• Offered by Fenner School of Environment and Society
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Environmental Science
  • Areas of interest Geography, Human Ecology, Archaeology
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Janelle Stevenson
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2019
    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:

  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

There are additional field trip fees of approximately $145 applicable to participation in this course (payment to ANU Science Shop). 

Indicative Assessment

  1. Quizzes (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  2. Science Communication Project 1 (15) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  3. Science Communication Project 2 (15) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  4. 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.


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.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

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

Prescribed Texts




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
2019 $3840
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $5460
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.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
9787 22 Jul 2019 29 Jul 2019 31 Aug 2019 25 Oct 2019 In Person View

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