• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Plant Science, Zoology, Evolution and Ecology, Biodiversity Conservation
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Adrienne Nicotra
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Winter Session 2022
    See Future Offerings

See https://www.anu.edu.au/covid-19-advice. In 2022, This course is delivered entirely on campus/in person.

Plants and animals from cold alpine environments have evolved strategies to enable them to survive freezing temperatures and short growing seasons. While in tropical rainforests, they have evolved to deal with wet, often dark conditions where they rarely encounter other members of their own species. Finding suitable places to settle, grow and reproduce is a challenge. In both environments plants and animals have evolved special morphologies, physiologies and behaviours that influence the way they interact with other species, and that allow them deal with extreme conditions.

If you would like to conduct original field research on plants and animals in a beautiful field site, this intensive residential field course may be for you. Through directed research projects, conducted in small groups and led by field experts, we introduce students to field studies in plant and animal ecology. We explore the ways that diverse organisms respond to conditions in their environment and acquire the resources they need to survive, grow and reproduce: their functional ecology. The course location varies among years, but regardless of location the same theoretical principles will be explored in the context of protected area management, conservation and climate change.


By exploring the functional ecology of plants and animals simultaneously, students develop an understanding of the differences and commonalities among organisms. Students develop skills in research including project design and execution, data analysis and interpretation, and oral and written presentation of results. Students will also be exposed to a wide array of field techniques used in ecophysiology and behavioural ecology. Our aim is to give participants a chance to do real science and to embrace being a scientist. The experience enables students to approach their later year studies with independence and a new perspective and will provide real-world skills relevant in both science and non-science careers.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Understanding of the commonalities and differences in the way animals and plants cope with environmental conditions and acquire the resources needed for growth and reproduction
  2. Identify and critically evaluate the current state of knowledge about a specific research question in functional ecology
  3. Formulate a testable hypotheses and design experiments to effectively test them, based on an understanding of the research literature
  4. Conduct functional ecological research and apply a range of current techniques
  5. Interpret data against original hypotheses and knowledge of the literature, and suggest avenues for future research
  6. Collaborate as a group to reach research goals
  7. Communicate scientific findings in written and oral forms to diverse audiences

Other Information

This is a field course. The field trip will be held in the Daintree in June 2022 and in an alpine location the following year. Due to the Covid safety guidelines and space limitation, places are limited. Please register your interest online . Expressions Of interest (EOI) for the June 2022 trip will be accepted from Feb 7 and admission granted on a rolling basis until the course is filled. The additional cost of the field course (to cover travel in QLD, food and accommodation) will be approximately $1,000 and can be paid via ScienceShop . For more information, please email rsb.studentadmin@anu.edu.au.  

Check out these great videos: Functional Ecology field trip to Kosciuszko National Park in December 2016 and the Daintree Rainforest in July 2017 and Singapore in 2018 .

Indicative Assessment

  1. Field notebook: students will keep a field notebook containing notes from lectures and directed field problems, data, and records of results and conclusions. Students will also be expected to answer reflective questions on their learning throughout the course. Notebook will be assessed twice during the course (25) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
  2. Final report: each student will select one directed field problem to write up in the form of a scientific paper. (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
  3. Presentations: Students will present results of directed field problems as a group (25) [LO 5,6,7]
  4. Mid and end of course quizzes: Two one hour quizzes of lecture material 10% each (20) [LO 1,3,5,7]

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 throughout the session including:

  • Overall there will be about 75 hours contact with teaching staff
  • Approximately 50 hours of individual and group work

This is a residential intensive course. Students are expected to complete preparatory readings, actively participate and contribute to all course content during the trip, and complete a final report on return.

Inherent Requirements

To complete this course, students must participate in the 2 week long field trip in a domestic or international field location. In order to participate in the trip, students must be able to:

  • Travel to the field location and stay in field accommodation such as shared basic cabins or dorm rooms;
  • Monitor and manage their own health while studying and living with a small group of people in an isolated field location;
  • Understand and respect the needs of other participants and act professionally throughout the trip.

Students who cannot meet these requirements will not be able to participate in the trip and therefore cannot complete the course. For more information, please refer to the trip information page .

In addition, in order to participate in some of the activities on the trip, students must be able to:

  • Safely traverse 2-3km over uneven ground at a moderate pace.

Students who can provide evidence they are unable to meet this requirement, or can otherwise only participate in part of the trip activities may be able to negotiate alternative participation and assessment requirements with the course convenor.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have successfully completed at least one of the following: BIOL1009, BIOL1003, ENVS1003, ENVS1004 or have permission from the course convener.

You will need to contact the Biology Teaching and Learning Centre to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading

Readings will consist of articles from textbooks and the primary literature. The course will travel with a library of relevant texts.

Assumed Knowledge

This course is appropriate for students who have completed one or more semesters of study.. Basic understanding of biology, especially ecology and evolution, commensurate with successful completion of first year courses in biology and ecology.


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
2022 $4200
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $6000
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.

Winter Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4239 19 Jun 2022 19 Jun 2022 01 Jul 2022 01 Aug 2022 In Person N/A

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