• Class Number 2803
  • Term Code 3430
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Michael Ellwood
    • Dr Adele Morrison
    • Dr Georgy Falster
    • Prof Michael Ellwood
    • Prof Nerilie Abram
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 19/02/2024
  • Class End Date 24/05/2024
  • Census Date 05/04/2024
  • Last Date to Enrol 26/02/2024
    • Oliver Medd
SELT Survey Results

This course provides an introduction to Earth Systems Science, a field of science that investigates how chemical, physical, and biological processes interact to shape and regulate Earth’s environment. To understand the science behind climate change or the extent current global environmental change is being forced by natural processes and human activities, one should understand the Earth System. Students from both science and non-science backgrounds are welcome. In addition, this is a foundation course for students interested in or wanting to pursue earth, marine or water sciences.

‘The Blue Planet’ will build your understanding of how each part of the Earth system - the geosphere, atmosphere and biosphere - works and interacts over time. You will learn how energy and matter are transferred around the Earth system through the water, carbon, oxygen, nutrient, geologic and solar cycles, and you will be introduced to feedback mechanisms that can amplify or dampen change. A tour of global change through Earth's history is used to provide context for understanding the modern Earth, including the scientific evidence for global warming, and for predicting the future path of global warming, ocean acidification and biodiversity loss. A field trip to Mount Kosciusko allows learning via direct observation.


Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Use systems thinking to describe the chemical, physical and biological processes that occur on Earth, and especially those processes that drive large-scale environmental change
  2. Explain how the past changes in Earth's environment provide a basis for scientific understanding of human impacts on and interactions with the environment.
  3. Describe how the atmosphere, the land, biology and the oceans interact and how feedback mechanisms operate within the Earth system.
  4. Work constructively both independently and collaboratively.
  5. Test hypotheses and perform appropriate experiments, collect key observations, analyse data and apply quantitative approaches to basic Earth Systems problems.
  6. Communicate effectively about Earth Systems Science issues and ideas using language that can be understood by the public and scientists.

Research-Led Teaching

This course will introduce you to real world problems and give you the opportunity to figure out strategies for solving them. Some practical sessions will allow you to create new knowledge that you can then assess. The field trips will provide the means to apply your knowledge from class to nature.

Field Trips

There will be a 2-day field trip to the Snowy Mountains from March 16-17. Students are required to pay a contribution of approximate $350-$400 towards the cost of the trip.

Payment may be made online at ScienceShop: http://scienceshop.anu.edu.au/

Please see the College of Science - Field Trip page for more information.

Additional Course Costs

Field trip contribution of $350.

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:

  • Online quizzes will be marked and returned within a week.
  • Informal verbal feedback will be given in the tutorial and practical sessions.
  • Feedback on the Kosciusko field trip report will be handed back after the mid-term break. This will include a mark and comments on the quality of observations and presentation with suggestions for improvement in future.
  • Quizzes will be utilised throughout the semester to provide instant feedback on comprehension.

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). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Introduction to Earth Systems Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks
2 Earth's Atmosphere - Solar Radiation Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks
3 Atmospheric Circulation - Moisture & Heat Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks
4 Ice Sheets & Sea-level Field trip 16 - 17th March
5 Ocean Circulation Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks
6 Circulation of the solid Earth - Plate Tectonics Major assessment piece 1, Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks
7 Carbon Cycle I Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks
8 Carbon Cycle II Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks
9 Climate Modes & Indicators Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks
10 Earth system changes through time Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks
11 The Anthropocene Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks
12 How and when to achieve Net Zero? Major assessment piece 2, Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks
13 Exam Block Final Exam - timetabled centrally, date and time TBC

Tutorial Registration

Required Tutorial Tuesday and Wednesday. Registration via Wattle will open in O Week.

Tuesday 12:00 - 13:00

Tuesday 13:00 - 14:00

Wednesday 15:00 - 16:00

Wednesday 16:00 - 17:00

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks 30 % * * 1,2,3,4,5,6
Field Trip Report 10 % 28/03/2024 26/04/2024 1,2,4,6
Major assessment 1 15 % 28/03/2024 26/04/2024 1,2,5,6
Major assessment 2 15 % 24/05/2024 07/06/2024 1,2,3,5
Final Theory Exam 30 % * * 1,2,3,5,6

* 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 Integrity 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 Skills website. 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.


Students are expected to attend all tutorial and laboratory sessions and contribute to discussions. Students are expected to listen to the audio recording(s) of all lectures. 


The final theory exam will be given during the final exam period and will test the entirety of the course. The quizzes will be taken online throughout the course. These exams will test practical learning with examples similar to those given in practicals.

The date range in the Assessment Summary for the end of semester exam indicates the start of the end of semester exam period and the date official end of semester results are released on ISIS. Please check the ANU final Examination Timetable http://www.anu.edu.au/students/program-administration/assessments-exams/examination-timetable to confirm the date, time and location exam.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 30 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks

Some of the practicals will have quizzes/short answer questions/tasks that will need to be answered online.

These practicals will count towards the student's final mark.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 28/03/2024
Return of Assessment: 26/04/2024
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,4,6

Field Trip Report

Students will be required to report (online submission) on their observations and interpretations made on the Mt Kosciusko Field Trip over the weekend of March 16-17. The format and style of the report/questions to be answered will be covered explicitly in the tutorials before and after the field trip.

Remote students and students who are unable to attend the field trip will complete an alternative assignment. Please contact the course convenor to arrange this.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 28/03/2024
Return of Assessment: 26/04/2024
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,5,6

Major assessment 1

This will be a 1000 (max) word assignment (online submission) that will cover the major components in the Earth System and how they fit together. It will be due before the semester break.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 24/05/2024
Return of Assessment: 07/06/2024
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,5

Major assessment 2

This will be a video and script assignment (online submission) that will cover the possible Earth System pathways for Australia to achieve Net Zero Plan by 2050. It will be due at the end of the semester.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 30 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,5,6

Final Theory Exam

The date range indicates the start of the end of semester exam period and the date official end of semester results are released on ISIS. Please check the course Wattle site and the ANU final Examination Timetable http://www.anu.edu.au/students/program-administration/assessments-exams/examination-timetable to confirm the date, time and location of the exam.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

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) as 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

No submission of assessment tasks without a formal extension request after the due date are permitted. If an assessment task is not submitted by the due date, a mark of 0 will be awarded.

Referencing Requirements

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

Returning Assignments

Assignments will be returned online with feedback (electronic or written)

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.

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).

Prof Michael Ellwood

Research Interests

Marine Biogeochemistry

Prof Michael Ellwood

Tuesday 09:00 11:00
Dr Adele Morrison

Research Interests

Marine Biogeochemistry

Dr Adele Morrison

Dr Georgy Falster

Research Interests

Dr Georgy Falster

Prof Michael Ellwood

Research Interests

Marine Biogeochemistry

Prof Michael Ellwood

Tuesday 09:00 11:00
Prof Nerilie Abram

Research Interests

Prof Nerilie Abram

Oliver Medd

Research Interests

Oliver Medd


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