ENVSCI 203 : Modelling Environmental Systems


2021 Semester Two (1215) (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)

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: STATS 101 or 108 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
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Critically evaluate the role that environmental modelling plays in the environmental sciences, and the rationales behind the use of models. (Capability 1 and 2)
  2. Identify and critically evaluate the relative advantages and disadvantages of different types of environmental models (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  3. Analyse and apply techniques to assess the relationship between models and data (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  4. Understand and apply some of the practical tools used to build and analyse environmental models (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Coursework 2% Individual Coursework
Coursework 16% Individual Coursework
Coursework 16% Individual Coursework
Coursework 16% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4
Final Exam

You need to pass both the Assignment (50%) and the Exam (50%) components of the course

Special Requirements

No special requirement

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 32 hours of lectures, 18 hours of tutorials, 27 hours of reading and thinking about the content and  27 hours of work on assignments.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including tutorials to complete components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including tutorials will not be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events.
Attendance on campus is required for the exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Material will be provided weekly and posted online

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.

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.

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.


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.

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 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.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Level 1:  Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode
Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person.  All teaching and assessment will have a remote option.
Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely

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 07/06/2021 11:50 p.m.