ENVSCI 203 : Modelling Environmental Systems


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

An introduction to the philosophy and use of models in the study of a range of environmental systems, including coastal, ecological, fluvial, atmospheric and social. Students will develop skills in designing, communicating and critically assessing models of the environment.

Course Overview

Models and modelling play an important role in the environmental sciences - the purpose of ENVSCI 203 is to introduce you to the use of environmental models in this context. The course comprises two broad sections. The first is conceptual and is designed to provide you with a framework within which you can understand why environmental models are used, how they can be evaluated, and the advantages and disadvantages involved in their application. The second part of the course focuses on the application of models in some of the sub-disciplines that comprise the environmental sciences via a series of case studies; a number of guest lecturers will contribute to this part of the course.

Although modelling is inevitably a somewhat quantitative endeavour, the purpose of the course is not to train you how to build (mathematical/numerical) models. Instead we will consider the wider issues concerning the development, application and evaluation of models in the environmental sciences. Nevertheless, I will be assuming that you are familiar with:

  •     basic quantitative analysis (i.e. basic statistics, logarithms and powers, etc.)
  •     basic computing skills (as a minimum a working knowledge of Word and Excel)

This is a required course for students majoring in Encironmental Science.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: STATS 101 Restriction: ENVSCI 310

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Analyse environmental models (Capability 1)
  2. Recognise the value and rationale behind the development and use of environmental models (Capability 2 and 3)
  3. Be able to analyse relationships between model and data (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  4. Apply environmental models in sub-disciplines that comprise the environmental sciences (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Apply some of the practical tools used to build and analyse environmental models (Capability 1 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 50% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
Final Exam
To pass, one needs to pass both the Assignments and the Final Exam.


 As part of the University-wide Tuākana community, The School of Environment Tuākana Programme aims to provide a welcoming learning environment for, and enhance the success of, all of our Māori and Pacific students. We are led by the principles of tautoko (support) and whanaungatanga (connection), and hope you find a home here at the School. Students who have identified as Māori and/or Pacific will receive an invitation to our online portal introducing the Programme, the resources we have available, and how you can get involved.

This course is supported by a designated Tuākana tutor with appropriate knowledge of the course and related skills. They will organise group study sessions and facilitate direct assistance regarding material taught in this course. For more information regarding the Programme feel free to email our Programme Coordinator: riki.taylor@auckland.ac.nz.

Learning Resources

Required reading is provided throughout the course.

Special Requirements

Attendance to the labs and to classes is highly recommended but not compulsory.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard [15] point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect [33] hours of lectures (3 hours per week), a 2 hour tutorial per week, 2 hours per week of reading and thinking about the content and 3 hours of work per week on assignments and/or test preparation.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at http://disability.auckland.ac.nz

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page: https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/academic-information/exams-and-final-results/during-exams/aegrotat-and-compassionate-consideration.html.

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/forms-policies-and-guidelines/student-policies-and-guidelines/student-charter.html).


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 04/08/2020 12:54 p.m.