Welcome to the course

Welcome to ‘Big Data and the Environment’ produced by the Institute for Environmental Analytics (IEA) and the University of Reading.

In this course you’ll explore a wide range of current projects that use environmental big data for research and business — from urban planning in London, satellite mapping in Dubai, to monitoring temperature change worldwide. Hear directly from the data scientists and industry experts working on these projects about the benefits and challenges of working with big datasets. Over the next three weeks, you’ll also investigate sources of environmental data whether open or private, big or small, historic or new, and how this data is stored and processed.

To gain a greater understanding of the complexities behind data science, you’ll work on a dataset yourself. In Week 2, you’ll download, explore and analyse a real dataset and discuss how it can be used to address real-life issues. How will you communicate your findings to a wider audience? The response from many data scientists to this question would be to create accessible data visualisations.

Throughout the course, you’ll hear how scientists present their findings using a range of visualisations such as graphs, interactive dashboards and even animated spirals, and how vital these tools are for effective communication with business, policymakers and the public.

Towards the end of the course you’ll also discover the power of citizen science and find out how you can contribute to research projects, carrying out valuable work to help us explore and analyse our environment.


As you progress through the course, you may find this glossary helpful.

Get extra benefits, upgrade your course

If you’d like to, you now have the option to upgrade this course which includes:

  • Unlimited access to the course

Go at your own pace with unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn.

  • A Certificate of Achievement

To help you demonstrate your learning we’ll send you a Certificate of Achievement when you become eligible.

Getting started

Now you know what to expect from the course, we’d really like to meet you.

What does big data mean to you? Introduce yourself in the comments area below and tell us why you are interested in big data and the environment. What do you already know about big data and hope to learn from the course? This is also your opportunity to let us know what aspect of the course you are most looking forward to.

Find out more about the team in the next Step. Don’t forget to mark this Step as complete before you move on.

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This article is from the free online course:

Big Data and the Environment

University of Reading