• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Genetics, Evolution and Ecology, Biology, Biodiversity Conservation
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Lindell Bromham
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2022
    See Future Offerings

This course deals with patterns of biodiversity at large spatial and temporal scales, and the processes that have generated these patterns. Surprisingly, there are many fundamental questions about biodiversity that remain a matter of debate. For example, why are there so many species in the tropics? Did the extinction of dinosaurs pave the way for the rise of mammals? What causes one species to diverge into two? Equally surprisingly to many people, it is possible to test “big-picture” questions like these using a set of basic logical principles and analytical tools, and an ever-expanding database of molecular, geographic and ecological information on the world's species. The aim of this course is not to present you with facts to memorize, but to equip you with the skills to ask interesting questions about biodiversity, and develop creative and elegant ways to answer them. This is a challenging and rewarding course that requires students to think creatively, take charge of framing, investigating and answering questions, consider different viewpoints and come to their own opinions. The course is taught through workshops which give students a chance to explore and discuss ideas, so attendance of all face-to-face classes is an essential component of this course. The course emphasizes individual study and critical thinking.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Formulate explanations of observed patterns of biodiversity and species distributions in terms of key ecological and evolutionary processes;
  2. Investigate topics in biodiversity by searching, evaluating and synthesizing relevant literature;
  3. Recognize the features of a statistically rigorous and effective test of a question or hypothesis in biodiversity;
  4. Analyze and interpret biodiversity patterns using specialist computer software and widely-used analytical methods.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Online quizzes on topics covered in classes and required reading (12) [LO 1]
  2. Computer-based workshops with accompanying written report (16) [LO 3,4]
  3. In class tests on course material (45) [LO 1,2,3]
  4. Explainer of a key idea in macroevolution and macroecology. Students are free to choose the format (e.g. written, electronic media, presentation, graphical) but all explainers will be judged by the same criteria, focussing on how well they explain the idea. Students will present their explainer to the class, receive feedback from peers and teachers, then have the chance to modify their explainer before submission. Submission must be in a printed or electronic format (e.g. recording if for a presentation). Explainers are expected to be produced by groups of 4-6 students, but under special circumstances smaller groups or individuals will be acceptable. All members of the group receive the same mark. Students sign up to groups and topics at the end of Week 2. (20) [LO 2]
  5. Explainer feedback, all students must give constructive feedback on other student's explainers. (7) [LO 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 including:

  • Students are expected to attend three face-to-face discussion-based workshops per week throughout the semester (total to 36 hours). These classes are not recorded and staff will not be able to provide class notes.
  • Approximately 94 hours of self-directed study in their own time, which may involve working with other students, preparation for workshops, working in discussion groups, reading, investigating and other assessment tasks.

Students are expected to actively participate and contribute towards discussions.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have successfully completed BIOL1003 and BIOL2114, or with the permission of the course convener. Incompatible with BIOL6206.

Prescribed Texts


Assumed Knowledge

BIOL1009 and BIOL3178 are recommended.


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
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
6127 25 Jul 2022 01 Aug 2022 31 Aug 2022 28 Oct 2022 In Person N/A

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