• Class Number 6414
  • Term Code 3160
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Robert Heinsohn
    • Belinda Wilson
    • Jackie O'Sullivan
    • Rachael Gross
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 26/07/2021
  • Class End Date 29/10/2021
  • Census Date 14/09/2021
  • Last Date to Enrol 02/08/2021
SELT Survey Results

Biodiversity Science introduces the principles and skills that underpin evidence-based conservation and management of biodiversity. Key topics include understanding why species occur where they occur, how to measure biodiversity, examining responses by species to human impacts and understanding how species become vulnerable to extinction.

This course has a strong emphasis on developing practical skills. You will gain experience surveying and identifying animals and plants. You will also learn how to use these data to support evidence-based conservation and management.

This course is delivered through a combination of weekly lectures and practical sessions, with input from world leaders in conservation biology. The practical sessions include regular field trips and interactions with public and private land managers, including a trip to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

This course develops fundamental knowledge and practical skills that are necessary for graduates seeking careers in natural resource management and other areas of environmental science. It also provides important background for those wishing to pursue careers in any field that potentially impacts on biodiversity (e.g. environmental policy and planning). This course provides the scientific underpinnings for the concepts explored in ENVS3039 Biodiversity Conservation.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Identify key factors that influence the distribution of species.
  2. Identify and apply appropriate techniques for measuring biodiversity in a range of different environments and circumstances.
  3. Develop and test hypotheses about the impacts of human activities on biodiversity.
  4. Effectively interpret and critique biodiversity data using standard analytical and communication techniques, and communicate key information about ecosystems to a range of audiences.

Research-Led Teaching

In previous years, this course has had an emphasis on inquiry and practical based learning. However, as many students may not be on campus, and due to physical distancing requirements relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, fieldwork is unlikely to be possible in 2021. This course will feature input from a range of leading researchers and professionals involved in conservation management. 

Field Trips

*In 2021, this field trip is unlikely to occur due to the COVID-19 restrictions. In previous years, there has been an optional field trip to Kioloa Coastal campus (bird surveys, camera trapping, invertebrate surveys, habitat assessment, intertidal surveys) in the second week of the mid-semester break (Monday to Friday). If you are enrolled in ENVS2018 Environmental Science Field School you will already be attending this field trip.

Additional Course Costs

The optional field trip to Kioloa is approximately $400.

*In 2021, this field trip is unlikely to occur due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Examination Material or equipment

The examination is conducted online via Wattle so you need access to a computer and reliable internet connection

Required Resources

When in the field, sturdy shoes, hat, rainjacket, clipboard, water bottle

Laptop computer, binoculars*, camera*

*unlikely to be needed in 2021

Recommended student system requirements 

ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:

  • video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
  • two-way video conferencing for interactive learning
  • email and other messaging tools for communication
  • interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
  • print and photo/scan for handwritten work
  • home-based assessment.

To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:

  • A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
  • Webcam
  • Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
  • Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
  • Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
  • Printing, and photo/scanning equipment

For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements

Staff Feedback

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

  • we provide feedback for every question in workshop assignments along with generic feedback to the class, including the mean mark
  • for written assignments we provide edits and comments on your report, feedback against each of the marking criteria and generic feedback to the class including the mean mark
  • students will have an opportunity to discuss their draft research assignments with the lecturers or demonstrators
  • lectures and demonstrators are available by appointment throughout the semester.

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 This is indicative only and may change. This course has guest lecturers whose availability may chnage. *all field work is subject to change/cancellation due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. A detailed course outline will be available in Wattle. A detailed schedule of due dates for assessment items will be available in Wattle.
2 Week 1 Introduction Global state of biodiversity in 2020 Introduction & proposed assessment Description of poster assignment and guide to making posters
3 Week 2 Defining and measuring biodiversity Why species occur where they occur Workshop assignment 1
4 Week 3 Biodiversity databases and citizen science platforms Species distribution modelling Workshop assignment 2
5 Week 4 Vegetation as a surrogate for biodiversity Workshop assignment 3
6 Week 5 Conservation genetics Poster & presentation
7 Week 6 Designing biodiversity surveys Research reports: Experimental design, analysis, report writing
8 Second week of mid-semester break *all field work is subject to change/cancellation due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation and social distancing requirements. In previous years, optional field trip to Kioloa Coastal Campus (bird surveys, camera trapping, invertebrate surveys, habitat assessment, intertidal surveys) *all field work is subject to change/cancellation due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation and social distancing requirements
9 Week 7 Populations, metapopulations and extinction
10 Week 8 Conservation of populations on the brink Workshop assignment 4. Research report due
11 Week 9 Ecological communities Workshop assignment 5
12 Week 10 Landscape ecology Workshop assignment 6
13 Week 11 Ecosystem services
14 Week 12 Moving from biodiversity science to biodiversity conservation/policy Review of course material

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Workshop assignments *subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting workshop field work 30 % * * 1,2,3,4
Poster 15 % * * 1,3,4
Research report 25 % * * 1,2,3,4
Exam 30 % 04/11/2021 02/12/2021 1,2,3

* 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 Academic Integrity . In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

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.


There is no mark for participation, but you must attend a workshop in order to submit the associated workshop assignment. In 2021, attendance will be through an online platform.


The date range in the Assessment Summary indicates the start of the end of semester exam period and the date official end of semester results are released on ISIS. Please check the course Wattle site and the ANU final Examination Timetable http://www.anu.edu.au/students/program-administration/assessments-exams/examination-timetable to confirm the date, time and location of the exam.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 30 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Workshop assignments *subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting workshop field work

There are a total of 6 workshop assignments that are due the week after each workshop. You must attend the workshop to submit the associated assignment (in 2021, attendance will be through an online platform). A detailed description of each workshop will be provided on the Wattle site. All workshop assignments must be completed online in Wattle. There are 6 assignments due over the semester. The marked workshop assignments will be returned within 1 week after submission. Further details can be found on the Wattle site.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 15 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,3,4


You will produce a poster and a short (~3 min) presentation on the impacts of one or more pressures on a species or ecological community of your choice. See Wattle site for details.

Due: Week 5

Assessment Task 3

Value: 25 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Research report

You will develop a research question and answer it using an existing data set collected in previous years during the Kioloa field trip. Examples of projects students have completed in the past include: whether marine protected areas result in greater invertebrate richness, the impact of land use change on invertebrates and the effect of habitat complexity on bird species richness. This report is written in the style of a scientific journal article. More information is provided on the Wattle site and there will be an information session about the report in Week 6.

Due: Week 8

Assessment Task 4

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 04/11/2021
Return of Assessment: 02/12/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3


There is an exam at the end of semester during the examination period that is undertaken online via Wattle, so you don't have to be on campus. The exam is based on material in preparatory exercises (i.e., reading material), lectures and practicals. It is open book. There will be a revision session in Week 12 and a practice questions to help you prepare. More information will be available in Wattle. This task will occur during the examination period at a time determined by ANU Timetabling. The due date therefore reflects the first day of the examination period in which ANU Timetabling will allocate the exam time and the return date reflects the date that Semester 2 results are released.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to 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 be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, 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 Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

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) 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

All assignments are marked in Wattle. An email notification will be sent when your assignment is marked.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted 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

In exceptional circumstances the convenor will allow an assignment to be resubmitted, but this must be negotiated in person with the convenor.

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).

Prof Robert Heinsohn

Research Interests

conservation biology, evolutionary biology, population processes, individual behaviour, birds (especially parrots)

Prof Robert Heinsohn

By Appointment
Belinda Wilson

Research Interests

Belinda Wilson

Jackie O'Sullivan

Research Interests

Jackie O'Sullivan

Rachael Gross

Research Interests

Rachael Gross

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