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Environmental Science Dissertation Topics

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Published: 17th Aug 2021 in Dissertation Topic

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Tagged: Environmental Science

We have provided the selection of example environmental science dissertation topics below to help and inspire you.

Example environmental science dissertation topic 1:

Creating new salt marshes: New regulations and funding or abandonment to the sea?

Coastal realignment and development that takes account of erosion through sea-level rises is an important element in the creation and retention of bio-diversity upon the East Anglian Coast. Indeed, the need for new salt marshes to be developed is an explicit requirement made by the EU Habitats Directive. Given that artificially created salt marshes have, as Mossman, Davy and Grant (2012) note, significantly reduced levels of bio-diversity this dissertation asks what the future holds. Accordingly, it evaluates the competing arguments as whether the Habitats Directive needs to be redrawn, its requirements tightened and greater central government found to enable remedial action to be undertaken or, is this an area of coastline and associated wildlife that should now be abandoned to the sea.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Adam, P. (2002). ‘Salt marshes in a time of change’, Environmental Conservation, Vol. 29, pp. 39-61.
  • Mossman, H.L., Davy, A.J. and Grant, A. (2012). ‘Does managed coastal realignment create salt marshes with ‘equivalent biological characteristics’ to natural reference sites?’, Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2012.02198.x.
  • Zedler, J.B. and Lindig-Cisneros, R. (2000). ‘Functional equivalency of restored and natural salt marshes’. In, Weinstein, M.P. and Kreeger,
  • D.A. (eds), Concepts and Controversies in tidal marsh ecology, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, pp. 565-582.

Example environmental science dissertation topic 2:

Developing a zero-waste housing refuse policy: An investigative study

This dissertation seeks to establish whether or not it is practically possible to create a zero-waste refuse policy, and does so through the participation of five student households at the University of Warwick. At present, the student households are required to sort various recyclables but are still expected to discard some waste through fortnightly bin collections. Using a variety of strategies including composting, the shredding and mulching of excess newspaper, and incineration within the house to create warmth, this practical environmental experiment seeks to establish whether it is possible, over a two-month period, to reduce ‘throw away’ waste to no more than recyclable materials . Working on the assumption that the answer to this question is ‘yes’, the dissertation will thereafter present its findings to the local authority with a view to presenting proposals for the reduction of ‘throw away’ waste by at least two thirds.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bekin, C., Carrigan, M. and Szmigin, I. (2007). ‘Beyond recycling: ‘Commons-friendly’ waste reduction at new consumption communities’, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, Vol. 6, pp. 271-286.
  • Fujita, K. and Child Hill, R. (2007). ‘The zero waste city: Tokyo’s quest for a sustainable environment’, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice, Vol. 9(4), pp. 405-425.
  • Szmigin, I. and Carrigan, M. (2004). The ethics of choice in a choice society. Paper presented at the Interdisciplinary CSR Research Conference, Oct. 22-23 2004, University of Nottingham.

Example environmental science dissertation topic 3:

Increasing neighbourhood bio-diversity as a measure against surface water flooding

With the seemingly ever-increasing threat of surface water flooding this dissertation calls for an alliance between householders, environmental scientists and planners, to combat the problem. In so doing it argues that by legislatively requiring householders to no more than 1/10th of their outside space covered by non-porous materials and by further encouraging them to plant variegated borders, the threat of surface water flooding could be reduced. Mindful that such an approach on the behalf of local authorities would represent a major ‘step change’ in support of environmentalism, this dissertation surveys present home-owners in the Wirral Peninsula and in so doing measures their response to such proposals before and after they have received targeted publicity specifically addressing the dangers of surface water flooding and the need, as a precautionary measure, to increase soakaways in residential areas. This is, accordingly, a dissertation that combines grounded academic opinion with practical political realities as well as the collection and interpretation of new primary data strands.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Dixon, A., Butler, D. and Fewkes, A. (1999). ‘Water saving potential of domestic water reuse systems using greywater and rainwater in combination’, Water Science and Technology, Vol. 39(5), pp. 25-32.
  • Oberndorfer, E., Lundholm, J., Bass, B., Coffman, R.R., Doshi, H., Dunnett, N., Gaffin, S., Köhler, M., Liu, K.K.Y. and Rowe, B. (2007).
  • ‘Green roofs as urban ecosystems: Ecological structures, functions, and services’, BioScience, Vol. 57(10).
  • Wilby, R.L. (2007). ‘A review of climate change impacts on the built environment’, Built Environment, Vol. 33(1), pp. 31-45.

Example environmental science dissertation topic 4:

Daily death counts: Mortality and air pollution in Hong Kong

This dissertation seeks to investigate the linkage between air pollution levels and mortality rates in Hong Kong in the period 2010 – 2012. Using regression analysis this dissertation measures both the yearly air quality of Hong Kong in accordance with the protocols noted by the World Health organisation (namely levels of nitrogen dioxide and respirable particulate matter) and occurrences of mortality due to pneumonia, respiratory disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In so doing this dissertation first isolates the top 5% of days in the two year study period in which air pollutant levels were at their highest and lowest and then compares these to recorded mortality rates on those days. Through so doing it seeks not only to advance the hypothesis that there is a direct causal link but also to proffer policy options by which such rates of pollution and mortality could be reduced.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Ko, F.W.S., Tam, W., Wong, T.W., Lai, C.K.W., Wong, G.W.K., Leung, T.-F., Ng, S.S.S. and Hui, D.S.C. (2007). ‘Effects of air pollution on asthma hospitalization rates in different age groups in Hong Kong’, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, Vol. 37, pp. 1312-1319.
  • Laden, F., Schwartz, J., Speizer, F.E. and Dockery, D.W. (2006). ‘Reduction in fine particulate air pollution and mortality: Extended follow-up of the Harvard Six Cities Study’, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol. 173(6), pp. 667-672.
  • Wong, C.M., Vichit-Vadakan, N., Kan, H. and Chian, Z. (2008). ‘Public Health and Air Pollution in Asia (PAPA): A multicity study of short-term effects of air pollution on mortality’, Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 116(9), pp. 1195-1202.

Example environmental science dissertation topic 5:

Broadleaf weed control for sorghum growers in the UK : Perceptions and reality

Herbicides have, over the last sixty years, dramatically changed the way in which weeds are controlled by farmers. However, as the organic movement and intensive testing has shown, such uses are not without risk to human health. An example is that of atrazine, a herbicide used for over 50 years, but now withdrawn from use in the EU and Australia because of clear evidence of mutations and carcinogenic qualities. This thesis interviews ten farmers who previously employed atrazine in broadleaf weed management, and determines whether they believe the replacements for atrazine are sufficient. It also investigates the threat that the withdrawal of atrazine poses to successful food production in the UK.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Appleby, P.A. (2005). ‘A history of weed control in the United States and Canada: A sequel’. Weed Science, Vol. 53(6), pp. 762-768.
  • Beckie, H.J. (2006). ‘Herbicide-resistant weeds: Management tactics and practices1’, Weed Technology, Vol. 20(3), pp. 793-814.
  • LeBaron, H.M., McFarland, J.E. and Burnside, O.C. (eds) (2008). The triazine herbicides: 50 years revolutionizing agriculture. Oxford: Elsevier.

Example environmental science dissertation topic 6:

An evaluation of the Greater Manchester Biodiversity Project: Local perceptions

Although the Greater Manchester Biodiversity Project has formulated action plans over the last five years, its impression upon the public -and their support – has not been thoroughly tested. This dissertation determines the understanding of Article 6 of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity amongst the general populace of Greater Manchester, as well as the actions undertaken by various bodies locally to effect action plans, particularly that of the North West Brown Hare. Primary research is carried out by surveying a minimum of 25 residents each in Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan, determining the areas that have most successfully conveyed the need for biodiversity.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Scott, N.J. and Parsons, E.C.M. (2005). ‘A survey of public opinion in south-west Scotland on cetacean conservation issues’, Aquatic
  • Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, Vol. 15, pp. 299-312.
  • Smith, R.K., Jennings, N.V., Robinson, A. and Harris, S. (2004). ‘Conservation of European hares Lepus europaeus in Britain: Is increasing habitat heterogeneity in farmland the answer?’, Journal of Applied Ecology, Vol. 41, pp. 1092-1102.
  • Waymont, S. (2009). Species action plan 2009: Hares. Manchester: Greater Manchester Ecology Unit.

Example environmental science dissertation topic 7:

Land use change in China: A case study of the tropical forests of Hainan Province

Hainan Province consists of approximately 200 islands at the southernmost border of China, a lower population density than many areas in China, an abundance of natural resources, and extensive commercial fish farming enterprises. Additionally, it has some 1,500 square kilometres of tropical forest, which is under threat from a variety of land use changes, including outright deforestation. This dissertation considers the measures Hainan Province has undertaken to protect the tropical forest while benefiting from the economic and social change sweeping China. Using primarily secondary research, this paper evaluates sustainable development in the province, with some primary investigation through local interviews.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Stone, M. and Wall, G. (2004). ‘Ecotourism and community development: Case studies from Hainan, China’, Environmental Management, Vol. 33(1), pp. 12-24.
  • Xu, J., Fox, J., Vogler, J.B., Zhang, P.F.Y., Yang, L., Qian, J. and Leisz, S. (2005). ‘Land-use and land-cover change and farmer vulnerability in Xishuangbanna Prefecture in Southwestern China’, Environmental Management, Vol. 36(3), pp. 404-413.
  • Zhang, Y., Uusivuori, J. and Kuuluvainen, J. (2000). ‘Econometric analysis of the causes of forest land use changes in Hainan, China ‘, Canadian Journal of Forest Research, Vol. 30(12), pp. 1913-1921.

Example environmental science dissertation topic 8:

A comparative assessment of the pollutants resultant from uranium mining in Mulga Rock (Western Australia) and Koongarra (Northern Territory, Australia)

The low population density of Western Australia and the Northern Territory in Australia has meant that community consciousness of pollution from uranium mines has not received wide attention. However, Australia’s national news service, the ABC, reported in 2010 that uranium dust from Australia’s mines has been found in ice in the Detroit Peninsula of Antarctica. Additionally, population densities may increase in future years, with long-term radio-active pollutants presenting a danger to residents, and is already an issue with local fauna and flora. This thesis evaluates whether regional variations in pollutants exists between two mines, one in the south of the continent, and one in the north, and determines the measures taken to minimise such pollutants, and their success.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Abdelouas, A. (2006). ‘Uranium mill tailings: Geochemistry, mineralogy, and environmental impact’, Geo Science Elements, Vol. 2(6), pp. 335-341.
  • Gandy, C.J., Smith, J.W.N. and Jarvis, A.P. (2007). ‘Attenuation of mining-derived pollutants in the hyporheic zone: A review’, Science of the Total Environment, Vol. 73(2-3), pp. 435-446.
  • Mudd, G.M. and Patterson, J. (2010). ‘Continuing pollution from the Rum Jungle U-Cu project: A critical evaluation of environmental monitoring and rehabilitation’, Environmental Pollution, Vol. 158(5), pp. 1252-1260.

Example environmental science dissertation topic 9:

Two years on: An evaluation of German nuclear policy in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan

In addition to an impressive raft of energy reduction initiatives, Germany has announced that, subsequent to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor disaster, it will phase out entirely nuclear power plants by 2022. This dissertation evaluates whether Germany’s plans are realistic or a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction for political gain. This latter suggestion has some credence, given that one of Germany’s nuclear reactors, ‘closed down’ immediately after events in Japan, had in fact been ‘off the grid’ for many years, and that at least seven other reactors were already past their intended life span, with federal elections drawing ever closer. Drawing on extensive secondary sources, this paper explores the uneasy balance between environmental issues and politics.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Butler, C., Parkhill, K.A. and Pidgeon, N.F. (2011). ‘Nuclear power after Japan: The social dimensions’, Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, Vol. 53(6), pp. 3-14.
  • Evrard, A. (2012). ‘Political parties and policy change: Explaining the impact of French and German Greens on energy policy’, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice, Vol. 14(4), pp. 275-291.
  • Wittneben, B.B.F. (2012). ‘The impact of the Fukushima nuclear accident on European energy policy’, Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 15(1), pp. 1-3.

Example environmental science dissertation topic 10:

Environmental impacts of land reclamation: A comparison of management techniques in Holland and Poland

Land reclamation often captures the public imagination, with high-profile projects in Hong Kong and, of course, Holland. However, managing land reclamation is an on-going process, not merely a single act of land use change. This dissertation examines the wider environmental impacts of land reclamation management, from irrigation control and drainage to the implications of the energy use needed to effect such management. This thesis compares management of land reclamation in North Holland, and South Western Poland, and employs not only secondary research, building on existing literature, but primary research in the form of interviews with stakeholders in both regions.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Barnes, R.S.K. (1991). ‘European estuaries and lagoons: A personal overview of problems and possibilities for conservation and management’. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, Vol. 1, pp. 79-87.
  • Krolikowska, K., Dunajski, A., Magnuszewski, P. and Sieczka, M. (2009). ‘Institutional and environmental issues in land reclamation systems maintenance’, Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 12(8), pp. 1137-1143.
  • Schoof, R. (1980). ‘Environmental impact of channel modification’, Journal of the American Water Resources Association, Vol. 16, pp. 697-701.

If these example topics have given you some inspiration and you now feel ready to choose a dissertation topic, see our guide to choosing a dissertation topic to help you get started.

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Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field focused on the study of the physical, chemical, and biological conditions of the environment and environmental effects on organisms, and solutions to environmental issues.

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