• University of Leeds

Planet Earth: Understanding and Protecting our Environment

Learn about the physical geography of Earth and discover how to use this knowledge to protect our natural environment.

4,170 enrolled on this course

An illustration of water circulation cycle in nature in red to represent global warming

Planet Earth: Understanding and Protecting our Environment

4,170 enrolled on this course

  • 2 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

Discover the Earth’s natural systems and how human activity affects them

On this two-week course from the University of Leeds, you will discover the processes of the hydrosphere, the geosphere, and the biosphere and explore the impact of human activity and climate change on our planet.

Discover the hydrosphere and the impact of human activity on the water cycle

You’ll start by looking at the water cycle and the ways in which human activity and climate change affect it. You’ll learn how Leeds scientists monitor the quality of water and how this influences aquatic life and agriculture.

Then, you’ll explore the cryosphere, discover the role of ice in regulating the Earth’s climate, and the impact of glacier recession.

Understand the biosphere and explore how ecosystems are affected by a changing environment

The study of the biosphere is that of ecosystems. You’ll take a closer look at how human activity is changing the biosphere by exploring the ecosystems of tropical forests, their contribution to nature, and how this is affected by climate change.

Explore the changing geosphere

You’ll learn how human activity in the form of coastal erosion, intensive agriculture, and mining for fossil fuels is affecting the geosphere. You’ll also explore the role of soil and learn how we can evaluate the impact of climate change by studying rocks and fossils.

Discover how scientists are addressing environmental problems

You’ll learn about natural flood management techniques and managing coastal erosion based on research by the University of Leeds.

You’ll then explore how invasive species are altering ecosystems, look at how scientists are monitoring their spread, and propose ways to restore the natural balance. You’ll also find out how scientists are monitoring the effects of climate change and how they can inform effective land use management in future.

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What topics will you cover?

Week 1: The changing environment

  • The changing hydrosphere
  • The changing biosphere
  • The changing geosphere

Week 2: Protecting and managing a changing environment

  • Managing flood risk
  • Biodiversity: Ecosystems out of balance
  • Understanding the Earth’s systems

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain the key process of the natural environment; the hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere, and interpret them as a series of interlinked systems
  • Investigate the impact of human activity on natural environmental systems
  • Compare a range of approaches to environmental protection and management
  • Explore the academic and employment opportunities in physical geography and environmental science

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in understanding the earth system and exploring how to improve the relationship between humans and the environment.

It offers a great insight to studying for physical geography and environmental sciences as an undergraduate or fresher at university level.

The course is part of the Going to University collection. Completing this course can help improve your university application by broadening your understanding of geography and environmental studies, and by developing your independent learning skills.

The course can also be used by high school and college teachers to enhance classroom teaching or for independent learning.

Who will you learn with?

I am an Associate Professor of Marine Micropalaeontology in the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds. My research interests are climate change and marine biodiversity.

Who developed the course?

University of Leeds

As one of the UK’s largest research-based universities, the University of Leeds is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and a centre of excellence for teaching.

Ways to learn

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$54/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 6 Aug 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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