• 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
  • Course subject Environmental Science
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Geography, Interdisciplinary Studies - Sustainability, Resource Management and Environmental Science, Archaeology More...
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Janelle Stevenson
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2017
    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 their sedimentary context. In the Australasian region there is a rich body of evidence for past environmental change that is only beginning to be explored. In this course we introduce the participants to the exciting potential of reconstructing past environments and how this might inform future challenges.

Existing lines of evidence for past environmental change in Australia come from a range of palaeoecological and archaeological sources and point to significant changes in climate, biodiversity, vegetation cover and fire frequency since the arrival of people sometime between 50,000 - 40,000 years ago. The degree to which humans overrode otherwise natural processes of environmental change and the extent of this modification however, is a global issue. 

Through this course students will gain the temporal perspective necessary for understanding many contemporary environmental issues such as climate change, biological responses to environmental change and land degradation. Students will be introduced to the methods and techniques used to reconstruct past environments primarily through the field collection and laboratory analysis of a range of palaeoenvironmental indicators such as lake sediment, pollen, charcoal, seeds, biogenic silica and stable isotopes.  Common statistical and computing approaches for the acquisition, interpretation and modelling of proxy environmental data are also explored. The course is designed to provide students with an understanding as well as the practical skills to engage in palaeoecology, palaeoclimatology, archaeological science and natural resource management research.


Additional readings of greater conceptual difficulty requiring an advanced scientific understanding will be made available for students enrolled at the graduate level.

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

A weekend field trip runs at the end of Week 3 at an approximate cost of $120. This field trip forms the basis of all practical work done for the remainder of the semester including at least one of the major assignments.

Indicative Assessment

  • Quizzes (30% LO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Science Communication Project (20%, LO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Research Report & Poster (50%, 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.


60 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

To enrol in this course you must have completed 96 units towards a degree including 12 units of 2000 or 3000 level ARCH, BIOL, EMSC or ENVS courses. Incompatible with ENVS6529.

Preliminary Reading

Eggleton, T. 2013. A Short Introduction to Climate Change. Cambridge, Melbourne. Hancock Library:  QC903.E34 2013 – short term loan

Elias, S. Editor. 2007. Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science. London, Wiley.  ANU Online Resource – a good reference text throughout the course.




Areas of Interest

  • Earth and Marine Sciences
  • Geography
  • Interdisciplinary Studies - Sustainability
  • Resource Management and Environmental Science
  • Archaeology
  • Environmental Studies




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 $3444
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $4590
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
3608 20 Feb 2017 27 Feb 2017 31 Mar 2017 26 May 2017 In Person N/A

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