• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Plant Science, Zoology, Evolution and Ecology, Biodiversity Conservation
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Adrienne Nicotra
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Autumn Session 2017
    See Future Offerings

This course develops advanced skills for field studies in plant and animal functional ecology. Through independent research projects students explore how diverse organisms respond to conditions in their environments and acquire the resources they need to survive, grow and reproduce. The course location will vary among years, but in each year the same theoretical principles will be explored. By exploring these principles in plants and animals simultaneously students will develop an understanding of the differences and commonalities among organisms. The course provides an opportunity for students to apply a wide array of field techniques used in current functional ecology. Students will develop skills in independent research including project design and execution, data analysis and interpretation and oral and written presentation of results. Students will also engage in supported peer mentoring and peer review processes. 

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:

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

  1. Critically appraise commonalities and differences in the way animals and plants cope with environmental conditions and acquire the resources needed for growth and reproduction
  2. Literature skills to identify and critically evaluate the current state of knowledge about a specific research question in functional ecology
  3. Formulate testable hypotheses based on an understanding of the research literature and design statistically robust experiments to test these practical skills in functional ecological research
  4. Ability to conduct research independently
  5. Ability to collaborate as a group to reach research goals and to mentor and support learning in other students
  6. Skills in scientific communication, including written communication and oral presentation
  7. Ability to analyse, interpret and synthesize data against original hypotheses and knowledge of the literature, and suggest well designed experimental approaches for future research.

Other Information

Places in this course are limited for logistical reasons. Please email rsb.studentadmin@anu.edu.au to express your interest in enrolling in this course. Permission codes will be issued on a rolling basis until course is filled. Places are not guaranteed until a $500 (non-refundable) deposit is paid.

As an indication, the cost for the two weeks field trip (26 June to 9 July 2017) in the Daintree Rainforest will be $1500 ex Cairns (GST inclusive).  You will be responsible for getting to Cairns. Fieldtrip payment can be made in 3 instalments at $500 ea (GST inclusive) and is due in full by June 1. Limited financial aid will be available on a need and merit basis; more details will be provided following expressions of interest.

Indicative Assessment

Assessment will be based on:
    • Field notebook: students will keep a field notebook containing notes from lectures and directed field problems, data, and records of results and conclusions. Students will also be expected to answer reflective questions on their learning throughout the course, time for this will be allotted during the quizzes). Notebook will be assessed twice during the course 10% (LO 1-8)
    • Final report: each student will write up their independent project in the form of a scientific paper. This will be due one week after course completion. 40% (LO 1-8)
    • Lecture presentation: each PG student will liaise with lecturers in advance and prepare a ~10 minute mini-lecture on a topic of mutual interest. Lectures will be presented to entire class. 20% (LO 1,2,7,8)
    • Literature review/Protocol: each PG student will write EITHER a literature review based on the topic of their mini lecture or an online protocol based on methods used in their independent project 20% (LO 1,2,7,8 OR 4,7)
    • Presentation: each student will present their independent project to the group 10% (LO 5-8)

    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.


    Overall there will be about 75 hours contact with teaching staff plus about 50 hours group and individual work.

    Requisite and Incompatibility

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

    Preliminary Reading

    Reading materials will be available online prior to commencing of the course

    Readings will consist of articles from the primary literature. Course will travel with a library of relevant texts.

    Assumed Knowledge

    Basic understanding of biology, especially ecology and evolution, commensurate with successful completion of second year biology.


    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.

    Units EFTSL
    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

    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.

    Autumn Session

    Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
    5763 26 Jun 2017 30 Jun 2017 30 Jun 2017 09 Jul 2017 In Person N/A

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