Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Field Techniques in Earth Systems

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Environmental Management and Planning

DESCRIPTION The study-unit will introduce students to selected field techniques used in life and earth sciences. Through first-hand field experience, students will learn to prepare a field protocol, identify suitable data collection and analysis techniques, sample and collect data, analyse data, and process and present results effectively. Through working in unfamiliar environments, students will also learn how to deal with unknown factors and to adjust plans depending on field constraints. Students will have the option, either of completing the field course in the Maltese Islands, or, resources permitting, of joining an international field trip. The specific techniques that will be focused on will vary depending on the specific field context, but will possibly address aspects including fluvial and coastal dynamics, sediment analysis, vegetation sampling, and geology/geomorphology. Through the hands-on experience of data collection for these different aspects of Earth Systems, students will also be able to understand how scientific data can provide indications of the state of biophysical systems, and inform policy development and the design of management measures.

Study-unit Aims:

The study-unit aims:

- To give students hands-on experience of collecting scientific data for the analysis of Earth Systems;
- To enable students to become familiar with field techniques and with the use of related equipment;
- To help students understand the necessity of having a robust research design before conducting fieldwork and appreciate the importance of collecting/analyzing data rigorously;
- To show students how seemingly minor errors in field data collection can significantly skew results obtained;
- To demonstrate how scientific data can be used to provide an indication of the state of health of Earth System components, and how such data can thus be used to inform the design of policy and management measures.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Explain correlations and relationships between abiotic and biotic ecosystem components;
- Illustrate how scientific data can provide evidence to support policy and management decisions.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Identify and map physical landscape features in the field;
- Identify key characterizing and indicator species in an ecosystem;
- Collect vegetation data in the field;
- Design a field data collection exercise using techniques covered in this study-unit.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Coe, A. L. (2010). Geological field techniques. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 978-1444330625.
- Gullison et al. (2015). Good practices for the collection of biodiversity baseline data. Available:

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Fieldwork, Lecture, Seminar & Tutorials

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Portfolio 1 SEM2 Yes 50%
Portfolio 2 SEM2 No 50%
Important - Due to the COVID19 Pandemic the information regarding the method of assessment indicated above may have been changed. Further details have been provided by your F/I/C/S.


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2019/0, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.