• Offered by Fenner School of Environment and Society and the School of Culture History and Language
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific / ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Environmental Science
  • Areas of interest Geography, Human Ecology, Resource Management and Environmental Science, Archaeology

What can the past tell us about our future? Much of what we know about the deeper past comes from the remains of microscopic organisms and sediment properties found in depositional settings around the world. In the Australasian region there is a rich body of evidence for past environmental change and biodiversity that is only beginning to be explored. In this course we introduce the participants to the exciting potential of reconstructing past environments and the implications this information might have for the conservation and survival of life on Earth.



Existing lines of evidence for past environmental change in Australia and the region, from a range of palaeoecological and archaeological sources, point to significant changes in climate, biodiversity, vegetation cover, and fire frequency since the arrival of people into Australia sometime between 50,000 – 40,000 yrs ago. Debate continues over the degree to which humans overrode otherwise natural environmental change processes and the spatial extent of human modification through time. In reviewing these changes the micropaleontological and geochronological methods and techniques commonly used to reconstruct past environments are introduced and assessed.


Students will experience in field collection and analysis of a range of palaeo-environmental indicators including pollen, charcoal, seeds, biogenic silica, and stable isotopes. The contribution of these techniques to particular palaeoclimate and conservation biology problems such as reconstructing past El Niño events and detecting natural disturbance and human induced changes is also covered. The course is designed to provide students with a deeper understanding and the practical skills to engage in palaeoecology, archaeological science, palaeoclimatology, and natural resource management research. Key components of the course include meeting and interacting with some of the leading environmental scientists in Australia and gaining insights into ongoing research being undertaken in the region.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

On satisfying the requirements of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Describe the natural and anthropogenic drivers of past environmental change at a global as well as regional level.
  2. Describe and explain the techniques that are used to reconstruct past environmental conditions in Australia and abroad.
  3. Analyse and reconstruct past environmental conditions using appropriate field and laboratory techniques.
  4. Interpret palaeo-environmental data from a range of sedimentary contexts.
  5. Reflect on the natural and human influences that explain past environmental conditions and be able to communicate these in ways appropriate to a range of audiences.

Other Information

Biennial Course Not offered in 2014. Next offered in 2015.

See website: PalaeoWorks

Indicative Assessment

  • Field and Laboratory Workbook (30% LO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Poster with Oral Presentation (20%, LO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Laboratory and Tutorial Tests and Quizzes (5 at 5% each = 25%, LO 2, 3, 4, 5)


The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


65 contact hours composed of one two-hour class and one three-hour class per week. There is also a compulsory one day field trip.

Preliminary Reading

  • Elias, S. Editor. 2007. Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science. London, Wiley.
  • Steffen, Will et al. 2009. Australia's biodiversity and climate change. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Students continuing in their current program of study will have their tuition fees indexed annually from the year in which you commenced your program. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee Description
1994-2003 $1650
2014 $2946
2013 $2946
2012 $2946
2011 $2946
2010 $2916
2009 $2916
2008 $2916
2007 $2520
2006 $2520
2005 $2520
2004 $2160
International fee paying students
Year Fee
1994-2003 $3606
2014 $3762
2013 $3756
2012 $3756
2011 $3756
2010 $3750
2009 $3618
2008 $3618
2007 $3618
2006 $3618
2005 $3618
2004 $3618
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3253 16 Feb 2015 06 Mar 2015 31 Mar 2015 29 May 2015 In Person N/A

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