• Class Number 7962
  • Term Code 2960
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Craig Strong
    • Dr Nicole Sweaney
  • 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

This course builds an understanding of key processes that have shaped Australia's biophysical environment. Through a coordinated series of modules, students acquire foundation knowledge across a range of environmental science disciplines. One of the world’s great drainage basins, the Murray Darling Basin, is used as a case study to connect and integrate these modules into a clear narrative about the processes and issues affecting Australia's environment. In each module the case study is revisited to address topical issues and apply the learning covered in the module. By the end of the course, students will understand the Murray-Darling as an integrated system whose processes and problems reflect the biophysical and social forces that have shaped Australia.

Proposed modules include:

  • Creating a continent: the breakup of Gondwana - implications for geology, climate, soils and evolution of flora and fauna;
  • Geological events that shaped Australia: faults and rifts, volcanic activity, glaciations, sea level fluctuations;
  • Australia's climate: climate patterns in time and space, the nature and role of climate variability, and the impacts of global warming;
  • Australian landscape evolution: geomorphology, including effects of Aboriginal and European settlement;
  • Water in Australia: how much, where it is, comes from and goes to, and how to regulate its use;
  • Characterising Australian soils: soil formation and description, including aeolian deposition and land salinization - implications for productivity;
  • Australian vegetation: coping with nutrient deficiency, water, fire, herbivory, weeds;
  • Environmental policy and planning: linking science to policy and practice.


Modules are delivered by a diverse range of disciplinary experts. Lectures are complemented by a strong practical component, in which students learn through posing questions and solving problems in panel discussions, laboratory and field classes, and an overnight excursion.

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. critically appraise the role of the Murray-Darling as an integrated system whose processes and problems reflect the biophysical and social forces that have shaped Australia;
  2. understand the geological development of Australia in general, and the Murray Darling Basin in particular;
  3. recognise the patterns and processes which characterise Australia’s climate and explain their connection to the evolution of Australian landscapes and biota;
  4. discuss the unique characteristics of water in Australia and the interacting environmental and social factors that make it so;
  5. describe the development of Australian soils and understand the implications for ecosystem productivity;
  6. recognise key morphological traits in Australian plant families and explain their function in coping with nutrient deficiency, aridity, flood, herbivory and fire;
  7. integrate knowledge across a range of disciplines to critically evaluate complex environmental problems and critique policy approaches to solving those problems.
  8. formulate and test hypotheses and synthesise results in a scientific report.

Research-Led Teaching

Students will receive lectures from experts across a range of environmental disciplines. The research activities of a number of ANU research staff are the basis of this course. Each lecturer is drawing directly from their own research experience or management practice.

Field Trips

There will be a 2 day, 1 night field trip through southern slopes of NSW from 31 August - 1 September. Approximate cost is $225 per person. This cost covers transport, lodging and food. More information will be provided via the Wattle site.

Required Resources

No special resources are required.

Australian Department of Environment & Heritage (2016) Australia State of the Environment. https://soe.environment.gov.au/

Twidale, C.R. & Campbell, E.M. (2005) Australian Landforms - understanding a low, flat arid and old landscape. Rosenburg Publishing

Attiwill, P. & Wilson, B. (2006) Ecology, an Australian Perspective, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

McKenzie, N, Jacquier, D., Isbell, R. and Brown, K. (2004) Australian Soils and Landscapes. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood. https://www.publish.csiro.au/book/3821/

Staff Feedback

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

  • Written comments on assessment pieces 2,3 and 4.
  • auto response feedback on online quizzes - assessment piece 1
  • verbal overall assessment summaries in class and recorded during lecture recording
  • verbal comments during workshops and dedicated feedback sessions allocated for field trip reporting.

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 Australia's climate: climate patterns in time and space, the nature and role of climate variability, and the impacts of global warming
2 Australia's weather: with a focus on basic atmospheric science and rainfall in Australia 1
3 Geological events that shaped Australia: the breakup of Gondwana 1
4 Landforms product of geology, climate and organisms? Implications for soils, flora and fauna
5 Australian fauna 1,2
6 Australian vegetation: coping with nutrient deficiency, water, fire, herbivory, weeds 1
7 Australian ecology 1
8 Field trip report direction; Australian soils: soil formation and description
9 Australian soils: soil formation, description and soil ecology 1,3
10 Water in Australia: how much, where it is, comes from and goes to, and how to regulate its use 1
11 Water in Australia: how much, where it is, comes from and goes to, and how to regulate its use
12 Land use, management and degradation 4

Tutorial Registration

Students can chose one of two workshop times via course wattle page.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Practical exercises 20 % 01/08/2019 24/10/2019 2,3,4,5,6
Essay plan (1500 words) 15 % 22/08/2019 06/09/2019 1,2,7,8
Field trip report (2500 words) 35 % 03/10/2019 17/10/2019 1,2,6,7,8
Essay on an Australian environmental topic to be chosen in consultation with a course convenor (2000 words) 30 % 30/10/2019 10/11/2019 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

* 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.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 01/08/2019
Return of Assessment: 24/10/2019
Learning Outcomes: 2,3,4,5,6

Practical exercises

There will be an online quiz following each workshop. Combination of short answer and multiple choice questions designed to assess concepts learnt within each workshop.

To be submitted by 11:59pm the following Monday via Wattle [5% each - students will be assessed on the best 4 of 7 practical exercises]

The date range for these tasks indicates the approximate due date for the first quiz, and the approximate return date for the last quiz. There are 7 quizzes due over the semester. It is intended that the marked quizzes will be returned within 7 days after submission. Further details can be found on the Course Wattle site.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 22/08/2019
Return of Assessment: 06/09/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,7,8

Essay plan (1500 words)

The field trip report is a TWO (2) stage process ultimately leading to a report in a scientific article form. Stage 1 is the submission of an ‘essay plan’ where you develop the outline of the introduction and start to synthesis the methodology. This will be graded and the added comments will allow for refinement of both sections when submitted in the final report.

22 August - to be submitted by midnight* via Wattle [*= 11:59pm]

Assessment Task 3

Value: 35 %
Due Date: 03/10/2019
Return of Assessment: 17/10/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,6,7,8

Field trip report (2500 words)

The field trip report is a TWO (2) stage process ultimately leading to a report in scientific article form. Stage 2 is the submission of the completed article; introduction, methodology, results and discussion. Students are expected to discuss the results in context of other published literature. All students will use data collected during the field trip collated as a class set. This will be available to students unable to attend the field trip.

3 October - to be submitted by midnight* via Wattle [*= 11:59pm]

Assessment Task 4

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 30/10/2019
Return of Assessment: 10/11/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Essay on an Australian environmental topic to be chosen in consultation with a course convenor (2000 words)

Reflective essay exploring the human interaction on one aspect of the biophyical condition of the Murray Darling Basin. Masters students are expected to provide a well referenced comment on the changes of the physical condition.

30 October - to be submitted by midnight* via Wattle [*= 11:59pm]

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

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. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) as submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

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

Feedback on assignments is provided electronically via the Wattle course page

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

Re-submission of assignments is not 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).

Dr Craig Strong

Research Interests

Land Capability And Soil Degradation, Soil Biology, Natural Resource Management, Atmospheric Aerosols

Dr Craig Strong

Dr Nicole Sweaney

Research Interests

Dr Nicole Sweaney

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