• Offered by Fenner School of Environment and Society
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Environmental Science
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Geography, Archaeology, Environmental Studies, Environmental Science
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Janelle Stevenson
    • Simon Connor
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2021
    See Future Offerings

This course cannot be entirely adjusted for remote participation in Sem 1 2021 and will include on-campus activities.

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.

Other Information

There are additional field trip fees of approximately $110 applicable to participation in this course (payment to ANU Science Shop). Students will be asked to register their intention to participate in the field trip via the course WATTLE site.

  • Field-based teaching and learning activity forms an integral and important part of many courses delivered by the Fenner School of Environment & Society. Fieldwork activities are designed to allow you put the skills you’ve learned in the classroom into practice in new environments and provide powerful enrichment to student learning.

If you do not meet the requisites for this course, it may be possible to receive a permission code. If you are prompted for a permission code on ISIS, please request one online via the following form

Indicative Assessment

  1. Quizzes (20) [LO 2,3,4]
  2. Literature Review (2000 words) (20) [LO 2,3,5]
  3. Science Communication Project (1000 - 2000 words) (20) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  4. Research Project (ArcGIS StoryMap) (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]

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 for the course equates to approximately 130 hours over the semester made up of the following activities:

  • One compulsory weekend long field trip
  • Weekly face-to face component - 1 x 3 hour laboratory session.
  • Weekly at home study - 1 to 2 hours of lectures and associated activities, plus one hour of associated reading.
  • Other home based study - 20 to 30 hours of work associated with the three major assignments.

Students are expected to actively participate and contribute towards any discussion sessions.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

Incompatible with ENVS3029

Prescribed Texts

Reading lists will be available on the course WATTLE site.



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
3789 22 Feb 2021 01 Mar 2021 31 Mar 2021 28 May 2021 In Person View

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