for starting advanced research. As this is an advanced module, students must have already successfully completed a GIS module either at Southampton or another institution.

Aims and Objectives

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
  • Issues concerning the availability and sustainability of resources, for example, the different value sets relating to the Earth's resources as commodities and/or heritage
  • 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
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:

  • Communicating appropriately to a variety of audiences in written, verbal and graphical forms
  • Appreciating issues of sample selection, accuracy, precision and uncertainty during collection, recording and analysis of data in the field and laboratory
  • 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
  • Developing the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (e.g. working independently, time management and organisation skills)
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Planning, conducting, and reporting on environmental investigations, including the use of secondary data
  • Collecting, recording and analysing data using appropriate techniques in the field and laboratory
  • Referencing work in an appropriate manner


Advanced technical skills will be assessed through two detailed projects: modelling the present and future distributions of a species subject to global climate change; and using GIS to assess the potential impacts of natural hazards. Species distribution modelling (SDM) has grown from a research approach practised by a few specialists just 20 years ago, to a mainstream activity in biodiversity conservation and disease risk forecasting. New software, data layers and high speed computers now make it easy to build models - and equally easy to misunderstand and misuse the outputs. The focus of this assessed project is therefore on understanding and incorporating the uncertainties in the model-building process. Spatial models are often complex and some users do not have the specialist skills needed to build them from scratch. In the second project, you will therefore develop a tool that non-specialists can use to assess the impact of natural hazards on populations.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

This module uses lectures followed by double practical slots (where the principles learned are applied on the computer) as its principal mode of delivery. Independent learning will be supported by recommended text books, original scientific papers and internet resources. Feedback will be obtained weekly through practical exercises, through direct and e-mail contact with the lecturer and demonstrators, and through information placed on Blackboard. Self-directed practical training will be by completion of the exercises set in each practical class, building towards the assessed reports.

Wider reading or practice26
Practical classes and workshops26
Follow-up work26
Assessment tasks59
Total study time150


Assessment Strategy

This module is assessed through one individual written report and one submission of a working GIS tool with appropriate documentation.


MethodPercentage contribution
Analysis and report  (3000 words) 50%
GIS Map Package  (2500 words) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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