Author Archives: Courtney

About Courtney

BSc graduate in Environmental Science from Iowa State University and current MSc Sustainability student at University of Dundee.

Team MSc Sustainability

MSc Sustainability is made up of five and a half students. The half being a part-timer. It’s a small size, but I can, in fact, tell you it is a big reason why I love this unique program. Almost all our courses are taken together and, perhaps because of that, we have developed lasting friendships. There are plenty of benefits to our small class sizes. It breathes ease into the classroom; we all feel comfortable speaking in front of one another, holding conversations, and asking questions. Our friendship follows us outside the classroom as well. We often enjoy potluck dinners and even ventured to a lovely Peatbog Faeries concert together. The five and a half of us make a great team but we couldn’t do it without the support, wisdom, and kindness of our instructors and mentors. With that said, I am wholeheartedly looking forward to conquering challenges and appreciating success alongside these folks in these two final semesters. Read the profiles below to hear a little bit more about each of us.

Courtney Ehrlich

Iowa, United States

BSc Environmental Science and Urban Design from Iowa State University

Why did you choose MSc Sustainability at University of Dundee? When I graduated in 2015, I knew I wanted to move abroad and I also knew I would need my Masters to be competitive in the job market so I picked my favorite countries and applied to highly-recognized Master’s programs in them. All signs pointed to Dundee!

What is the best part of the MSc Sustainability program? The best part, for me, is our small program size and close relationship with our tutors and professors.

What is the biggest challenge we face today? I think the biggest challenge we face is a lacking in motivation from society to progress. Sometimes I feel like we are stuck doing something the way we used to because it’s familiar and we’ve figured out comfortable ways of doing it, but all this while we could be creating better (more sustainable and purposeful) lives for ourselves and for the generations we will leave.

What high profile person would you have over for dinner? I would love to have Bernie Sanders over for dinner because he seems to be the incarnate form of my worldviews and I just think he would be pleasant company. I think he would probably recommend some of the best books, too.

Patrick Mason

Originally from Midlands in England but has lived in Scotland for over 10 years

Environmental Science and Sustainability at the University of Glasgow.

Why did you choose MSc Sustainability at University of Dundee? It suited me as has a large degree of flexibility and so has enabled me pursue my interests in a way that no other Master’s that I am aware of would have.

What is the biggest challenge we face today? At risk of sounding hypocritical, I think one of, if not the greatest, challenge we’re facing is the inseparable connection between ‘doing well’ and material consumption. I think reducing our perceived material quality of life would go a long way to addressing the roots of environmental challenges such as climate change.

How would you explain climate change to a non-believer? It’s frustrating that explaining climate change is still seen as necessary. I think a new approach to disseminating information on climate change is needed if the aim is to convince more people. However, while it is ideal, I don’t think it’s essential that we must convince everyone that climate change is real and an issue. Personally, at the moment, I don’t subscribe to a world view in which a person’s belief necessarily has an effect on their action. Even those of us most aware of climate change still live unsustainable lifestyles. Very briefly, I think it more important to change society than individuals. However, a pet peeve of mine is divisive language, particularly on the issue of climate change which necessitates society-wide action to overcome.

What would you save first, the Amazon or the Coral Reefs? Tough, I don’t know a huge amount about either! As far as I’m aware, the wider environmental benefits of coral reefs are relatively limited, whereas the Amazon rainforest has significant ‘benefits’ for the world. Unfortunately for the fish, the Amazon gets my vote.

Fiona Ross

Pitlcohry, Perth and Kinross, Scotland, UK

MA in Film and Television, Royal College of Art (1989) followed by 20 year career in film and television working in London and all around the world (my carbon footprint is dire). Re-trained as an antique restorer (last 6 years) and developed a passion for sustainability. Now Chair the Carse of Gowrie Sustainability Group

Why did you choose MSc Sustainability at University of Dundee? It’s the best option in Scotland for Sustainability, and I lucked out because it is 15 miles from where I live!

What would you do with 50 million pounds? With £50 million, I would buy Scottish Mountains, plant ancient forest and preserve them for the nation and future generations (and lower my carbon footprint of the last 30 years!).

What are your plans after you finish your degree? My goal after my degree is complete is to live a more sustainable life! To get some sleep! Money has never been my inspiration, following my instincts and my heart has always taken me further than I thought I could ever go.

Jan-Andre Mai


Human Geography; Interned in Urban Cycle Traffic Planning; Intrigued by the idea of urban food production

What is the best part of the MSc Sustainability program? It’s great because we learn practical things and effectively can go out in the world and do something beyond theory.

What is the biggest challenge we face today? I think the biggest challenge we’re facing is for people to genuinely pay attention to and have awareness for others.

What would you do with 50 million Euros? I would keep 8 million for me and then go to poor people in the world and help them with the most sustainable technical features I could get them until the Euros are gone!

What’s at the top of your bucket list? The top of my bucket list is to build a house for my family.

What high profile person would you have over for dinner? I honestly don’t like high profile persons, so I would have a high profile person over who I don’t know is a high profile person (and who doesn’t show it) …. the president of Mongolia for example, I have no idea who he/she is.

What are your plans after you finish your degree? I hope to be involved in interesting work that changes things, people, the environment, and my immediate surroundings.

Rory Angus

Inverurie in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, UK

University of Aberdeen; 2:1 in Human Geography

Why did you choose MSc Sustainability at University of Dundee? I picked it because it is the only course of its kind in Scotland. I have been interested in sustainability for a long but have been unsure what career I wanted. Whilst other courses were extremely specific, a broader focus like Sustainability allowed me to take classes in environmental architecture, planning, politics, and research methods.

What is the best part of the MSc Sustainability program? For me, it has been the work placement. The staff in the department have fantastic links and I was able to do a work placement with Perth and Kinross Council. In addition to improvement in my employment prospects, it allowed me to conduct research in a professional setting, opposed to an academic environment.

What would you do with 50 million Pounds? If I won £50 million I would buy myself a nice house (everyone is a little selfish!), take my family on holiday, and set up my own environmental/sustainability charity. I would probably give a chunk of it to other charities like Oxfam and Greenpeace.

The top of my bucket list is to travel to San Francisco. It’s a city I have wanted to visit for a long time!

Simon Binks

Northumberland in NE England with the last 10 years in Bradford, West Yorkshire

Community development. More recently, I have worked in housing and as a mediator (neighbourhood and education).

What is the best part of the MSc Sustainability program? I’ve found the whole course varied and stimulating and the tutors knowledgeable, enthusiastic and approachable.

What is the biggest challenge we face today? I’d say finding a way to ensure that humans – at the level of individuals or the organisations they are a part of – make decisions based on the capacities of natural environment (its ecosystems and climatic processes) that we are intrinsically a part of.

What is at the top of your bucket list? I hadn’t thought of it as an item on the bucket list, but next adventure might be: ferry from the UK, cycling down through at least part of Europe, over the Alps, to good cup of coffee on the edge one of the Italian lakes.

Would you rather travel back in time or to a new planet? Maybe we should all go back in time to get a sense of slower, less stimulated lives we used to lead…

Love Your Mug

3…2…1…Blast off! The ‘Love Your Mug’ initiative launches on Monday, March 20 – will you be along for the ride? This is a new and exciting adventure on the University of Dundee campus which transitions from the use of disposable tea and coffee cups to reusable mugs. MSc Sustainability students, in collaboration with DUSA and Dundee University, are selling University branded mugs – perfect for your next cuppa!

You will find ‘Love Your Mug’ mugs in all cafes for sale at £3 each or you can stop by and see us outside of the Union on launch day. Each purchase of a new mug comes with a free regular sized hot drink. And it gets even better! For each consecutive hot drink purchased in a reusable ‘Love Your Mug’ mug, you will enjoy 10p off the cost. But we’re not done yet. Personal reusable mugs other than those from the ‘Love Your Mug’ initiative will also be honoured at a 5p discount.

Perhaps it seems like a trivial amount of pennies saved per cup, but in a period of one year, the average consumer could save £15 just through individual 10p discounts from their reusable mug. That is 5 times the initial investment. Your investment in saving our environment is priceless!

The University of Dundee has a wonderful opportunity to contribute to a sustainable future and reduce the negative environmental impact paper cups have. In terms of waste attributed to landfills, many paper cups are forced to end up there; generally they cannot be recycled due to contamination and their plastic lining. In Scotland alone, we throw away 208 million each year; lined up, this would circle Earth! It is our hope that you will join with us in promoting this trifecta: love coffee, love your mug, and love the planet.

Look out for the link to take our short online survey to win a high-end espresso machine and fair trade coffee and remember to come join us at the ‘Launch Stall’ 10am-2pm Monday 20th March!

For more details contact us at

Falkland Estate

These are my people. Team Sustainability forever! Wait…no, I mean lifelong friends, not lifelong students. Please.

Part of the MSc Sustainability program is a core module called Research Training and Project Planning. For Dr. Mark Cutler and Dr. Ioan Fazey, we proposed and created a research proposal as practice for our dissertation.

Our class split into two groups of three and each had our own go at what I would call research to prepare for research. The projects we chose stemmed from common backgrounds and addressed issues relevant in Scotland and beyond. While these were only hypothetical research proposals, they were developed with such detail that they could be formally carried out if desired.

Between the two groups, there was a competition to see which project would win the imaginary pot of money to have our research ‘funded.’

My group and I found a common interest pertaining to urban agriculture and food security. Through our interests and our desire to address concerns in environmental, economic, and social realms, we created a research proposal called Growing A Sustainable Urban Food Supply (GASUFS).

GASUFS looked at the positive and negative impacts of urban agriculture on UK cities, identified potential for implementation, and was guided in part by US-based case studies.

Did someone say field trip?! To switch things up, the location for the presentations did not take place on campus. We travelled to the Centre for Stewardship at the Falkland Estate where we spent the day presenting our work, hiking through the beautiful grounds, participating in dissertation workshops, and listening to an ethics presentation from Dr. Ed Hall.

Team GASUFS walked away with the win (!!!), but the day was about more than the competition. We all walked away with a broader understanding of research methods and brushed up on our presentation skills; two things that will come in handy in these months leading up to our final MSc Sustainability deadline.

CECHR Annual Symposium

The sunshine and blue sky made their 2017 debut this past Wednesday, just in the nick of time for the annual CECHR Symposium. It turned out to be a wonderful day of presentations from many backgrounds; professors, PhD students, and professionals, all set the stage for exchanges of knowledge and constructive discussion. Not to mention the unlimited tea and coffee! The event took place at the West Park Conference Centre just a few minutes bike ride out Perth Road. Though, with the weather so delightful, I must admit I wouldn’t have minded if I had to bike nearly to Perth. 

Can we just talk about networking for a second? …talk about a buzz word! Usually, when I hear networking, I usually think of that thing my parents tell me to do making connections and developing relationships with people older than me and with higher academic degrees. Specifically, I think of people who have a significant interest in something I am trying to achieve or learn more about, have the experience to back it up, and can open doors for me. I tend to assume one would have to be older than me to fit that description. With that said, if you were to ask me today what networking means, I think you might get a different answer than you would have in the past.

After the CECHR Symposium, my definition of networking broadened and I understood and appreciated that I could – and should – aim to network with people my age as often as possible. While I often engage with my fellow students, it’s rare that I consider these engagements, ‘networking.’ But in reality, they are some of the best people I could network with.

I think it’s really important to have this group of bright, motivated, creative group of academics around me all the time and the CECHR event was another one of those times we could all bounce ideas off each other, open up in a setting that is different from the classroom, and dig into subjects which we didn’t even know we had interests in.

As an MSc student in sustainability with a background in environmental science, I really enjoyed how CECHR’s symposium was a combination of both the hard and soft sciences. PhD student, Nandan Mukherjee, touched on social and philosophical issues like our relationship with water while Dr. Mark Cutler dove into the hard sciences by studying tree mortality and using remote sensing to illustrate forest resilience.

Brief but thorough presentations were followed by time to converse in smaller groups with the presenter. The day elicited questions and discussion, and I will speak for everyone when I say we walked away with our minds racing and a refreshed attitude.

One of my favorite analogies of the day was from Tony Hodgson when he explained how hard it is to make significant change in dealing with resistance. His example was of a massive ship on the sea struggling to turn and the rudder of that ship needed large amounts of energy to do so. However, if a small rudder is put on the big (for lack of better adjectives) rudder, it helps turn the big rudder which turns the ship and contributes considerably to the whole process. We can see these sort of catalytic relationships in most everything we do and I thought this example really highlighted the very thing that CECHR stands for, metaphorically and literally.

Thanks for spending the day feeding our brains and bellies, CECHR!!