You are here: AU PhD  Graduate Schools Science and Technology Programmes/Departments Environmental Sciences

Environmental Sciences

Photo: Lise Balsby, Aarhus University

The programme:

Environmental science provides an integrated interdisciplinary approach to research in the functioning and management of complex environmental systems that requires the involvement of both quantitative and qualitative science domains. Environmental Science research takes departure in both natural and social science disciplines, and includes both disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches. Environmental Science has a particular emphasis on tackling the major challenges that face society like pollution and pollution control mechanisms, management of soil, water, air and biodiversity, protection of ecosystem service delivery, climate change, and energy systems. These challenges are creating a growing need for scientists with rigorous interdisciplinary scientific training and Environmental Science offers a curriculum that is designed to prepare students for future leadership within this discipline. As already stated environmental science is highly interdisciplinary and ranges from physics, chemistry, microbiology, geography, mathematics, and computer science, to social science, economics and policy. Central in environmental science studies are anthropogenic but also natural emissions to the environment starting a complex chain of processes involving transport, chemical and physical transformations and impact of the directly emitted species or their products on climate, nature, well-being and health. The studies related to social science includes investigations of what controls our decisions and behaviour and how these affects environmental pressures. Another branch of studies concern improving our understanding of governing physical, chemical and biological processes controlling the fate of pollutants emitted to the environment. Studies include development of new analytical methods, application of state-of-the-art analytical instruments to for carrying out field investigations as well as development and application of mathematical models in the aim of improving our understanding of governing processes in the environment, but also in evaluating the efficiencies of various abatement strategies and policy tools in environmental management.

Examples of areas of research are:

  • Ecology of GMOs and microbial pest control agents
  • Development of sustainable biotechnology for e.g. remediation of contaminated sites
  • The environment as reservoir for pathogenic bacteria and virulence, and its role in the development and spreading of infectious diseases
  • Emissions, and physical and chemical processes governing air pollution loads and levels in urban, rural and marine environments
  • The abundance and fate of short-lived climate forcers in the atmosphere
  • Governing processes for long-range transport of pollutants
  • Load of xenobiotics at remote locations
  • Optical properties and cloud formation potential of atmospheric particles
  • Governing processes and impact of agricultural emissions (ammonia, fugal spores, allergenic material from animals) on health and environment
  • Processes and assessment of allergenic pollen and its impact on human health
  • Behavial research to answer questions like - what is the motivation for people to buy wood stoves? what is needed to increase the proportion of people choosing to use public transport instead of the private car? etc.
  • Social changes influencing the environment and their underlying driving forces
  • Policy instruments, decision processes and institutions, implications for policies
  • Development of information for economic decisions and prioritisation: cost effectiveness, valuation of environmental benefits etc.
  • Spatial aspects of environmental pressures and management of the environment

Research facilities available:

Environmental Science hosts several environmental analytical laboratories providing state-of-the-art facilities for measurements in all environmental media and matrices. Such measurements include routine analysis of simple parameters, accredited analysis within (inter)national monitoring programs and high end measurements of pollutants at trace levels with e.g. GC-MS, LC-MS and GC-HRMS. The microbiology laboratories provide additional facilities for the environmental research of microorganisms, pollutants and their interactions. Environmental Sciences has a large expertise in long-term monitoring and intensive campaigns and studies of long time series of chemical and physical parameters in the atmosphere relevant for describing the fate of pollutants, particles and green house gases. Computer facilities include access to power full computer resources both in-house and at the University for developing and applying mathematical models. Environmental Science has access to modern GIS environment for geographical analysis of emission and land use data, generation of various input data for mathematical models etc.

Affiliated centres/departments:

Environmental Science is national focal point for the Danish EPA and the European Environment Agency (EEA) on atmospheric emissions of green house gases and air pollutants under a contract under the Danish National Centre for Environment and Energy. Environmental Science is national focal point for the Danish EPA and the European Environment Agency (EEA) on air quality in Denmark and maintains, operate and report in this context the monitoring results obtained within the NOVANA (det Nye Overvågningsprogram for Vandmiljø og Natur) programme on air pollution loads and levels in relation to the EU air quality guidelines, as well as within the AMAP (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme) programme on pollutant loads to Greenland. Environmental Science is partner of the Nordic Centre of Excellence in climate adaption research NORDSTAR, and of the network ECOGLOBE which is a network for interdisciplinary phd studies in climate change, land use changes etc.

Examples of employment after graduation:

Students from Environmental Science obtain skills and knowledge which is crucial in Environmental Management in municipalities, Agencies under the Ministry of Environment, European Environment Agency, EU etc, but also provide the perfect basis for working in Environmental Consultancy or other parts of the private sector (e.g. biotech companies). Other students continue in Environmental Research at AU or at other universities in Denmark or abroad.

Geographic location:

The Environmental Science is currently located at Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde at the Risø Campus. Within a short time period there are plans to move the activities to new facilities at Emdrup in Copenhagen. The department operates the Danish Air Quality Monitoring Programme under NOVANA. In this context the employees at the department perform routine measurements at monitoring sites in both rural and urban areas. The latter includes measurements at street and urban background stations in the four largest cities in the country (Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense and Aalborg). In addition the department operates Air Quality Monitoring in the Arctic, which includes performing measurements at station North in Greenland.

National cooperation:

The Environmental Science has a close cooperation with researchers at most of the other Danish universities and in addition a number of other research organisations and institutes. An example is the cooperation with Danish physicians in environmental and occupational medicine on assessing health effects of environmental exposures. Another example is the cooperation with Danish Environmental Economic Council on valuation of impact of environmental pressures.

International cooperation:

The Environmental Science takes part in a variety of international societies and networks: COST actions, ACCENT research network, PEER (Partnership for European Environmental Research) cooperation (the PEER partnership include seven major environmental research institutes in Europe) network, Landscape Europe, Arctic Centre of Research and Arctic Science partnership, International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP), European Geophysical Union (EGU). Environmental Science is a leading partner in the Baltic Nest Institute Denmark, dealing with development and decision support for the Baltic Sea environment. Environmental Science takes part in various national and international scientific board committees like e.g. the Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Approx. number of PhD students:

The Environmental Science has currently about 25 PhD and Post Doc students. The goal is to increase this number and to form a vibrant study environment for current and future students.

Contact person in regards to recruitment:

Department of Environmental Science
Frederiksborgvej 399
building ATMI, room D1.37
4000, Roskilde



Comments on content: 
Revised 04.04.2016