Earth Day – Plastic Pollution

The 22nd of April, not only marks my birthday, but also marks Earth Day!

A day to celebrate the Earth, to raise awareness of environmental issues, and encourage people to do their bit to protect it. Following a huge push from campaigners and the general public for companies to cut single-use plastic products, such as straws, cotton buds, plastic bottles and excessive packaging, as well as plastic waste taking centre stage in the much loved Blue Planet 2 series last year, this year’s theme is Plastic Pollution.

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Why go part-time?

As we near the end of semester two I watch those around me get more and more stressed as their multiple deadlines near, their dissertation ideas become more and more of a reality and job and PhD searches become interviews. I on the other hand, am not feeling the strain of postgraduate study life. This semester I had one full time module and a field trip coming up in a couple of weeks. I have a couple of part time jobs that I have made sure are flexible around my studies and the various university meetings I choose to attend. I have just started a new volunteering post helping run wilderness clubs for school pupils, I’m spending my Easter break working at the zoo and my dissertation deadline is not looming for a while yet. Why? Because I decided to go part time.

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What lies beyond lectures? Seminars, workshops and talks that captured my interest and added to my Masters experience


It’s true that most of your postgraduate university life will be spent in lectures, reading or studying. However, it is important not to forget that there are so many other amazing things going on in the outside world, that do actually compliment your education. Many people will choose to join societies or athletic clubs, take up a part-time job, or volunteer. Often though, we forget about talks or workshops that exist either held by the university or from the wider community. Each week there are many fantastic events, so when the opportunity does arise for you to squeeze it into your busy schedule, GO!

Since starting in September 2017, I have attended a diverse range of talks, in a range of formats from webinars to seminars at the Royal Observatory to speed-dating style workshops. Much of the time, I have found these breaks really interesting, and find that I learn or gain something new by making the time to attend. For me, I find that these sorts of things remind me why I chose to study Marine Systems and Policies, and why I care about the things that I do.

I want to give you a bit of an insight into just a few of the seminar events I have attended, and tell you some useful places to find out about what is going on and where in Edinburgh! Most of these relate to the things that I am interested in, so do go out and search for yourself to see what crops up that you feel most passionately about! Continue reading

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Throwback to Jamaica field trip – Paradise Lost?

Since spring has officially sprung, I’ve been casting my mind back to warmer tides, tropical sunsets and the itch to get back out in the field putting science into action.

Setting off

Last April, along with my fellow third year Environmental Geoscience students, I stuffed snorkels, pH probes, hiking boots and dive slates all into my backpack and flew across the Atlantic to Jamaica. Having looked forward to this moment for our entire degrees, we were pretty excited to say the least.

This was our opportunity to indulge in the balmy Caribbean sea surface temperatures and jerk cuisine, to meet turtles, corals, fish and rays up close and personal. This was our opportunity to put our oceanography knowledge to the test and learn real practical techniques that would be invaluable skills for years to come.

Where famous marine scientists such as Goreau and Hughes once stood, our fieldtrip soon followed in their physical, if not intellectual, footsteps, arriving in trepidation on the shores of Discovery Bay.

The land of (wood and) water

However, no sooner had we arrived at the marine laboratory situated on the northern coast of the island, we realised that there was indeed trouble in paradise.

Instead of the untouched pristine island of our dreams, we were met with sprawling tourist developments, extensive deforestation and a huge bauxite mine as our closest neighbour. Reality hit hard.

As we spent our first week heads down and snorkels up (with red necks to boot!) we conducted ecological surveys of the coastal ecosystem using quadrats and transects. Within minutes of our first glimpse below the surface, large swathes of green snotty algae stretching metres across the backreef confirmed that something was afoot. Our results showed that some areas had up to 50% macroalgae cover, thought to be smothering coral reef growth which would likely affect the reef health overall. Even large swarms of algae-munching urchins were no match for this algal tide. Our sprawling underwater metropolis lay quiet.


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Environmental Protection and Management (EPM)- What is it?

When I am asked what programme I am studying I always get a blank look when I answer “Environmental Protection and Management”. The blank look of ‘what is that? What do you study? What does that mean?’ is apparent. Because of this, many of us in the program have come up with a short few sentences of what we think it means which run along the equivalent of “I’m studying a wide variety of environmental issues to better be equipped to address the management and design of these problems/issues”. While this quick definition isn’t wrong, it’s not quite right either.

The website states: The Environmental Protection and Management programme aims to provide you with the skills to devise and enact strategies to protect and conserve various environments.

  • Develop a scientific understanding of some of the major processes which influence the quality of land, air and water resources
  • Improve knowledge of the most effective methods of environmental protection
  • Develop expertise in the design and implementation of programmes of environmental protection
  • Provide the opportunity to study the integrated protection and management of particular ecosystems or resources


This year, there are 32 students in the programme and we all have different end goals. So although we all do want to know how to be able to manage and better prepare or design environmental issues, the overall goals are different. It ranges from wanting to work with waste water, off-shore renewables, wanting to reintroduce or save endangered species, to commenting on environmental policies, helping in food production and research, or even continuing to further research and PhDs. Yes, we are all in the same programme, but we all have different career aims.


From the SRUC Welcome Week camping trip in Tyndrum

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Where can Geosciences take me after graduation? A few potential career paths…

Geoscience careers
I am often asked, “Why did you choose to study Environmental Geoscience?”

Many people seem to think it is a very specific, niche choice and I’m sure what some of them really mean by that question is, “Where on earth is that going to get you a job?!

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My opinion on the USS/UCU Protests

For two weeks or so the lecturers have been protesting, angry about their pensions being cut. I have missed some lectures and some tutorials. However I understand their position and I have a massive respect towards their jobs. (Especially the GeoScience teachers and researchers)
They work incredibly hard. They mark our work, they lecture us in topics which are extremely complicated, they conduct our labs, they organize the field-trips for us (I as a student do a lot of paperwork for the trips, imagine the amount of paperwork they need to do) and along with that they do vital research for the Nation. Not to mention that they do answer our e-mails in the weekends and in the evenings. (Not to mention the support staff like Dr Gillian McCay who sets up our labs for us and keeps the petrological microscopes in top shape)
For this they should be payed well and a proper pension should be provided. I was surprised by the level of their pay and by the fact that the wider bodies decided to cut their pension. I understand the financial reasons for the cut, explained well in this blog: Thoughts for UCL (and perhaps other) students about the pension strikes at universities, however if you think about it, it doesn’t make sense in the wider context.


Lecturers and Researchers from the School of GeoSciences (By Dr. Florian Fusseis)

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My Experience of Geoscience


Institute of Geography

Geosciences is a broad discipline that ranges across science and humanities, drawing connections between them.  However my experience of studying geography as a social science specifically, has further broadened my understanding of what geosciences can be, which is what makes the discipline so interesting.

I am currently a second year MA geography student. The first two years of the degree are highly flexible, allowing me to get a grasp of both the scientific and humanitarian aspects of geography. This is a valuable benefit as it provides a taste of both perspectives on geography. If you choose, the option is also open to switch your focus for honours. Although my preferred aspects of the course remain within human geography modules, having the opportunity to study both helps me grasp the significant ways they interact.

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Scotland’s wildlife – World Wildlife Day

The 3rd of March is World Wildlife Day! Many organisation use this to raise awareness of the big biodiversity and conservation issues of our time. The big cats, elephants, pandas and penguins battling for top spot. In terms of Scotland, the RZSS have these covered with Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park housing some of the UK’s most prominent foreign residents such as polar bears and snow leopards, no doubt now enjoying the Beast from the East! But I’m going to use this opportunity to highlight the wildlife native to Scotland.

Familiar to UK residents, but potentially new to those coming from further afield, Scotland is home to a number of Britain’s typical species from larger deer, badgers and dolphins to smaller water voles, bats and newts. Below are a few species that specifically call Scotland home and you are unlikely to find elsewhere.

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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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