Online courses, education in biology, sustainability, ecology, marine studies, water, earth, animal, wilderness management, and environmental science.

Course Code: BEN301
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Open Learning Course -How to Conduct an Environmental Assessment
Develop the knowledge and understanding needed to undertake an environmental assessment.


There are 8 lessons in this course as follows:

1.  Types of Employment for Environmental Scientists 
  • Pre purchase inspections
  • Background data
  • Flora and Fauna Surveys
  • Open Space Management Plans
  • Detection of Pollutants
  • Use of Plants
  • Remediation of Polluted Sites
2.  Introduction to Environmental Assessment 
  • What is Environmental Assessment? 
  • Definitions of Environmental Assessment
  • General Principles
  • Overview of Environmental Assessment.
3.  International Environmental Law
  • Foundations of Environmental Law
  • Making International Laws (Treaties and Customary Law)
  • Milestones in International Environmental Law
  • Principles of International Environmental Law
  • Institutions that influence Environmental Law
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Environmental Law.
4.  Domestic Environmental Law
  • Examples of Domestic Environmental Law
  • Research into Domestic Environmental law.
5.  Types of Environmental Assessments 
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Environmental Impact Statement
  • Risk Assessment/ Risk Analysis
  • Ecological Risk Assessment
  • Strategic Environment Assessment
  • Environmental Audit
  • Regional Risk Screening
  • Ecological Impact Assessment
  • Social Impact Assessments and Statements
  • Economic and Fiscal Impact Assessment
  • Health Impact Assessment.
6.  The Design and Process of Environmental Assessment
  • Steps in the Environmental Assessment Process (Scoping, Screening, Alternatives to the Proposal, Collection and Analysis of Information, Public Involvement, Reporting the Findings of the Study, Post Project Analysis)
  • Study design (Baseline Studies, Predicting Impacts, Mitigation Measures)
  • Data Collection
  • Statistical Analysis of Data
  • Statistical Tests
7.  Writing Environmental Reports 
  • The Scientific Method and Report Writing
  • Generic Outline for an Environmental Statement
  • Examples of Suggested Layouts for Environmental Assessments
  • Effective Report Writing.
 8.  Research Project
  • The Research Project is the student’s opportunity to test out their skills as an environmental consultant.  In this project, the student will carry out a small environmental assessment and write it up as a professional report.


  • Appreciate the range of employment available to scientists skilled in environmental assessment
  • Develop an understanding of the basics of environmental study design, analysis and reporting within a legal framework.
  • Be aware of the international legislation relevant to environmental assessment
  • Research the legislation which dictates the environmental assessment requirements in the student’s home country.
  • Appreciate the range of environmental assessment techniques that have been developed to assess a range of situations around the globe.
  • Understand the environmental assessment process in enough depth to manage a small environmental assessment.
  • Write a professional environmental report.
  • Prepare an environmental impact assessment including carrying out all research and writing up the actual report.

What You Will Do

  • Contact a laboratory (either by telephone, email, or in person) that carries out tests for environmental contaminants.
  • Research the organisation in the local area that handles environmental complaints and the procedure for lodging such complaints.
  • Identify developments that require an environmental assessment.
  • Contact an Environmental Consulting Firm that carries out Environmental
    • Assessments to determine the most common type of environment assessment in the local area.
  • Contact the local government organisation to determine what sort of environmental assessments are required for the different classes of development.
  • Research one treaty that influences environmental issues in the locality.
  • Research the legislation in the student’s home country that governs the preparation of environmental assessments. Research the legislation in one other country that governs the preparation of environmental assessments. Compare the two.
  • Identify factors that influence developer’s decisions on where to locate their developments.
  • Read and review an Environmental Assessment Report
  • Source the original data from an Environmental Assessment to determine how the data was analysed after collection.
  • Write one “dummy” environmental assessment from beginning to end.
  • Carry out a major research project in the form of an environmental assessment. This project will include data scoping, study design, data collection, data analysis, conclusions and a professionally presented finally report.
  • Open learning environment school -Online courses, certificates and education in biology, sustainability, ecology, marine studies, water, earth, animal, wilderness management, and environmental science.

The environment is made up of both living and non living things.
  • The living things include animals, plants and microorganisms.
  • The non living things include the air, the ground surface, dead organisms (or tissues) and whatever exists below the ground.
The nature and characteristics of all of these components will keep changing; and interactions will occur between all of the components. When the characteristic of one thing changes, the characteristics of countless others are affected.
When we build a new building, road, or reshape the topography; we will always and inevitably have repercussions on the environment. Populations of animals and plants can easily be affected; drainage patterns can be changed, the likely temperature and rainfall patterns in a locality can also be impacted.
An Environmental Assessor seeks to Study an Environment Before Negative Impacts Happen
The things that need to be studied should depend upon what is proposed to be done in a locality; and what the likely (or possible) impacts might be.
 The assessor will often be guided by legislation or direction from an employer, as to what should be assessed. 
The skills needed to conduct an assessment involve not only an understanding of the components that are being assessed; but also an understanding of how to use various tools to make the assessment; and also how to compile and report on the things that have been observed/recorded.
Many courses will teach you how to understand the components; but compiling and making an effective report is a skill that is unfortunately often lacking.
The most important aspect of forecasting is to present forecasts which are relevant to the time they are produced i.e. current and that they can be easily understood by the end-user. End-users include fisherman, navy personnel, armed forces, farmers, orchardists, airline pilots, and the agriculture, viticulture, mining and building industries. In fact a whole range of people need to be able to interpret and understand weather information. As such, information in the form of graphs, formulas, symbols, and so forth is not always the best approach. Instead verbal statements and written paragraphs interpreting data are usually most readily understood.
Weather Mapping
Weather maps show temperatures by depicting isotherms, where an isotherm is a type of contour line on the map which connects all the points that have the same temperature. Other weather maps might use isotachs which depict all the areas having the same wind speed. Another popular format is the isobar map which demonstrates areas of high and low pressure.
A type of data map used by meteorologists is the station model. This map is a simplified symbolic representation of weather recordings at a particular weather station location and includes data on a range of variables such as temperature, humidity, dew point, air pressure and precipitation.
Information acquired by satellites has become a very important part of data collection for weather forecasting. Information is collected from both polar orbiting satellites and geostationary ones which hover over the same area of the equator. This data is often used to fill in gaps, most notably over the ocean regions.
Weather satellites are able to gather information about clouds and cloud systems as well as garner environmental information such as air pollution, dust storms, auroras, volcanic eruptions and ash clouds, wildfires, ice caps, and ocean currents.
The information gathered by satellites may be in various formats such as infrared (heat) images, visible images, and water vapour images. Visible images depict actual images of the earth’s geographical features and atmospheric conditions. Infrared images may be used to determine surface water temperatures, cloud heights and types, and so on. Infrared images display the radiation emitted from objects and this information is useful for predicting areas of precipitation within cyclones.
Information about land and water temperatures can be used to help agriculturalists, farmers, and fisherman to make decisions about managing crops, animals, fish, and so on. Satellites can also be used to monitor pollution such as oceanic oil spillages, desert sand storms, and smoke from bushfires, and this information is useful in directing management strategies.
In the future it is expected that satellites will be able to record other atmospheric variables such as temperatures at different distances from the earth, humidity, and wind speeds.
This is used to detect precipitation and its movement. From this information the type of precipitation can also be predicted e.g. rain, sleet, or snow. These days the radars are mainly pulse-Doppler types which not only detect precipitation but also its intensity. This is valuable information for forecasting storms and their propensity to cause damage.
As already outlined, radar data is often used along with numerical data in NWP forecasts.
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM)
The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission is joint project between the United States and Japan. It is the first mission to be established which measures both tropical and subtropical rainfall using sensors which detect microwave and visible infrared rays. It also boasts the first rain radar to be launched into space.
Through measuring tropical rainfall and its heat it is anticipated that the project will be able to provide valuable information about climate change through better understanding of how heat energy forces atmospheric circulation. It travels on a continuous course between 35°north and 35° south of the equator.
Given that the most accurate forecast predictions are associated with the El Nino–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) effect many of the less well developed tropical countries could benefit the most from a greater understanding of these weather events. However, given that ENSO events also have much further reaching effects such as cyclones, monsoons, and hurricanes producing worldwide flooding, colder winters in some temperate zone regions, and dryer monsoons in the southern hemisphere – the whole world can benefit from improved knowledge of rainfall systems.
Verification Methods
Forecast verification is a means of testing the validity of the forecast. This is done by comparing the forecast to what actually happened. It is important to verify forecasts in order to:
• Check quality and whether forecasts are getting better
• Identify where improvements to techniques can be made
• Compare different forecast systems
It is widely agreed that the best forecasts are those which reflect what happened and this is considered to be the forecast ‘quality’. A number of researchers have broken quality down into further elements of which accuracy and skill (which is a measure of accuracy relative to the forecast type) are most important.
Forecasts are compared to what is often referred to as ‘truth’ data. This is recorded from actual observations provided by satellite cloud data, temperature measurements, rain gauge measurements, and so forth. Of course, even these measurements are prone to some degree of error such as sampling error, measurement errors, or analysis errors. Nevertheless, these observational errors are often ignored. The verification data is still valuable where the error is small or there isn’t much data to use as it still gives a good indication of forecast accuracy.
Naturally, the validity of verification techniques is higher when there is sufficient observational data to compare with and the quality of the data is strong. The results of verification analyses are often displayed within some confidence limit to acknowledge a degree of possible error.
Sometimes the reliability of samples is increased by pooling data. A larger pool of data implies more accurate comparison data, but a more accurate method is to put data into homogeneous groups e.g. on the basis of geographical region or the season.
Methods of Standard Verification
There are a number of different methods which can be used to verify results.
1) Eyeball Method
This is the traditional technique which relies on comparing the actual observations with the forecast data to note agreements and discrepancies. This method is useful for comparing data on just a few forecasts as it can be quite time-consuming. The problem is that it is prone to observer biases and personal interpretation and does not employ any quantitative techniques.
2) Dichotomous Methods
These are based on two premises: yes, an event will happen, or no an event will not happen. They are often used for forecasting snow, rain or storms. A contingency table can be drawn up which shows the various permutations.
From theese details, a weather event which is forecast to occur and which is observed to actually occur is a ‘hit’. An event which is forecast not to occur and does not occur is a correct negative, and so forth. A perfect forecast would only include hits and correct negatives but, of course, this is unlikely to occur.
Once data has been added to a contingency table different types of errors can easily be seen. This data is then subjected to different statistical formulas to produce a range of verification findings isolating different areas of interest. The types of statistical verification data produced include: accuracy, frequency bias, false alarm ratio, success ratio, hit rate, and so on.
3) Multiple Category Methods – this method also uses contingency tables where different forecast categories are compared with observed categories. This method is advantageous in that forecast errors can be more easily recognised. The problem is that fewer statistical analyses can be conducted on the findings since results are difficult to present as a single number. Histograms may be used to represent category frequencies.
4) Continuous Variables Methods – a table is used to record forecast and observed values at regular time intervals e.g. one day. Findings may be plotted on graphs and a range of statistical computations performed on them to determine bias, error, probability, skill, and so forth.
5) Probabilistic Forecast Methods – these aim to give the probability of a weather event occurring. Probabilities are produced with a range of 0 and 100% (represented as 0 and 1). A better forecast would have a probability towards either of the extremes rather than somewhere nearer 0.5, and this is referred to as sharpness. Graphs of reliability are produced and a range of complex statistical formula may be applied to findings.
Other Verification Methods
In addition to standard verification techniques, a number of scientific (diagnostic) methods are used to verify data which are beyond the scope of this course. They are much more complex.

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Dr Robert Browne

Zoologist, Environmental Scientist and Sustainability, science based consultancy with biotechnology corporations. Work focused on conservation and sustainability.
Robert has published work in the fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and develop

Bob James

Horticulturalist, Agriculturalist, Environmental consultant, Businessman and Professional Writer. Over 40 years in industry, Bob has held a wide variety of senior positions in both government and private enterprise. Bob has a Dip. Animal Husb, B.App.Sc.,

Alison Pearce

University Lecturer, Quality Assurance Manager, Writer and Research Technician. Alison originally graduated with an honors degree in science from university and beyond that has completed post graduate qualifications in education and eco-tourism. She has m

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