- Code ENVS6529
- Unit Value 6 units
- Offered by Fenner School of Environment and Society
- ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
- Course subject Environmental Science
- Areas of interest Geography, Human Ecology, Archaeology
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.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
- Describe the natural and anthropogenic drivers of past environmental change at a global as well as regional level.
- Describe and explain the techniques that are used to reconstruct past environmental conditions in Australia and abroad.
- Analyse and reconstruct past environmental conditions using appropriate field and laboratory techniques.
- Interpret palaeo-environmental data from a range of sedimentary contexts.
- 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.
There are additional field trip fees of approximately $145 applicable to participation in this course (payment to ANU Science Shop).
- Quizzes (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
- Science Communication Project 1 (15) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
- Science Communication Project 2 (15) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
- Research Report & Poster (40) [LO 2,3,4,5]
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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.
To be determined
Requisite and Incompatibility
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- 6 units
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