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Environmental Science Programme

What is Environmental Science?


Environmental Science focuses on understanding how the environment works, so that we can minimise environmental damage in the everyday activities of modern life, or help to repair past environmental damage. Our environment is defined by an extremely complex interplay of a range of different processes, all occurring at once. Hence, Environmental Science is multidisciplinary, and involves a wide range of different research areas. A key skill of an Environmental Scientist is to link these different types of science and combine knowledge from different disciplines into a more holistic understanding of processes that go on around us. Some of the world’s most interesting, exciting, and useful scientific research is currently tackling major environmental issues with committed teams of scientists from a range of disciplines who are starting to talk to each other more than in the past.

Environmental Science at University of Otago

University of Otago has an active and committed group of researchers studying a wide range of Environmental Science issues. Most of these researchers are in Departments of Chemistry, Geography, Geology, Marine Science, Surveying and Zoology in the Division of Sciences, with some in the Department of Geography (Humanities). The Division of Sciences has an administrative structure that facilitates and encourages multidisciplinary research and teaching. Hence, there are always numerous multidisciplinary research projects going on, that cross departmental boundaries and make new and interesting linkages.

MSc in Environmental Science


MSc students at the University of Otago play an important role in developing new ideas and understanding, and finding novel solutions to problems. An MSc in Environmental Science is a good way to start a rewarding career working on issues that affect us all, and will affect our descendants even more. Most environmental issues call for graduates with an interdisciplinary training that combines expertise from a variety of interrelated sciences. Most students will come into the course from a number of more narrow, traditional disciplines (e.g. with a Bachelors degree in biology, chemistry, ecology, engineering, geography or similar). Graduates of the course will possess the expertise required of professional environmental scientists in two or more related disciplines.

Environmental Science and Ecology

Environmental Science research commonly involves studies that link physical processes (e.g., chemistry, geology, physics) and biological processes (e.g., botany, zoology). This type of multidisciplinary research can lead to the most interesting and stimulating projects. An MSc in Ecology can also cover similar projects, and there is a useful overlap between these fields. Generally, Environmental Science projects have a stronger physical science component, and Ecology projects have a stronger life science component, but there are no hard boundaries in this area of multidisciplinary science.