Geology - Applied Environmental Geology

Course Outline
Comprehensive training in the theory and practice of environmental geoscience that equips graduates for careers in scientific, engineering and environmental consultancies, natural resources and mining industries, regulatory agencies and research in Ireland and further afield.

The vocational programme was established in 2017 in consultation with industry and government agencies in order to address a skills shortage identified in the environmental geoscience sector in Ireland. The MSc in Applied Environmental Geoscience combines a core focus of hydrogeology/contaminated land and engineering geology (30 credits) with advanced modules in applied geophysics, geoinformatics, environmental monitoring and assessment, environmental law and offshore environmental geology. This course is delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops, seminars which are supported by field courses and laboratory practical sessions. A strong emphasis is placed on obtaining 'hands-on' practical experience following international standards in best practice using real-world industry examples. 30 of the 90 credits involve an independent research project completed with an industry collaborator or as part of ongoing research projects within the School of BEES. The course offers a unique opportunity for international students to gain EU based work experience whilst studying for their Masters. There is currently a global high demand for graduates with applied environmental geoscience skills and this demand is projected to grow in the coming years. The course content is regularly reviewed by a panel of industry advisors from a range of local and international geoscience practice areas in order to meet the ongoing needs of the geoscience sector.

Students in Part I take taught modules to the value of 60 credits involving field study, lectures, practical classes, seminars and workshops.

Students in Part II will undertake a substantial Research Project to the value of 30 credits in an area of environmental geoscience. Part II consists of a research dissertation based on independent research to the value of 30 credits (GL6019) which is completed between April and September. Students will complete a research project during a five-month placement in industry or a research group within the School of BEES.

Why Choose This Course
Students of the MSc programme will have the opportunity to use a range of geotechnical techniques in Semester 1 in the Soil Mechanics Laboratory based in the School of Civil Engineering. The Laboratory houses equipment to carry out soil classification tests, compaction tests, permeability tests, oedometer tests, direct shear tests, triaxial tests, unconfined compression tests, vane shear tests and drop cone shear tests on soil samples. Students of the programme will have access to industry standard hydrogeological field equipment in the School of BEES including submersible pumps, sampling pumps, water level meters, pressure transducers, multi-parameter water quality sondes and flow gauging equipment. This equipment will be used extensively in Semester 2 to carry out aquifer tests, undertake hydrochemical sampling and develop conceptual site models using borehole networks installed on UCC campus. Students will also get hands-on experience using near-surface 2D geophysical techniques such as electrical resistivity tomography and seismic refraction. As part the offshore geology module in Semester 2, students will have the opportunity to participate in seabed mapping and surveying on board the RV Celtic Explorer one of two dedicated research vessels operated by the Irish Marine Institute. Course participants will also have access to the School of Chemistry analytical facilities such as IC, ICP-OES, ICP-MS, GC-MS and LC-qTOF-MS. MSc Students will have access to dedicated office space and computing facilities including geoscience software packages such as ArcGIS and AQTESOLV.

In addition, the School of BEES and programme delivery team enjoys excellent links with world-class Irish research centres and participating institutions including:
• Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences (ICRAG)
• Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI)
• Insight Centre for Data Analytics (INSIGHT)

Industry collaborators
A distinctive feature of the MSc in Applied Environmental Geology programme is the delivery of a range of lectures, workshops, field courses and practicals by industry practitioners with expertise in specialist areas of the course. The focus is on real-world challenges and solutions. Industry collaborators who have contributed to the programme to date have included the following individuals and organisations:
• Dr. Michael Lehane, Dr. Jonathan Derham and selected staff (Environmental Protection Agency, Wexford)
• Dr. Jim Hodgson (Geological Survey Ireland, Dublin)
• Ms. Marie Fleming (Arup, Dublin)
• Ms. Yvonne O'Connell (Apex Geoservices)
• Mr. Paul Quigley and selected staff (Irish Geotechnical Services Ltd)
• Dr. Kevin Ryan (Cork City Council)
• Dr. Mike Long (University College Dublin)
• Mr. Kevin Forde (Aecom, Cork)
• Mr. Gerry Baker (Arup, Dublin)
• Mr. Jim Wragg (Geosyntec, Delph)
• Mr. Kevin Cleary (Verde Environmental)
• Mr. David Norbury
• Mr. James Dunne and Mr. Stephen McCarthy (Fehily Timoney & Company)
• Mr. Tim McGillycuddy (Priority Geotechnical)
• Mr. Sean Moran (O'Callaghan Moran & Associates)

Industry placement and research project
Students spend from April to September working with an industry partner in Part II of the MSc programme where a dissertation and seminar are completed by the end of September. The industry placement and research project allow students to develop their own interests and carry out an independent investigation of an environmental geoscience topic of their choice. Earlier in the year, students will complete certified training courses in construction site health and safety and basic sea survival techniques aboard ship to enable them to carry out any field work as part of their placement. Projects are chosen from a list of topics circulated earlier in the year and may be any combination of field, laboratory or data analysis. Students interested in research may opt for projects linked to national research centres such as ICRAG and MaREI. All projects are supervised by one or more academic staff members in the School of BEES.

Recent industry project examples include the following:
• The role of ground conditions in wind turbine foundation design: a case study from Co. Limerick (Arup, Cork)
• An Investigation into the degradation of concrete blocks by Mica (IGSL Ltd)
• Fossil water in a transboundary aquifer system: the sustainability, quality and future of a non-renewable freshwater resource (GEMS Water, UN Development Centre, UCC)
• The occurrence of heavy metals in soils in Co. Dublin and the implications on human health and contaminated land management (O'Callaghan Moran & Associates)
• Aggregate available for land drainage systems: determination of physical and hydraulic properties and influencing factors (Teagasc, Moore Park)
• Hydrographic surveying, processing and the marine geology of Irish coastal regions (Geological Survey Ireland, Dublin)
• An Investigation of leachate migration in off-site groundwater at a historic municipal landfill (Cork City Council).

Entry requirements

Candidates must hold at least a Second Class Honours, Grade II, NFQ Level 8 degree or equivalent in a Geological/Earth Sciences/Civil Engineering/Environmental Sciences area or a related relevant degree or have reached an equivalent standard through completion of a relevant postgraduate qualification.

English Language Requirements
Applicants that are non-native speakers of the English language must meet the university approved English language requirements available at

International/non-EU applicants
For full details of the non-EU application procedure please visit our how to apply pages for international students. In UCC, we use the term programme and course interchangeably to describe what a person has registered to study in UCC and its constituent colleges, schools, and departments.

Not all courses are open to international/non-EU applicants, please check the fact file above.

For more information please contact the International Office.

Assessment Info

The course employs continuous assessment, practical reports, essays, seminars, field reports and in-class tests as the main assessment methods along with the production of the final dissertation.

Subjects taught

Part 1 Module
• EV6011
Principles of Environmental Assessment and Monitoring (10 credits)

Aim of Module
To introduce the principles and step by step procedures for designing a water quality monitoring programme for freshwater bodies.

• GL6020
Hydrogeology, Contaminated Land and Assessment (10 credits)

Aim of Module
To teach the principles and applications of hydrogeology, contaminant hydrogeology and contaminated land risk assessment and remediation.

• GL6021
Engineering Geology (10 credits)

Aim of Module
The development of an understanding of the basic principles of soil and rock mechanics with specific reference to civil engineering design.

• GL6022
Environmental Planning and Regulation (5 credits)

Aim of Module
To equip the students with the core principles, concepts and rules of Irish and EU environmental and planning regulation and how this applies to their career as an environmental geoscientist.

• GL6023
Offshore Environmental Geology (5 credits)

Aim of Module
To give students experience in seabed mapping techniques and practice; seabed sampling techniques and practice; sub-seabed imaging techniques and practice; seabed monitoring techniques and practice; offshore survey planning; offshore geological data collection, evaluation and assessment.

• GL6024
Applied Geophysics (5 credits)

Aim of Module
To teach the principles, applications and provide hands-on experience in a variety of commonly used geophysical techniques to study the shallow subsurface for environmental geology.

• GL6025
Geoinformatics for Environmental Geology (5 credits)

Aim of Module
To give students a solid grounding on the key concepts, principles and theory of GIS, Remote Sensing, global satellite positioning systems, and related geoinformatics technologies, their use in the Environmental Sciences, and practical techniques of spatial data analysis.

• GL6028
Applied Hydrogeology Skills (5 credits)

Aim of Module
To develop key field and numeracy skills required to undertake hydrogeological investigations.

• GL6029
Applied Geotechnical Skills (5 credits)

Aim of Module
Develop field, laboratory and data analysis skills to meet entry-level industry requirements in engineering geology.

Part II
• GL6019
Applied Environmental Geology research project (30 credits)

Aim of Module
To carry out an independent research project on a topic within the field of Environmental Geology. This project will be carried out either in an industry setting or as part of a research group within the School of BEES.

Further details on the modules listed above can be found in our book of modules. Any modules listed above are indicative of the current set of modules for this course but are subject to change from year to year.

University Calendar
You can find the full academic content for the current year of any given course in our University Calendar.


CKR53: 1 year Full-time
CKR54: 2 Years Part-time

Course Practicalities
The course is made up of 137 hours of lectures, 84 hours of practicals, 55 hours of seminars and 20 days in the field. In addition, the students spend 5 months investigating their industry based research topic.

Enrolment dates

Start Date: 7 September 2020

Post Course Info

Career Prospects
MSc-qualified environmental geoscience graduates are in high demand for technical roles in both the public and private sector at home in Ireland and across the world. In the first year of the programme, over 90% of our participants were in full-time employment or research related to their MSc studies within three months of completing Part II. In many cases, students were offered employment by their industry placement company. For more information please see our recent graduate profiles below.

Environmental geoscientists presenting a range of specialist and transferable skills are readily employed by civil engineering and environmental consultancies as well as geoscience service providers, natural resource exploration and management companies, local authorities, regulatory and government bodies. Day-to-day project work might include but is not limited to some of the following:
• Assessing the suitability of foundation design in hazardous geological environments
• Supervision of geotechnical site investigations for major infrastructure projects
• Aggregate mapping and wind resource development on the continental shelf
• Assessing and managing environmental risks posed by contaminated land
• Water quality monitoring and remediation at licensed industrial facilities
• Environmental impact assessment and reporting

Some students may wish to use the MSc programme to acquire additional practical skills prior to embarking on a research career leading to a Ph.D. For students interested in research, the programme offers comprehensive training in a broad set of transferable skills required for independent geoscience field research.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type


  • Apply to