• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Biology
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Robert Lanfear
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2023
    See Future Offerings

Answering big questions in biology increasingly relies on analysing huge datasets. Modern biology relies on the generation and sharing huge databases of species traits and occurrences, environmental measurements, remote sensing data, public health information, and countless other data types from a wide array of sources. These data have enormous value for basic and applied biology. This course will teach you the skills necessary to analyse and interpret these data for a variety of audiences.


In this course you will learn how to analyse, visualise, and make sense of big data in biology. You will learn the tools and techniques you need to draw robust conclusions from big data, avoid common pitfalls, and communicate your findings clearly and concisely to diverse audiences. This course will use real data from a wide range of sources. As large data sets are now commonly used to drive policy, for example in health or environmental management, the skills and knowledge you gain in this course will set you up for a successful career in many areas or further research in biology.

Note: Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates but will be assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Evaluate the strengths, weakness, and uses, and abuses of large observational datasets in biology.
  2. Use R to read, analyse, and visualise large biological datasets.
  3. Write clear, concise, and reproducible reports for different audiences, with informative visualisations, using R and GitHub.
  4. Generate and test new hypotheses using observational datasets.
  5. Provide and respond to clear and actionable peer feedback.
  6. Use online resources to develop new data science skills.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Weekly quizzes on tools and techniques of data science in Weeks 1-6. (10) [LO 1,2]
  2. Short data reports, covering different aspects of data analysis, visualisation, and interpretation. Hurdle requirement to submit at least three reports. (45) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  3. New method tutorial: to produce an interactive tutorial on one of a range of methods, following guided reading. (15) [LO 6]
  4. Long data report providing an in-depth analysis of a larger dataset. Hurdle requirement to pass this assessment. (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]

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 semester including:

  • Face-to-face component, which may consist of 1 x 3 hour workshop plus 1 x 1 hour tutorial per week.
  • Approximately 1 hour of pre-recorded lecture material per week.
  • Approximately 70 hours of self-directed study (independent work), which will include preparation for workshops, tutorials and other assessment tasks.


Independent work includes guided reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts, coding in R, using GitHub, and writing data reports.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have successfully completed BIOL6202 or equivalent. Incompatible with BIOL3207.

Prescribed Texts

R for Data Science: Hadley Wickham and Garrett Grolemund.

Available for free online: https://r4ds.had.co.nz/

Assumed Knowledge

Students who have not completed BIOL6202, or have the equivalent knowledge in R and statistics from other courses or experience.can enrol and are encouraged to contact the convenor. You will be accepted to the course if you can show that other courses you have taken cover the relevant material in statistics and the use of R that would have been covered in BIOL6202, or if you are willing to undertake such learning before starting BIOL6202 (resources for this will be provided). This can be determined by discussion with the convenor.


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
2023 $4320
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $6180
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.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
7071 24 Jul 2023 31 Jul 2023 31 Aug 2023 27 Oct 2023 In Person View

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