• 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
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Janelle Stevenson
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2016
    See Future Offerings

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

See website:http://chl.anu.edu.au/departments/archaeology/

Indicative Assessment

  • Quizzes (30% LO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Science Communication Project 1 (15%, LO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Science Communication Project 2 - (15%, LO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Research Report & Poster - (40%, 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.

Requisite and Incompatibility

You are not able to enrol in this course if you have completed ENVS3029

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. Tuition fees are indexed annually. 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
2016 $3480
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $4638
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
3880 15 Feb 2016 26 Feb 2016 31 Mar 2016 27 May 2016 In Person N/A

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions