Field trips, work placements and climbing volcanoes

All in a day’s work for MSc students
Emma John, MSc Disaster Management for Environmental Hazards.jpg

Emma John graduated from the MSc Disaster Management for Environmental Hazards course after completing the BSc (Hons) Geography. Emma now travels all around the south east of Wales, working as a Flood Incident Management Officer for Natural Resources Wales.

Favourite module

"My favourite module from the  Disaster Management course was 'Management of Coastal and Hydrological Hazards' as it allowed me to look at tidal and fluvial flood risk, sea level rise, severe storms and tsunamis, as well as other risks such as drought, wildfires and heat waves. The module gave me the opportunity to explore flood risk within countries, such as Wales, and to participate in flood risk exercises with emergency responders. I also looked into community resilience and social vulnerability in areas such as south Wales.

Studying the module enabled me to investigate climate change impacts in countries, such as Australia, and to analyse these impacts using software which modelled future climate change, as well as looking at management strategies for such impacts.

I also had the opportunity to study tsunami early warning systems, and whilst on a field course in Sicily I carried out tsunami vulnerability assessments in Augusta and on the volcanic island of Stromboli.

Summer school

The summer school was an experience like no other. It was highly enjoyable, really tested my comfort zones, and taught me a lot about what humanitarian workers can face in the field. During the summer school we were taught many skills from the university staff and army officers, such as shelter building, navigation, communication, and dealing with hostile situations.

These skills were then tested over a two-day exercise where students were left to work together, in order to navigate around a mountain, build a camp with limited supplies and deal with hostile situations when they occurred. My favourite part of the week was a mass casualty exercise where students played the role of casualties, with the army officers evacuating those injured and medical staff being put through their paces dealing with the injured.

Field work

The best field work of the MSc course has to be the work we did in Sicily and Italy. Every bit of field work we carried out was really fun, and allowed us the chance to see how the work we did in lectures could be applied to site work, as well as the chance to lead teams of second year undergraduate students to carry out the tasks. During the field work we carried out tsunami assessments, volcanic feature identification and hazard assessments, landslide hazard assessments, vulnerability and capacity assessments, and disaster planning around Naples.

There were so many fantastic things about the trip, such as visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum to see how devastating the volcano, Mount Vesuvius, can be, also seeing Mount Stromboli erupt, climbing up Mount Vesuvius and Mount Etna, and getting to visit the Etna Volcano Observatory.


I did my placement with Pembrokeshire County Council's Emergency Planning Unit, who gave me many fantastic opportunities. The Emergency Planners at Pembrokeshire Council taught me about the command structures during major incidents, how to write flood plans, using GIS for emergency planning and how to work with communities at risk from hazards, such as flood risk and severe weather. The placement allowed me to visit and learn about category 1 responders, such as the Environment Agency, and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and also how the multi-agencies work together under Local Resilience Forums.

The MSc Disaster Management for Environmental Hazards prepared me massively for my role in Natural Resources Wales, as it helped me understand the benefits of looking at all aspects of emergencies. The course also meant I was able to understand fluvial and coastal processes before joining Natural Resources Wales, and taught me about areas of best practice when engaging with at-risk communities and building resilience to flooding.

The Disaster Management course was also highly useful due to the emphasis on GIS, which I use on a daily basis in my current job to map flood risk communities and present these maps to the public, to help explain their flood risk during events, such as drop-in sessions."