ENVSCI 704 : Modelling of Environmental Systems


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

The design and application of models for the investigation of environmental problems; understanding the role and utility of modelling in environmental science; the analysis and representation of dynamic environmental phenomena. Provides an understanding of modelling concepts, approaches and applications, and methods for determining the suitability of modelling in specific contexts. No formal requirement, but an understanding of the material in BIOSCI 209, ENVSCI 310, GEOG 250, MATHS 108 and STATS 101 will be assumed.

Course Overview

The use of models has become increasingly common in the study of social and environmental systems. Models are used to help us learn about the systems we?re interested in, to help guide future research by identifying knowledge and data ?gaps?, to aid in the design of management and monitoring strategies, and to make predictions about unmeasured patterns and processes. ENVSCI 704 is designed to provide you with an understanding of a range of modelling concepts, approaches and applications, as well as methods for determining the suitability of a particular modelling approach for a given task. Since modelling pervades any area of environmental science, the skills developed in this course are useful for those wishing to have a career in academia or consulting. In ENVSCI 704 we will cover the following topics: a) overview of the most widely used types of models (mathematical, statistical, simulation, etc.); b) model construction and implementation. Fundamental modelling skills will be introduced via the use of models in a range of contexts ; c) analysis of data-driven models, issues related to parameterisation, validation and verification, and comparison of models with data ; d) case studies of models representing the span of modelling approaches (physical, empirical, statistical, theoretical) used for both social and environmental modelling, as well as a wide variety of subject areas where models are commonly used.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate the ability to use models to investigate environmental and social problems. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Understand and communicate the utility of modelling in the discipline. (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  3. Identify, explain and evaluate how spatially and temporally dynamic environmental phenomena can be represented and analysed computationally. (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  4. Use and interpret models to discern the relative advantages and disadvantages of different approaches. (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 100% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4


 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 our Programme Coordinator, Kaiāwhina/Māori student adviser, and Pacific student adviser. They are able to organise group study 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.

Key Topics

What is a "model" and why we model
Process-based modelling
Data-driven modelling
Confronting model and data

Learning Resources

Articles and relevant reading is provided in class or using Canvas

Special Requirements

Must complete both assignments

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 12 hours of lectures, 12 hour tutorial, 12 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 60 hours of work on assignments.

Other Information

No formal requirement, but knowledge equivalent to that covered in courses such as STATS 101, MATH 108, GEOG 250, BIOSCI 209, ENVSCI 310 will be assumed.

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 12:56 p.m.