Students using a petrographic microscope
As a student in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences you will have access to a range of cutting-edge resources and facilities.  
These will support your learning in the field and in the laboratory – whether in traditional chemistry lab or a high-performance computing room. Many are solely for the use of our students and researchers and you will also have access to LABplus Resource Centre and the Marine Station.
Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)
X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (XRF)
Chemistry students in a laboratory

Environmental Chemistry

Many of our facilities focus on understanding chemicals of environmental concern and how different molecules interact in different environments, and over time. Whether learning the fundamentals of chemistry on our BSc (Hons) Chemistry degree, about environmental pollution in BSc (Hons) Environmental Science, or taking one of our masters programmes, you will be uniquely taught in laboratories accredited to ISO9001 standard and supported by dedicated technical support and a dissertation projects laboratory. Our earth science and geography students also have access to rock and soil elemental analysis facilities.
Our suite of analytical instruments includes a range of mass spectrometers and other state-of-the-art instrumentation for the measurement of various elements, compounds and physical properties. Our laboratories additionally include the Consolidated Radio-isotope Facility, which hosts our X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer used to measure elements in soils and rocks as well as instruments for the measurement of radioactive material.
Our location in the South West is a natural laboratory for the teaching of sampling methods and in situ analyses. Our well-equipped field capabilities include pH, suspended sediment and many more instruments that enhance learning in the field.
Petrographic microscopes in a laboratory
Access our world-leading suite of scientific microscopes
Students using a petrographic microscope
Student using a biological microscope in a lab
Enhance your projects and research with our new biological microscopes
An instructor works with a student on a biological microscope in a lab
Receive expert instruction in the use of all our equipment
Student using a petrographic microscope

Microscopes and visualisation

Microscopy is the technique that allows us to see objects and features of samples that cannot be seen with just your eye. Our microscopy facilities include a brand-new and world-leading suite of Nikon teaching microscopes fitted with touch screens and video capabilities to enhance student learning. These new microscopes particularly benefit the learning of petrography and petrology (the analysis of rocks under the microscope) by our Earth science students and the identification of microfossils, pollen and other materials, such as microplastics by geographers, environmental scientists and geologists.
As well as our enhanced teaching microscopes, all final year undergraduate and masters dissertation students have access to our imaging suite that includes higher spec imaging microscopes to photograph and analyse samples from macro to micro, including capabilities for 3D imaging and cathodoluminescence.
To view even smaller structures,  we have a bench-top scanning electron microscope (SEM) capable of imaging the smallest objects in great detail. We also have access to the University of Plymouth’s specialist Electron Microscopy Centre if you want to take your microscopy to the next level.
Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre
Microplastic samples collected from the North Atlantic during the eXXpedition Round the World voyage (Credit: Sophie Dingwall)
The Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre

Rock and sediment analysis 

For our students interested in natural materials of soils, water and rocks, our dedicated laboratory and field equipment support your learning and research. We have two labs for processing rock, sediments and soil. From crushing to sieving, or making polished blocks, through to grainsize analysis and mineral separation these are regularly used by dissertation students from across the school. If you’re interested in water, then our rainfall simulator even allows the study of soil erosion.
We have one of only four palaeomagnetic laboratories in the UK, allowing students to measure a range of magnetic properties of rocks and soils used to improve our knowledge of Earth history and of interest for mineral exploration and environmental science. Our soil and rock analyses are not limited to the lab and our range of geophysical and soil and rock testing equipment such as cone-penetrometers and N-type Schmidt hammers are used in undergraduate field courses and for dissertation data collection.

Remote sensing and GIS 

Of course it’s not all about the traditional laboratory. The ability to collect, use and analyse a wide range of digital data, using a variety of specialist software programmes, is essential for all our students. The specialist software used will vary depending on your degree: from chemical analyses programme for chemists, subsurface seismic analysis for geologists, or quantitative  questionnaire analysis for geographers. Across our programmes you will have the opportunity to develop skills in remote sensing and Geographical Information Science (GIS).
In our dedicated high-performance computer labs we have dual screen, high-spec desktops fitted with specialist software and industry standard programmes such as ArcGIS Pro and QGIS, MOVE and Kingdom, along with standard office and graphical packages.
We also aim to link the field with the lab through the use of GPS handsets and our expanding fleet of drones and survey equipment – a mavic mini for urban mapping, a phantom 4 v2 for rural surveys, and a sensefly Ebee with a range of sensors including infrared.