The online MSc Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh: My experiences studying online

It was with cautious steps that I finally decided to apply for the Masters I had wanted to do since completing my undergraduate degree, an alarming 17 years ago.  I have been working full time since then and although I’ve completed lots of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and online courses, they didn’t provide me with the level of academia that leaps a person’s skills onto new career trajectories.

Deciding whether to study online or on campus was easy…I worked full time and decided that the travel time saved by doing the course online, rather than travelling to campus could be added to my overall study time.  I started on the 3 year part time MSc in Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh.  Since starting the course, I haven’t looked back.  The level of support I have received over the last year and a half has left me in no doubt; I am in no way disadvantaged by not going into class in person.

Photo Vanessa

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Networking at The ECCI

While GeoSciences is largely based at the King’s building campus, all of the Ecosystem Services compulsory courses, as well as others, take place in lecture rooms in the ECCI (Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation). Not far from central campus and next to the Geography building the ECCI not only houses lecture and seminar rooms, and study spaces for master students, but is also home to a number of other organisations and businesses that are interested and involved in making Edinburgh and Scotland greener. Students, academics, business owners, charity bodies and governmental organisations across sectors and disciplines come together here to discuss environmental issues and solutions.


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Edinburgh Food Guide

Having almost reached the end of my four years in this beautiful city (cry), it’s fair to say I’ve been lucky enough to sample an array of Edinburgh’s culinary offerings. And let me tell you, it really does have a plethora of options. Romantic dinner for two… hungover brunch with the girls… and everything in between, you’re guaranteed to stumble across numerous options on your journey from Marchmont to New Town. Adopting the very much appropriate ‘sharing is caring’ motto, I thought it would only be fair to divulge some of the best picks. Whether your parents are coming up for the weekend and you’d like them to think you haven’t spent your entire year en route from the JMCC to Why Not… or you’re coming to the end of your Edinburgh Uni venture and you simply MUST sample every brunch spot on offer before you leave… OR you’re considering coming to study here and you’re looking for that final bit of persuasion… I’ve got your back. Get your bucket list at the ready.


The Birchwood


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Why ecosystem services?

I’m from the exotic south of England, Hertfordshire to be more precise. I moved a little further north to Manchester to study Geography for my undergrad. After a couple of years of working and travelling I decided to move even further north to Edinburgh to study Ecosystem Services for my masters.

Welcome week trip to Bass Rock

You are often expected to take one of two sides in Geography, human or physical. While I often claimed to be a physical geographer taking more interest in natural disasters and ecosystems rather than city planning and therapeutic landscapes, I found myself trying to straddle the best of both worlds. My interests were in learning how the Earth’s systems worked but I appreciated how humans were both influencing and being influenced by these processes. I knew I wanted to study this further, making sure I got the physical and the human, the theory and the practical application. Unique to GeoSciences at Edinburgh, I found that the MSc in Ecosystem Services provided the perfect mix of scientific and analytical assessment of ecological processes as well as exploration of the social aspects of management and valuation of the services ecosystems provide. Continue reading

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Why (and how) I quit my job to pursue a MSc in Marine Systems & Policies

I remember looking out of my office’s window on the 31st floor of one of Toronto’s beautiful skyscrapers asking myself, “Is this it?” 

I had a great job with a satisfying pay. My office overlooked the entire skyline of the Financial District, Nathan Philips Square and the Toronto Sign with Lake Ontario in the background calling me out like a child reaching for your hand to play. The line where lake met sky beckoned me and reminded me that there was always something more — something beyond suits and fancy glass buildings (with no intent to offend those who choose and love this lifestyle!). 

I was on a steady track towards what many people would call “success”, but that “success” (a stable job with a steady income and a future in the downtown core) was not for me.

“Success” for me meant sun. Call me crazy, but “success” was embracing uncertainty if it meant waking up to the sea and the potential for an endless array of summer days. “Success” meant adventure — but most importantly and above all, it meant purpose — and I found my meaning and purpose in dedicating my brain and willpower towards achieving sustainability in our seas.

I found my meaning and purpose in dedicating my brain and willpower towards achieving sustainability in our seas.

— Okay, wait Carmela, what does that even mean?

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Diving deeper into the underwater world of the Maldives: Reflections from the Marine Systems and Policies field trip


As we trade in our snorkels and flip-flops for umbrellas and wooly hats, now is a good time to reflect on the incredible thirteen days the MSc Marine Systems and Policies students spent in the Maldives. The Maldives is comprised of 1192 islands, 26 natural atolls, 250 species of coral and over 1115 species of fish. The country’s economy is centred around tourism and fishing, with other industries such as agriculture, boats and handicraft contributing to revenue. The main social challenges facing this country are energy production, drinkable water and waste management. In addition, these low-lying islands are threatened by sea level rise, global warming, coral bleaching, tourism, overfishing and ocean acidification. When you look at the vast array of challenges the Maldives are having to try to combat, it becomes complicated very quickly, however it makes for an interesting environment to study.


The aim of this excursion was to introduce us to different field methods and apply these in practice to small-island developing states. Whilst undertaking these activities we were also trying to understand the broader elements that may drive changes. The trip was broken down into three aspects: the marine environment (snorkelling or scuba), geomorphology and social science. In addition, each student was required to undertake their own personal project in an area that interested them within the core subjects. Looking at these complex socio-ecological systems in blocks allowed us to start thinking about the linked nature of environmental and social change.

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My University Courses Part 5: Earth Modelling and Prediction 2 (EMP2) & Soil, Water and Atmospheric Processes (SWAP)

In the second semester of my first year Undergraduate Geology degree I studied EMP2 and SWAP outside of the core course: Introduction to the Geological Record. EMP 2 was oriented towards mathematics while SWAP was oriented towards Environmental Science. Both subjects imparted useful ideas in the realm of GeoSciences ranging from mathematical modelling to the workings of microclimates around the world.

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My University Courses Part 4: Introduction to the Geological Record

I finished this course 2 years ago. Looking back, I say it was worth it. This subject introduced me to a plethora of new things including geological maps, sedimentary logs and many new field trip skills. The cherry on the top was the field trip to the Lake District. The views were nice and Alex Thomas was a great field instructor.


Turbidity current experiment

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GIS 30-Year Reunion

Earth Observation and Spatial Analysis

The weekend of the 29th July saw a reunion of the GIS class of 1987. who stood for a photography on the steps at Drummond Street, adopting the same poses of a similar photography taken thirty years previously.

DSCF2432.JPG Chris Nailer (front), Jane D’Souza, Melissa Craig, Lorraine Chu, Karen Westwood, Alex Bell (middle) and Paul Dowie, Mike Adam, Stuart Gillies and Bruce Gittings.

Bruce Gittings hosted a visit to the Institute of Geography (still known by many as “the department”) and toured the group round familiar and less familiar aspects of the building.  Three of the group had been geography undergraduates prior to taking the GIS MSc, so had spent five years in the building. The Old Library, which is now our principal seminar room, was very much an active library at that time and our newly-refurbished coffee room was the site of the librarian’s office, along with rows of shelves holding…

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Corals in the Land Down Under!

For my dissertation I traveled to Australia, the land down under! There I worked with the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Coral Reef Studies at the University of Western Australia in Perth. I did my project on corals found in the Kimberley Region of Australia.


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