• Offered by Research School of Earth Sciences
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Earth and Marine Science
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Evolution and Ecology
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Jochen Brocks
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2021
    See Future Offerings

This course can be adjusted for remote participants in Sem 1 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please contact course convener for details.

This course explores the origin of life on our planet, from the emergence of cells to the appearance of humans. You will gain an advanced understanding of our place in the universe as the descendants of an unbroken line of ancestors - from the first microorganisms, the emergence of complex cells, the appearance of multicellular life and the evolution of animals over the past 600 million years, in the oceans and on land. You will also explore how we may find life on other planets in our solar system. The course will emphasize how the geology and chemistry of planet Earth was influenced by the evolution of new metabolisms and traits of life, and how biological evolution was steered by geological process. The focus will be an advanced understanding of major events such as the Great Oxygenation Event, the Rise of Algae, the Snowball Earth events, the emergence of the Ediacara biota, the Cambrian explosion, major mass extinction events that saw the turnover of entire ecosystems, including the demise of dinosaurs, and the emergence of new reef building structures. The course will provide an overview of the major groups of plant and animal fossils, including critical evaluation of fossil specimens, and an understanding how fossils, microfossils and molecular fossils are used to reconstruct ancient environments and ecosystems.

This course is co-taught with undergraduate students but assessed separately.

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. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the geological, chemical and biological processes that determined the co-evolution of life and environments on planet Earth;
  2. Interpret the evolutionary and ecological significance of the form and function of fossils of extinct organisms;
  3. Synthesize knowledge about evolutionary biological and geological processes to understand the changing diversity and increasing complexity of life through time;
  4. Perform independent research on a paleontological or geobiological subject.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Mid semester theory and practical exam (35) [LO 1,2,3]
  2. A peer-to-peer lecture on a selected topic (25) [LO 4]
  3. Mammal Practical (5) [LO 2]
  4. End of semester theory exam (35) [LO 1,2,3]

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 semester including:

  • Face-to face component which may consist of 3 x 1 hours lectures plus 1 x 2 hours practicals per week.
  • Approximately 70 hours of self-study which will include preparation for lectures, presentations and other assessment tasks.


Due to COVID-19, the lectures may additionally be provided in the form of 7 to 15 minute videos, and practicals may be replaced by on-line activities. 

There will be a mid-semester and a final exam, either in person or in form of written exams, or one-on-one oral examinations on-line. As part of peer-to-peer learning, each student has to independently research a palaeontological or geobiological subject and present a well rehearsed oral lecture and answer questions from fellow students. This lecture has to be delivered in person on campus or, if not possible, as a video on-line.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

Incompatible with EMSC2019, EMSC4019 or or GEOL2019.

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading


Assumed Knowledge

This course is suitable for all students with a tertiary degree with a science background.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2021 $4110
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2021 $5880
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.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3574 22 Feb 2021 01 Mar 2021 31 Mar 2021 28 May 2021 In Person View

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