• Class Number 9787
  • Term Code 2960
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Janelle Stevenson
    • Dr Rebecca Hamilton
    • Janelle Stevenson
    • Dr Rebecca Hamilton
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 22/07/2019
  • Class End Date 25/10/2019
  • Census Date 31/08/2019
  • Last Date to Enrol 29/07/2019
SELT Survey Results

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.

Research-Led Teaching

This is a field and laboratory intensive course where the central theme is for students to formulate and answer a research question based on data gathered in the field during the second week of semester.

Field Trips

Horse Island, Tuross Heads

When: Friday 2nd August 2.00 PM to Sunday 4th August 5.00 PM

Approximate Cost: $100 (payment via ANU Science Shop)


  • Hands on experience sampling a palaeo-wetland deposit and mangrove sediments
  • Vegetation surveys
  • Surface sampling for modern pollen

Data from the field trip will form the basis of the course research project and the production of a StoryMap on the environmental history of the island. A field trip workbook will be an assessable component of the trip. More detail about field trip activities will be available in Week 2.

Participants need to bring:

  • enclosed footwear that you are prepared to get wet and muddy
  • spare pair of dry shoes
  • suitable clothing such as long pants, long sleeves and a hat
  • snacks, water bottle, camera, pens and pencils
  • wet weather gear
  • cold weather gear
  • plate, bowl, mug, knife, spoon, and fork
  • tent, sleeping bag etc
  • sunscreen and insect repellent


  • camping at Beachcomber Holiday Park

Additional Course Costs

There are additional field trip fees of approximately $100 applicable to participation in this course (payment to ANU Science Shop). 

Examination Material or equipment

No exams. Quizzes done through Wattle in class.

Required Resources

Students will be encouraged to bring laptops or iPads to certain classes. If a student does not have ready access to a device arrangements will be made to provide this resource in class.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • Verbal feedback to whole class
  • Verbal feedback to working groups
  • Verbal feedback to individuals
  • Written feedback to individuals

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Course Introduction + Lab Introduction + Quaternary Environments
2 Geochemistry (LS) + Sampling Field Cores (JS) Field Trip (2-4 August)
3 Isotopes + Radio Carbon Dating + Geochemistry Field Book (10%), 8 August Quiz 1 (2%), 9 - 12 August
4 Dendrochronology (MB)
5 Pollen Processing Lab + Geochemistry Lab (RH/JS/LS) Quiz 2 (2%), 23 - 26 August
6 Fire (RH) Quiz 3 (2%) , 30 August - 2 September
7 Biogeography + Sediments 2 + Project Lab Work (RH) Assignment 1 (40%), 22 September
8 Human Impact + Anthropocene + Project Lab Work (RH) Quiz 4 (2%) , 27 - 30 September
9 Conservation Palaeoecology + Project Lab Work (RH) Quiz 5 (2%) , 4-8 October
10 Intro to Palaeodata Analysis + Project Lab Work (RH)
11 Project Lab Work
12 Finalising Assignment 2 – Peer Review (JS & RH) Assignment 2 (40%), 24 October

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Field and Lab Workbook 10 % 08/08/2019 15/08/2019 2,3,5
Quiz 1 2 % 12/08/2019 12/08/2019 2,3
Quiz 2 2 % 26/08/2019 26/08/2019 2,3
Quiz 3 2 % 02/09/2019 02/02/2019 2,3,4
Assignment 1 – Article for the Conversation 40 % 16/09/2019 26/09/2019 1,2,3,4,5
Quiz 4 2 % 30/09/2019 30/09/2019 2,3,4
Quiz 5 2 % 08/10/2019 08/10/2019 2,3,4
Assignment 2 - Research Project 40 % 24/10/2019 10/11/2019 1,2,3,4,5

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using 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. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website. Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


No examination.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 08/08/2019
Return of Assessment: 15/08/2019
Learning Outcomes: 2,3,5

Field and Lab Workbook

A field workbook will be given to all students prior to undertaking the first field trip. The field workbook will contain specific tasks and short answer reflective questions.

Value: 10%

Submission: in class by 8th August

Estimated Return Date: in class 15th August

Assessment Task 2

Value: 2 %
Due Date: 12/08/2019
Return of Assessment: 12/08/2019
Learning Outcomes: 2,3

Quiz 1

Details of task: online quiz based on Week 1 Introduction and Week 2 Field Trip.

Value: 2%

Date: open 9-12th August

Assessment Task 3

Value: 2 %
Due Date: 26/08/2019
Return of Assessment: 26/08/2019
Learning Outcomes: 2,3

Quiz 2

Online quiz based on activities covered in Weeks 1-4.

Value: 2%

Date: open 23rd - 26th August

Assessment Task 4

Value: 2 %
Due Date: 02/09/2019
Return of Assessment: 02/02/2019
Learning Outcomes: 2,3,4

Quiz 3

Online in-class quiz based on activities covered in Weeks 1-5.

Value: 2%

Date: open 30th August - 2nd September

Assessment Task 5

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 16/09/2019
Return of Assessment: 26/09/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Assignment 1 – Article for the Conversation

Write an article for The Conversation (http://theconversation.com/au).

The Conversation is a collaborative journalism project between professional editors and academics from the university and research sector. The pieces are short and punchy and communicate some big and important ideas amongst academics and the broader community. There is a 1,000 word limit for the piece. Guidance with topics will be discussed in Week 4.

Some suggestions to get you started:

What is palaeoecology? (explainer)

Everything you wanted to know about pollen but were afraid to ask. (explainer)

Piecing together the past to protect the future (conservation focus).

Understanding our ancient lifeways through the environment. (archaeological/prehistory focus)

In addition to the Conversation Article, Masters Students are required to submit a 2,000 word literature demonstrating the basis of their article.

Value: 40%

Submission: via Turnitin by midnight Monday 16th September

Estimated Return Date: 26th September

Assessment Task 6

Value: 2 %
Due Date: 30/09/2019
Return of Assessment: 30/09/2019
Learning Outcomes: 2,3,4

Quiz 4

Online in-class quiz based on activities covered in Weeks 1-6.

Value: 2%

Date: open 27 - 30th September

Assessment Task 7

Value: 2 %
Due Date: 08/10/2019
Return of Assessment: 08/10/2019
Learning Outcomes: 2,3,4

Quiz 5

Online in-class quiz based on activities covered in Weeks 1-9.

Value: 2%

Date: open 4-8th October

Assessment Task 8

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 24/10/2019
Return of Assessment: 10/11/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Assignment 2 - Research Project

Communicating scientific research to a broad audience can be a difficult. This task is to produce a StoryMap(in the ArcGIS Online Environment) to illustrate the environmental history of Horse Island or the Impact of Mining in Tuross River Valley.

Data for this assignment will be generated through the class research project over the semester. Students will work independently or in pairs on the StoryMap. The StoryMap should be well illustrated including photos from fieldwork, photos from the lab, diagrams and figures.

Value: 40%

Submission: 24th October

Estimated Return Date: 10th November

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) a submission must be through Turnitin. Assignments are submitted using Turnitin in the course Wattle site. You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records.

Hardcopy Submission

Assignments must include the cover sheet available from the course Wattle site. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records. Hardcopy submissions will be made in class.

Late Submission

Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

Student work will be returned in class or via Wattle.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

No resubmission permitted.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Janelle Stevenson

Research Interests

Palaeoecology, Palaeontology (Incl. Palynology), Quaternary Environments, Archaeological Science

Janelle Stevenson

Dr Rebecca Hamilton
+61 2 6125 0308

Research Interests

Dr Rebecca Hamilton

Janelle Stevenson
+61 2 6125 3153

Research Interests

Janelle Stevenson

Dr Rebecca Hamilton
+61 2 6125 0308

Research Interests

Dr Rebecca Hamilton


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