• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Plant Science, Evolution and Ecology
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Christopher Fulton
    • Prof Patrick Meir
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2017
    See Future Offerings

Ecology concerns the fundamental patterns and flows in natural biological systems. We consider how organisms interact with their physical environment and with each other to shape their individual attributes, patterns of population dynamics, distribution, diversity and abundance; and across scales of time and space, the patterns and processes of community assembly and ecosystem function. Why are some organisms found here, and not there? Why do plants and animals look and work like they do? What makes their populations large or small, or change in size? Why do some organisms co-exist together, and others not? Why is there so much diversity? In understanding these questions, we gain critical insight into how populations and communities have evolved, how energy and biomass flow through ecosystems, and how populations and communities respond to changes in their environment. These changes may result from natural disturbances such as changes in climate, through altered disease prevalence or competition, or from human modification of habitat, perhaps through overharvesting or species removal. 

The aim of this course is to provide a foundation in ecological thinking, in relevant field methods and in the application of ecology for understanding and conserving natural ecosystems. The course will consider the major biological kingdoms, and will address key themes, including the study of organisms, populations, communities and ecosystems, placing them in context across physical scales from the individual to the Earth system, across processes from the flow of mass and energy to biotic interactions such as competition, and across modes of study from theory to practice. 

Note: Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates but are assessed separately.

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. Examine and summarise central ideas underpinning the ecology of individuals, populations, communities & ecosystems;
  2. Integrate ecological understanding of processes operating across multiple scales of space and time;
  3. Understand how observation, experimentation and modelling can be used to generate and test ecological hypotheses;
  4. Think critically about scientific evidence to understand ecological patterns and processes;
  5. Conduct basic ecological research and communicate the findings;
  6. Work as a research team and provide effective peer support and feedback.
  7. Reflect on how their understanding of ecological concepts has changed, and how this helped you better understand the structure and function of populations, communities and ecosystems;
  8. Develop evidence-based arguments for how populations, communities and ecosystems will respond to changes in their biological and physical environments.

Other Information

Field Trip:  As an indication, the cost to students for the 3 days field trip will be $170.  The field trip will be held in Kioloa during 17-19 March 2017.

The Biology Teaching and Learning Centre is located in Building 116. Alternatively you can email rsb.studentadmin@anu.edu.au to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Indicative Assessment

  • Scientific Reports (40%): You will synthesise information from the literature with new data to present the outcomes of ecological research in written and/or graphical form (LO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
  • Practical presentations (20%): Working as a team, you will present a summary of your findings in response to a challenge or applied ecological question (LO 5, 6).
  • Reflective Learning Journal (40%): You will be asked to keep a reflective learning journal that records how your understanding of key ecological concepts has changed via key readings, course activities and discussions. This will require you to think critically, integrate multiple sources of information, and present a logical written argument on how your ecological understanding can be applied to explain the response of populations, communities and/or ecosystems to a key change in their biological and/or physical environment (LO 4,7,8).

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.


Up to three lectures per week and 6 x three-hour toturial/practicals over the semester.

Requisite and Incompatibility

You are not able to enrol in this course if you have completed BIOL2131.

You will need to contact the Biology Teaching and Learning Centre to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Prescribed Texts

Key readings will be provided on Wattle.

Preliminary Reading

Assessment will be based on:

  • Essay on the importance of density-dependent processes in fertility control programs (30 %; LO 1, 2, 3,4)
  • Practical exam to assess ability to use EXCEL to solve and interpret simple population models (20 %; LO 5)
  • Theory exam (50%; LO 1, 2, 3, 4)
  • Optional mid-term practice exam designed to familiarise the student with the format of the theory exam (20%). This mark may be used to replace the practical exam mark.
  • Two hours of lectures, a 1 hour tutorial and 1.5 hour practical per week.


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
2017 $3660
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $4878
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
4518 20 Feb 2017 27 Feb 2017 31 Mar 2017 26 May 2017 In Person N/A

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