• Class Number 4029
  • Term Code 3230
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Robert Dyball
    • Dr Robert Dyball
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 21/02/2022
  • Class End Date 27/05/2022
  • Census Date 31/03/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 28/02/2022
SELT Survey Results

The course applies the principles of ecosystem sciences to the study of the human environment. The emphasis is on the significance and function of ecosystems, how humans have affected these systems over time, and what are the opportunities of and barriers to making positive changes. Dynamical systems thinking and the concept of coupled social ecological system is introduced as a powerful means of comprehending the behaviour of these complex situations. Field trips allow students to experience first-hand the complexity of these human-ecological interactions and the challenges of managing them sustainably. In the latter half of the course, human-nature interactions over human history are critically reviewed, including hunter gatherer societies, early agricultural societies and modern globalised urban and industrial societies. Some key contemporary challenges facing humanity in the Anthropocene are presented for critical reflection. Students extend their understanding of one of these challenges in their final research report and presentation.

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

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Demonstrate advanced understanding of Human Ecology, including knowledge of the history and background to the topic.
  2. Demonstrate advanced understanding of key linkages between ecosystem and social processes and how they relate to human-nature interactions, and to integrate this understanding with knowledge drawn from their own degree backgrounds.
  3. Use systems approach to ‘get at' an understanding of the complex, multi-scaled, interactions that characterize human-ecological situations, and their associated problems
  4. Apply this understanding in to a significant contemporary challenge facing humanity in the Anthropocene.
  5. Communicate human ecological systems approaches to social-environmental challenges to a range of audiences in effective written and oral form.

Research-Led Teaching

Through workshops and readings the course develops a systems-based approach to interdisciplinary research into complex human-environmental problems. These concepts

are applied to analyse research being done to foster transitions to sustainable futures. The students then develop and undertake research into one of five topical areas of concern covered in later lectures, reading, and tutorials. These are written up as a research project report.

Field Trips

There is a field trip to the Snowy Mountains from 8am Friday 25 March, returning 4pm Sunday 27 March. Attendance is strongly recommended but a virtual version is available to students who cannot come. Information gathered on the field trip will need to be augmented with resources provided and the student's own research.

Please see the trip information page  for more information.

Additional Course Costs

There are additional field trip fees of approximately $150 applicable to participation in this course (payment to ANU Science Shop). 

Required Resources

There are no additional resources required although the purchase of the textbook Understanding Human Ecology (Dyball and Newell, 2015) is recommended (an electronic copy is in the ANU library).

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:

  1. Written feedback will be given on all submitted assignments, except the online modules where feedback is automated
  2. Written comments will be made on systems diagrams, where used
  3. Verbal comments will be made on tutorial contributions
  4. Verbal comments to the whole class will be made on general issues in assignments
  5. Individual feedback will be given upon request.

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 Students should refer to the Wattle site for current delivery information for the course this semester. Lecture 1A - Introduction: Lecture 1B - What is Human Ecology? Attend Tutorial Online modules to be completed across the first six weeks
2 Lecture 2A - Our Place in the Biosphere: Lecture 2B - Evolving approaches to Human Ecology Attend Tutorial
3 Lecture 3A - Fundamental Environmental Processes What makes life possible? Lecture 3B - Justice, Fairness, Wellbeing What makes life worthwhile? Attend tutorial
4 Lecture 4A - Canberra Day - no lecture Lecture 4B - Unravelling Complexity Simple yet powerful concepts underpinning systems thinking Attend tutorial
5 Lecture 5A - It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time Introducing the Snowy Mountains case study Lecture 5B - It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time Continuing the Snowy Mountains case study Attend tutorial Snowy Mountains field trip 8am Friday 25 March to 4pm Sunday 27 March
6 Lecture 6A - What Was That All About? Lecture 6B - Field Report Guide Attend tutorial Systems-thinking modules must be complete by 4 April
7 Lecture 7A - recorded due to Easter Monday holiday Filling the Earth: From hunting and gathering to the rise of the city – ideas that changed the world Lecture 7B - The Joy of Cola Profiling modern consumer society Attend tutorial Snowy Report is due 12 April
8 Lecture 8A - ANZAC DAY (View Hong Kong Project video online) Lecture 8B - Material Stocks and Flows Analysis Attend tutorial
9 Lecture 9A - Future Scenarios Where are we and where do we want to be? Lecture 9B - Inclusion as an Ecological Imperative: Further issues in justice and fairness Attend tutorial
10 Lecture 10A - Can We Consumer Our Way to Sustainability?: The role of the consumer in a cyclical economy Lecture 10B - Cyclical Economies The world without waste Attend tutorial
11 Lecture 11A - Healthy People on a Healthy Planet The benefits of co-benefits Lecture 11B - Eat food, not too much, mostly plants, mostly local Attend tutorial
12 Lecture 12A - Stewards of a Full Earth What might it mean to live well in a Full Earth? Lecture 12B - Celebrating the Anthropocene: ?Linking sustainability, environmental responsibility, and human well-being Attend tutorial No readings. Graduates give a research report update

Tutorial Registration

Tutorial registration via Wattle site

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Tutorial Participation 10 % * * 1,2
Complete Online Systems-Thinking Modules 10 % 04/04/2022 * 1,2
Field Trip Report 40 % 12/04/2022 25/04/2022 1,2,3,4
Research Essay 40 % 13/06/2022 01/07/2022 2,4,5

* 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 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.


Active participation in, and contribution to, tutorials is required. Lectures should be attended live on campus if possible but will be available recorded online. In-person and online tutorial options are offered. The systems thinking modules are online and are to be completed before April 4th. Attendance on the field trip is strongly encouraged, but a 'virtual' option exists with interactive video recordings of stakeholders available on Wattle, along with other materials. All students will need to augment this material with their own research. Final research reports are to be submitted across turnitin.


There is no formal examination for this course.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2

Tutorial Participation

Active participation in, and contribution to, tutorials is required. In-person and online tutorial options are offered but students who can attend on campus should do so. Each week’s readings will be accompanied by some ‘starter questions’. These are designed to initiate the conversation, but you are encouraged to expand with your own interests. If you just come to tutorials and do not contribute you will not get a high grade. Attendance at 10 out of 12 tutorial and workshop sessions is a course requirement.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 04/04/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,2

Complete Online Systems-Thinking Modules

There are ten short online learning modules designed to build and test your systems-thinking capabilities. The modules build on material given in lectures, readings, and tutorials across the first half of the semester. Modules need to be completed across the first six weeks of the course with all submitted by 4 April. The modules reveal correct answers or provide model answers to most exercises and test questions, after you have submitted responses. Each completed module is worth one grade point.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 12/04/2022
Return of Assessment: 25/04/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Field Trip Report

The three-day field trip to the Snowy Mountains will present you with a wide range of perspectives from different stakeholders. Your task is to select two stakeholders (from a range of current and historically active groups) who are or were in conflict because their activities both affect (or are affected by) the same ecosystem service, and set out how this conflict came about, what have been its social and ecological consequences, and what might now be done about it.

You must describe what aspect of the environment is bringing the two parties into conflict, assuming the same finite stock of environmental resources cannot equally satisfy the demands of both.

It is a requirement that your discussion shows at least two properly notated system diagrams, one for each stakeholder, and reveals the common element bringing the two into conflict. The variables that you discuss will be both quantifiable, in which case you should provide at least approximate figures or estimates, as well as qualitative elements which might not be ‘countable’ but which you still should include. For both, you should say how, meaning in which ‘direction’, the amount of the variable is changing over time.

You must as fairly and accurately as possible set out the values and beliefs of both parties, describe the main institutions or rules that are governing their behaviour, and say what social benefits they see (or saw) as arising from what they do (or did), including to whom these benefits are, or should be, flowing.

Finally, you should argue, with evidence, whether the current situation is just and sustainable and, if it is not, what might be plausibly done to improve it. The tools you need to complete this task will be extensively covered in the first weeks of the course, before the field trip.

The assessment task for students unable to attend the field trip is the same, but based on online material provided. Non-travelling students will be graded as if they had devoted an equivalent amount of time to gathering information as those on the trip. Both cohorts will need to augment their report with evidence drawn from material provided in the course as well as their own research.

Due date: 5pm Monday 12th April. 

Word limit: 2,500 words (inclusive of all table text, exclusive only of bibliography)

Value: 40%

Presentation requirements: Submit via wattle.

Estimated return date: week commencing 25th April

Rubric: Please refer to the course outline on Wattle

Individual Assessment in Group Tasks: This is an individual task. If you collaborate by sharing data gathered and observations made that is fine, but the submitted report must be your own. Reports containing material copied from each other will be treated as plagiarized and subject to the university’s rules on plagiarization.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 13/06/2022
Return of Assessment: 01/07/2022
Learning Outcomes: 2,4,5

Research Essay

Final report. In a 2,500 word research report, explore one or more of the key ‘challenge’ concepts developed in the latter half of the course by application to a case study of their own choosing. International students may wish to make this case study based on some activity or initiative occurring in their home country (40)

Due date: 5pm Monday June 13th

Estimated return date: At the close of the course.

Word limit: 2500 

Rubric: Please refer to course outline on Wattle

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

Assignments that can be 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

Submit across Wattle. If you submit in hard copy form you have include hard copies of all your referenced material. This is a university rule. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

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

The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request it 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.

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.

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

Comments will be made online to assignments submitted across Wattle and return 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

Assignments submitted across Wattle can be resubmitted up until the due date. No resubmission is possible after that.

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).

Dr Robert Dyball
+61 2 6125 3704

Research Interests

Human Ecology, Systems Thinking, Food Systems, Education for Sustainability

Dr Robert Dyball

Monday 10:00 12:00
Monday 12:00 17:00
Dr Robert Dyball
6125 3704

Research Interests

Dr Robert Dyball

Monday 10:00 12:00
Monday 12:00 17:00

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