• Offered by Research School of Earth Sciences
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Earth and Marine Science
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Biology, Geology, Environmental Science
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Michael Ellwood
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2024
    See Future Offerings
  • STEM Course

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.

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. 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. Critically analyse how the past changes in Earth’s environment provide a basis for scientific understanding of human impacts on and interactions with the environment.
  3. Critically analyse 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. Formulate and evaluate hypotheses and perform appropriate experiments, collect key observations, analyse data, and apply quantitative approaches to basic Earth Systems problems.
  6. Appraise and interpret Earth Systems Science using adaptive language suited to the target audience.

Other Information

2024 information: There will be a two-day field trip to the Snowy Mountains on March 16-17. Students are required to pay a contribution of ~$350 towards the cost of the trip.

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

Indicative Assessment

  1. Practicals and online wattle quiz/short answer questions/tasks (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  2. Kosciusko Field Trip Written Assignment (10) [LO 1,2,4,6]
  3. Major assignment 1 (15) [LO 1,2,4,5]
  4. Major assignment 2 (15) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  5. Final Theory Exam (20) [LO 1,2,3,5,6]

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 120 hours throughout the semester including:

  • The course delivery component consists of 2x lectures (recorded/flipped style), 1 x 2 hour practical (face-to-face), plus 1 x 1 hour tutorial per week (face-to-face)
  • Field trip (please see other information section)
  • Approximately 60 hours of self-directed study which will include preparation for lectures, presentations and other assessment tasks.

Inherent Requirements

Students in this course must typically participate in an approximately 3 day field trip or complete an alternative assignment. To participate in the trip, students must be able to:

  • Travel to the field location and stay in field accomodation such as shared basic cabins or dorm rooms;
  • Safely traverse short distances (approximately 10-500m) over uneven ground. In addition, one of the planned activities requires students to traverse approximately 20km over paths at a moderate pace. There will be alternatives offered for students who are unable to do this.

Students who cannot meet these requirements may be able to negotiate alternative participation and assessment requirements with the course convenor. Please see the trip information page for more information.

Requisite and Incompatibility

Incompatible with EMSC1006 and GEOL1006.

Prescribed Texts

Readings will be provided on Wattle.

Assumed Knowledge

Bachelors degree


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.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
2822 19 Feb 2024 26 Feb 2024 05 Apr 2024 24 May 2024 In Person View

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