modules teaching notes students' page



Aquatic Ecosystem Management

Postgraduate Diploma/MSc
Full-time: 32 weeks/48 weeks
*Part-time/Distance: 2/3 years NEW OPTION

Kick-sampling a river

Stonefly (Plecoptera) larva

subtidal marine life

Brown Trout

Didymosphenia: diatom

Merismopedia: blue-green alga

Pandorina: flagellate

The European Community Water Framework Directive places an emphasis on maintaining the ecological quality of all water resources: surface waters, groundwaters, estuarine and marine. This is currently being implemented in legislation and should provide great potential for employment of suitably trained biologists.

This new modular course for Science graduates offers a rigorous scientific, technical and intellectual training in the implementation of sustainable environmental management, as laid out in the Water Framework Directive, but with relevance outside the EC also.

Building on the strengths of the Biology of Water Resource Management course (link), it emphasises the monitoring and regulatory aspect of environmental management of fresh, estuarine and coastal waters.

The course is aimed at producing individuals with the skills and experience to find employment with environmental agencies, regulatory authorities and private companies working in environmental assessment.

On the practical side, students learn how to assess water pollution and ecological quality using biological indicators (eg BMWP score, RIVPACS), get experience of field sampling methods in rivers and from a research vessel (kick sampling, net plankton haul, secchi depth, coring, grab samplers, CTD probe), identifying marine and freshwater invertebrates, plants, fish, plankton and microorganisms (faecal coliforms, streptococci, clostridia), and use a range of physical and chemical measurement techniques (BOD, COD, dissolved oxygen, nutrient assay, pH, conductivity, GCMS, sediment analysis). Risk assessment for field and laboratory based activities is stressed, and there is an emphasis on quality assurance in data collection and statistical analysis.
As coursework, they design a water supply and wastewater treatment system for an island community, and write a catchment management plan.


There are 6 taught modules, plus a 16 week research project carried out in collaboration with external agencies. Full time students undertake 3 modules in trimester 1 (Oct – Jan) and another 3 in trimester 2 (Feb – May) followed by the project over trimester 3 (June – Sept). The part-time mode seeks to reduce the work load with 1 module per trimester over 3 years and an extended period for the project.

Further route-specific information:
Part-time / Distance route

Comments from AEM graduates here.
As this is a relatively new course, prospective applicants are advised also to view the website of the previous course "Biology of Water Resource Management" to find comments by its graduates.  

Click on the links below for more information

Other Course Information:

Teaching Links (lecture notes, site pictures)

Students' Page (pictures, visits, etc.)


Past BWRM/AEM Projects


Edinburgh from Napier's Merchiston Campus, in the heart of the city

Web page maintained by John Kinross.

Last modified on 4th April 2008