• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Zoology, Evolution and Ecology, Environmental Science, Biodiversity Conservation
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Scott Keogh
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2024
    See Future Offerings
  • STEM Course

Australia is famous the world over for its unique and biodiverse animals: from charismatic mammals to extravagant octopuses, to fascinating spiders. If you are interested in the ecology, evolution, conservation or management of animals then it is important to understand their biodiversity and natural history. In this course we will put Australian animals in an evolutionary context and explore recent research advances through interactive lectures, lab practicals, workshops and a field trip. In the first half of the course we cover the enormous diversity of terrestrial, marine and aquatic invertebrate animals, from insects and spiders to molluscs, rotifers and corals. In the second half we cover the enigmatic Australian fish, frogs, reptiles, birds and mammals, with a particular focus on their diversity and natural history. The course includes contributions from researchers at the CSIRO Australian National Insect Collection and the Australian National Wildlife Collection, both located in Canberra. On a 3-day field trip to the coast you will gain a solid grounding in identifying the most common marine and terrestrial invertebrate fauna of south-eastern Australia and the habitats that they occupy. Lab practicals throughout the course focus on hands-on learning about key features of structures and how they function, specimen preservation and the use of biological keys for species identification. We have designed this course to complement other third year courses in ecology, evolution, biodiversity and conservation. It is fun, interesting and interactive. It will give you the practical skills and information you need to continue on with animal biology in the future, including advice on future jobs that require these skills.

Note: 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. Describe and evaluate the major patterns of biodiversity and evolutionary innovations of invertebrate and vertebrate animals, with a particular focus on Australian species.
  2. Understand and apply the principles of phylogenetic systematics and taxonomy to invertebrate and vertebrate groups.
  3. Analyse invertebrates in the field and understand the requirements for collection and short-term maintenance of invertebrate species for photographic and scientific observation.
  4. Analyse vertebrates in the laboratory and evaluate morphological diversity in the context of the natural history of Australian vertebrates.
  5. Analyse invertebrates and vertebrates in the laboratory and use taxonomic keys for identification. 
  6. Critically review a research area covered in the course which complements your own research interests.

Other Information

There will be a 3 day fieldtrip to Kioloa. Indicative costs are approximately $250. For more details of the cost/trip dates, please check the Class Summary.

Field trip costs are in addition to the tuition fees and can paid through Scienceshop .

Indicative Assessment

  1. Mid term and final exams on lecture & practical component (60) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  2. Invertebrate specimen collection and preparation (10) [LO 1,2,3,5]
  3. Written vertebrate species account and presentation (10) [LO 1,2,4,5]
  4. Research essay (20) [LO 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 will consist of 24 x 1 hour lectures, workshops and discussion groups (24 hours) and up to 10 x 3 hour practicals (30 hours) plus workshops and discussion groups (30 hours). 
  • Approximately 30 hours of self-study which will include preparation for lectures, presentations and other assessment tasks.
  • A weekend field trip to Kioloa in March

Students are expected to actively participate and contribute towards practicals, workshops and discussions.

Inherent Requirements

In this course, students learn how to identify and analyse vertebrates and invertebrates, which requires students to:

  • Make and interpret visual observations.
  • Students who cannot meet this requirement will not be able to complete compulsory assessment tasks and will not be able to complete the course.

 Students also learn how to collect, euthanise and mount invertebrate specimens, which also typically requires students to:

  • Chase after insects with a net
  • Make precise laboratory manipulations
  • Safely participate in the biology laboratories

Students who can provide evidence they are unable to meet these requirements may be able to negotiate alternative participation and assessment requirements with the course convenor.

Students typically work on the invertebrate collection project during an approximately 3 day field trip. In order to fully participate in the field trip, students must be able to:

  • Travel to the field location and stay in field accommodation such as shared basic cabins or dorm rooms
  • Safely traverse 1-3 km over uneven ground at a moderate pace.

Students who are unable to meet these requirements may be able to partially participate in the trip and will otherwise need to discuss how they will complete the invertebrate collection project with the course convenor.Please refer to the invertebrate collection and trip information page for more details.

Requisite and Incompatibility

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

Prescribed Texts


Assumed Knowledge

An understanding of the basic principles of evolution, taxonomic classification and phylogenetic reconstruction


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
2024 $4440
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $6360
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
8344 22 Jul 2024 29 Jul 2024 31 Aug 2024 25 Oct 2024 In Person View

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