• Class Number 3789
  • Term Code 3130
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Janelle Stevenson
    • Simon Connor
    • Dr Jack Fenner
    • Dr Larissa Schneider
    • Dr Matthew Brookhouse
    • Dr Rebecca Hamilton
    • Dr Simon Haberle
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 22/02/2021
  • Class End Date 28/05/2021
  • Census Date 31/03/2021
  • Last Date to Enrol 01/03/2021
SELT Survey Results

What can the past tell us about our future? Much of what we know about deep time comes from the microscopic fossil remains of plants and animals and their sedimentary Context. In the Australasian region there is a rich body of evidence for past environmental change. In this course we introduce participants to the 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 60,000 - 40,000 years ago. The degree to which humans overrode otherwise natural processes of environmental change and the spatial extent of human modification however, is a global issue.

Students will explore the methods and techniques used to reconstruct past environments primarily through the field collection and laboratory analysis of a range of palaeo-environmental indicators including lake sediment, pollen, charcoal, seeds, biogenic silica and stable isotopes. These proxies are investigated further by applying them to particular palaeoclimate and conservation biology problems. The course provides student with an understanding of the intersection between palaeoecology, archaeological science, palaeoclimatology, and natural resource management research. A key element of the course is meeting and interacting with some of the ANU’s leading researchers in this field as well as gaining insight into ongoing research in the region.

Note: Postgraduate students will participate in classes with undergraduate students but will be assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Describe the natural and anthropogenic drivers of past environmental change at a global, regional and local scale.
  2. Describe and explain the techniques that are used to reconstruct past environmental conditions in Australia and abroad.
  3. Analyse and reconstruct past environmental conditions using appropriate field and laboratory techniques.
  4. Critique and investigate palaeo-environmental data from a range of sedimentary contexts.
  5. Reflect on the natural and human influences that explain past environmental conditions and assemble this into a format suitable for a broad audience.

Research-Led Teaching

This is a field and laboratory intensive course where students formulate and answer a research question.

Field work for the research project is carried out on Saturday 27th February with data gathered and developed over the semester.

Field Trips

Namadgi National Park

When: Saturday 27th February 8.00 AM to 5.00 PM

Approximate Cost: $10 (payment via ANU Science Shop)


  • Hands on experience sampling a palaeo-wetland deposit
  • Vegetation surveys

Data from the field trip will form the basis of the course research project and the production of a short (3 -5 minute video - Assignment 2) on the fire history of Bogong Creek Valley, Namadgi National Park. More detail about field trip activities will be available during the Introductory Lab in Week 1.

Participants need to bring:

enclosed footwear that you are prepared to get wet and muddy

spare pair of dry shoes

suitable clothing such as long pants, long sleeves and a hat

snacks, water bottle, camera, pens and pencils

wet weather gear

cold weather gear



  • the field trip is not compulsory for 2021

Additional Course Costs

There are additional field trip fees of approximately $10 applicable to participation in this course (payment to ANU Science Shop). 

Examination Material or equipment

No exams. Quizzes done online through Wattle at home.

Required Resources

Students will be encouraged to bring laptops or iPads to certain classes. If a student does not have ready access to a device, arrangements will be made to provide this resource in class.

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:

  • Verbal feedback to whole class
  • Verbal feedback to working groups
  • Verbal feedback to individuals
  • Written feedback to individuals

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 Online: Course Introduction + The Quaternary Lab: Introduction + field work logistics Saturday Field Trip (27th February) - Namadgi National Park
2 Online: Sediments Lab: Describing and Sampling Field Cores
3 Online: Pollen as an Environmental Proxy Lab: Introduction to Pollen Analysis
4 Online: Fire Lab: Fire Relay + Core Sampling
5 Online: Isotopes and Radiocarbon Dating Lab: Sample Processing
6 Online: Geochemistry Lab: Sample Processing + Class Discussion - fire Quiz 1 (10%) (29 March - 1st April)
7 Online: Human Impact and the Anthropocene Lab: Introduction to Making a Video Assignment 1 – Conversation Article and Literature Review (40%) - Due 25th April
8 Online: Biogeography and Palaeoecology Lab: Pollen Analysis
9 Online: Palaeoecology and Conservation Lab: Group Discussion
10 Online: Palaeodata Analysis Lab: Project Data Compilation and Analysis
11 Online: Dendrochronology Lab: Tree Ring Measurement Quiz 2 (10%) - open 20th - 23rd May
12 Lab: Finalising Assignment 2 + Peer Review Assignment 2 - Video (40%) - Due 27th May

Tutorial Registration

Laboratory sessions run every Thursday from 9.30 - 11.30 and repeated from 12.00 - 2.00.

Students are required to register for one of these sessions. Registration will be available via the course Wattle page.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Quiz 1 10 % 01/04/2021 01/04/2021 2,3
Assignment 1 – Article for the Conversation 40 % 25/04/2021 05/05/2021 1,2,3,4,5
Quiz 2 10 % 23/05/2021 23/05/2021 2,3,4
Assignment 2 - Research Project - Video 40 % 27/05/2021 04/06/2021 1,2,3,4,5

* 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. 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.


No examination.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 01/04/2021
Return of Assessment: 01/04/2021
Learning Outcomes: 2,3

Quiz 1

Online quiz based on Weeks 1-6

Value: 10%

Date: open from 29th March - 1st April

Assessment Task 2

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 25/04/2021
Return of Assessment: 05/05/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Assignment 1 – Article for the Conversation

Write an article for The Conversation (http://theconversation.com/auplus a 2,000 word literature review (see below).

Conversation Article

The Conversation is a collaborative journalism project between professional editors and academics from the university and research sector. The pieces are short and punchy and communicate some big and important ideas amongst academics and the broader community. There is a 1,000 word limit for the piece. Guidance with topics will be discussed in Week 4.

Suggested topics to get you started:

What is palaeoecology? (an explainer piece)

Everything you wanted to know about pollen but were afraid to ask. (an explainer)

Piecing together the past to protect the future (article with conservation focus).

Understanding ancient lifeways through the environment (article with archaeology/prehistory focus)

Literature Review

In addition to the journalistic article you need to write a standard academic review of the literature for your chosen topic (2,000 word limit). 

Literature reviews do not report new or original work but are a review of current knowledge around a particular question/problem/issue including any theoretical or methodological contributions.

Your review should describe and explore the following:

1. context of previous contributions into the question/problem/issue

2. relationship of each work to others with some critical analysis

3. any gaps in the literature and therefore possible ways forward

Harvard style referencing is recommended. Whatever style you choose you must use it correctly and consistently throughout the review.

Value: 40%

Submission: via Turnitin by 11.59 pm 25th April

Estimated Return Date: 5th May

Assessment Task 3

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 23/05/2021
Return of Assessment: 23/05/2021
Learning Outcomes: 2,3,4

Quiz 2

Online quiz based on activities covered in Weeks 1-11.

Value: 10%

Date: open 20th - 23rd May

Assessment Task 4

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 27/05/2021
Return of Assessment: 04/06/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Assignment 2 - Research Project - Video

Communicating scientific research to a broad audience can be a difficult. For this task, working in groups of 2 or 3, you will produce a short (3 minute) video to illustrate the environmental history of Bogong Creek catchment, Namadgi National Park.

Data for this assignment will be generated through the class research project over the semester. The video should be well illustrated including footage and photos from fieldwork and the lab as well as diagrams and figures. Guidance on video editing will given Week 7 for those that need assistance.

Value: 40%

Submission: 27th May

Estimated Return Date: 4th June

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

Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) a submission must be through Turnitin. Assignments are submitted using Turnitin in the course Wattle site. 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.

Hardcopy Submission

Assignments must include the cover sheet available from the course Wattle site. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records. Hardcopy submissions will be made in class.

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

Student work will be returned in class or via Wattle.

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

No resubmission 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).

Janelle Stevenson

Research Interests

Palaeoecology, Quaternary Environments, Archaeological Science

Janelle Stevenson

Wednesday 10:00 11:00
Simon Connor

Research Interests

Simon Connor

Dr Jack Fenner

Research Interests

Dr Jack Fenner

Dr Larissa Schneider

Research Interests

Dr Larissa Schneider

Dr Matthew Brookhouse

Research Interests

Dr Matthew Brookhouse

Dr Rebecca Hamilton

Research Interests

Dr Rebecca Hamilton

Dr Simon Haberle

Research Interests

Dr Simon Haberle

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