• Class Number 6201
  • Term Code 3260
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Nici Sweaney
    • AsPr Craig Strong
    • Dr Cara Moore
    • Dr Luigi Renzullo
    • Dr Sara Beavis
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 25/07/2022
  • Class End Date 28/10/2022
  • Census Date 31/08/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 01/08/2022
SELT Survey Results

This course builds an understanding of key processes that have shaped Australia's biophysical environment. Through a coordinated series of modules, students acquire foundation knowledge across a range of environmental science disciplines. One of the world’s great drainage basins, the Murray Darling Basin, is used as a case study to connect and integrate these modules into a clear narrative about the processes and issues affecting Australia's environment. In each module the case study is revisited to address topical issues and apply the learning covered in the module. By the end of the course, students will understand the Murray-Darling as an integrated system whose processes and problems reflect the biophysical and social forces that have shaped Australia.

Included modules are:

  • Creating a continent: the breakup of Gondwana - implications for geology, climate, soils and evolution of flora and fauna;
  • Geological events that shaped Australia: faults and rifts, volcanic activity, glaciations, sea level fluctuations;
  • Australia's climate: climate patterns in time and space, the nature and role of climate variability, and the impacts of global warming;
  • Australian landscape evolution: geomorphology, including effects of Aboriginal and European settlement;
  • Water in Australia: how much, where it is, comes from and goes to, and how to regulate its use;
  • Characterising Australian soils: soil formation and description, including aeolian deposition and land salinization - implications for productivity;
  • Australian vegetation: coping with nutrient deficiency, water, fire, herbivory, weeds;
  • Environmental policy and planning: linking science to policy and practice.


Modules are delivered by a diverse range of disciplinary experts. Lectures are complemented by a strong practical component, in which students learn through posing questions and solving problems in panel discussions, laboratory and field classes, and an overnight excursion.

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. critically appraise the role of the Murray-Darling as an integrated system whose processes and problems reflect the biophysical and social forces that have shaped Australia;
  2. understand the geological development of Australia in general, and the Murray Darling Basin in particular;
  3. recognise the patterns and processes which characterise Australia's climate and explain their connection to the evolution of Australian landscapes and biota;
  4. discuss the unique characteristics of water in Australia and the interacting environmental and social factors that make it so;
  5. describe the development of Australian soils and understand the implications for ecosystem productivity;
  6. recognise key morphological traits in Australian plant families and explain their function in coping with nutrient deficiency, aridity, flood, herbivory and fire;
  7. integrate knowledge across a range of disciplines to critically evaluate complex environmental problems and critique policy approaches to solving those problems.
  8. formulate and test hypotheses and synthesise results in a scientific report.

Research-Led Teaching

Students will receive lectures from experts across a range of environmental disciplines. The research activities of a number of ANU research staff are the basis of this course. Each lecturer is drawing directly from their own research experience or management practice.

Field Trips

There will be two interstate field trips offered this year, as well as a local fieldtrip. Students only need to attend one fieldtrip.

Please see the Fenner School Day Field Trip page for more information about the local fieldtrip.

Additional Course Costs

Cost of the fieldtrip will be approximately $200. The local fieldtrip will have no associated costs.

Required Resources

No special resources are required.

Australian Department of Environment & Heritage (2016) Australia State of the Environment. https://soe.environment.gov.au/

Twidale, C.R. & Campbell, E.M. (2005) Australian Landforms - understanding a low, flat arid and old landscape. Rosenburg Publishing

Attiwill, P. & Wilson, B. (2006) Ecology, an Australian Perspective, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

McKenzie, N, Jacquier, D., Isbell, R. and Brown, K. (2004) Australian Soils and Landscapes. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood. https://www.publish.csiro.au/book/3821/

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:

  • Written comments on assessment pieces 2 and 4.
  • auto response feedback on online quizzes - assessment piece 1
  • written assessment summary for assessment piece 3
  • verbal overall assessment summaries in class and recorded during lecture recording
  • verbal comments during workshops and dedicated feedback sessions allocated for field trip

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 Australia's evolution; how Australia formed over geological time, the unique systems and pressures that have shaped this continent. 1
2 Australia's weather and climate: climate patterns in time and space, the nature and role of climate variability, and the impacts of global warming. Weather with a focus on basic atmospheric science and rainfall in Australia 1
3 Geological events that shaped Australia: the breakup of Gondwana 1
4 Landforms product of geology, climate and organisms? Implications for soils, flora and fauna 1
5 Australian fauna 1
6 Australian vegetation: coping with nutrient deficiency, water, fire, herbivory, weeds 1
7 Australian ecology 1, 2
8 Australian soils: soil formation and description 1
9 Australian soils: soil formation, description and soil ecology 1
10 Water in Australia: how much, where it is, comes from and goes to, and how to regulate its use 1
11 Water in Australia: how much, where it is, comes from and goes to, and how to regulate its use 1
12 Land use, management and degradation. Future challenges for Australian Environment. 1,3,4

Tutorial Registration

Students can chose one of four workshop times via course wattle page.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Post Lecture Quizzes 20 % * * 1,2,3,4,5,6
Research Synthesis 25 % 21/09/2022 12/10/2022 1,6,7
Multimedia Presentation 25 % * * 1,6,7
Essay on an Australian environmental topic to be chosen in consultation with a course convenor (2000 words) 30 % 27/10/2022 * 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

* 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.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Post Lecture Quizzes

There will be a short online quiz following each recorded lecture. Combination of short answer and multiple choice questions designed to assess concepts learnt within each lecture. These will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. You will need to attempt each quiz in order to gain access to the next lecture.

All post-lecture quizzes comprise 20% of the final grade.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 25 %
Due Date: 21/09/2022
Return of Assessment: 12/10/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,6,7

Research Synthesis

There is a group activity that will be assessed in two phases; the first being an individual written research synthesis on the groups chosen topic.

This will be due 5pm, Wednesday 21 September via Wattle.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 25 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,6,7

Multimedia Presentation

There is a group activity that will be assessed in two phases; the second stage being a group multimedia presentation. Your grade will be comprised of the group project and a peer grading process. These presentations will be delivered in the final week of semester.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 27/10/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Essay on an Australian environmental topic to be chosen in consultation with a course convenor (2000 words)

Reflective essay exploring the human interaction on one aspect of Australia's Environment. Masters students are expected to work with a mentor (provided) to develop their topic.

27 October - to be submitted by 5pm via 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

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

Feedback on assignments is provided electronically via the Wattle course page

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

Re-submission of assignments is not 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).

Dr Nici Sweaney

Research Interests

Conservation Ecology, Fauna, Biodiversity, Statistics, Research Design

Dr Nici Sweaney

Friday 15:00 17:00
AsPr Craig Strong

Research Interests

AsPr Craig Strong

Dr Cara Moore

Research Interests

Dr Cara Moore

Dr Luigi Renzullo

Research Interests

Dr Luigi Renzullo

Dr Sara Beavis

Research Interests

Dr Sara Beavis

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