• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Plant Science, Zoology, Evolution and Ecology, Biodiversity Conservation

This course will not be offered in 2020.

This course introduces students to field studies in plant and animal functional ecology. Through directed research projects students explore how diverse organisms respond to conditions in their environments and acquire the resources they need to survive, grow and reproduce. The course location will vary among years, but in each year the same theoretical principles will be explored. By exploring these principles in plants and animals simultaneously, students will develop an understanding of the differences and commonalities among organisms. Students will develop skills in research including project design and execution, data analysis and interpretation, and oral and written presentation of results. Students will also be exposed to a wide array of field techniques used in ecology.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. An understanding of the commonalities and differences in the way animals and plants cope with environmental conditions and acquire the resources needed for growth and reproduction
  2. Literature skills to identify and critically evaluate the current state of knowledge about a specific research question in functional ecology
  3. Formulation of testable hypotheses based on an understanding of the research literature
  4. Practical skills in functional ecological research
  5. Ability to collaborate as a group to reach research goals
  6. Skills in scientific communication, including written communication and oral presentation.
  7. Ability to interpret data against original hypotheses and knowledge of the literature, and suggest avenues for future research

Other Information

For 2020, the field trip will be held in the Kosciusko National Park during 6-20 Dec 2020. Places are limited to 36 due to field accommodation availability. Entry will be merit-based, please register your interest online . Application will open in early August and close at the end of August. Students will be notified the outcome by mid September. For more information, please email rsb.studentadmin@anu.edu.au.  

Check out this great Video: Functional Ecology field trip to Kosciuszko National Park in December 2016 and the Daintree Rainforest in July 2017

Indicative Assessment

  1. Field notebook: students will keep a field notebook containing notes from lectures and directed field problems, data, and records of results and conclusions. Students will also be expected to answer reflective questions on their learning throughout the course. Notebook will be assessed twice during the course (25) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
  2. Final report: each student will select one directed field problem to write up in the form of a scientific paper. This will be due one week after course completion. (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
  3. Presentations: Students will present results of directed field problems as a group with each presentation worth ~4% (25) [LO 5,6,7]
  4. Mid and end of course quizzes: Two one hour quizzes of lecture material 10% each (20) [LO 1,3,6,7]

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

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.


The expected workload will consist of approximately 130 hours throughout the session including:

  • Overall there will be about 75 hours contact with teaching staff
  • Approximately 50 hours of individual and group work

Students are expected to actively participate and contribute towards discussions.

Inherent Requirements

To complete this course, students must participate in the 2 week long field trip in a domestic or international field location. In order to participate in the trip, students must be able to:

  • Travel to the field location and stay in field accommodation such as shared basic cabins or dorm rooms;
  • Monitor and manage their own health while studying and living with a small group of people in an isolated field location;
  • Understand and respect the needs of other participants and act professionally throughout the trip.

Students who cannot meet these requirements will not be able to participate in the trip and therefore cannot complete the course. For more information, please refer to the trip information page.

In addition, in order to participate in some of the activities on the trip, students must be able to:

  • Safely traverse 2-3km over uneven ground at a moderate pace.

Students who can provide evidence they are unable to meet this requirement, or can otherwise only participate in part of the trip activities may be able to negotiate alternative participation and assessment requirements with the course convenor.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have successfully completed BIOL1009 and/or BIOL1003 or have permission from the course convener.

You will need to contact the Biology Teaching and Learning Centre to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading

Readings will consist of articles from the primary literature. The course will travel with a library of relevant texts.

Assumed Knowledge

Basic understanding of biology, especially ecology and evolution, commensurate with successful completion of first year biology.


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
2020 $4050
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $5760
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.

Spring Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
6596 28 Nov 2021 03 Dec 2021 03 Dec 2021 11 Dec 2021 In Person N/A

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