• 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 PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Adrienne Nicotra
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Spring Session 2020
    See Future Offerings

This course includes an on campus activity/ies. Check timetable for details. Contact course convener if you are unable to travel to Canberra.

This course develops advanced skills for field studies in plant and animal functional ecology. Through independent research projects students explore how diverse organisms respond to conditions in their environments and acquire the resources they need to survive, grow and reproduce. The course location will vary among years, but in each year the same theoretical principles will be explored. By exploring these principles in plants and animals simultaneously students will develop an understanding of the differences and commonalities among organisms. The course provides an opportunity for students to apply a wide array of field techniques used in current functional ecology. Students will develop skills in independent research including project design and execution, data analysis and interpretation and oral and written presentation of results. Students will also engage in supported peer mentoring and peer review processes. 

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

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Critically appraise commonalities and differences in the way animals and plants cope with environmental conditions and acquire the resources needed for growth and reproduction
  2. Literature skills to identify and critically evaluate the current state of knowledge about a specific research question in functional ecology
  3. Formulate testable hypotheses based on an understanding of the research literature and design statistically robust experiments to test these practical skills in functional ecological research
  4. Ability to conduct research independently
  5. Ability to collaborate as a group to reach research goals and to mentor and support learning in other students
  6. Skills in scientific communication, including written communication and oral presentation
  7. Ability to analyse, interpret and synthesize data against original hypotheses and knowledge of the literature, and suggest well designed experimental approaches for future research.

Other Information

For 2020, the field trip will be held in the Kosciusko National Park during 6-20 Dec 2020. Places are limited due to filed accommodation availability. Entry will be merit-based, please register your interest online . Application will be opened in August and closed at the end of August. Students will be notified the outcome by mid September. For more information, please email rsb.studentadmin@anu.edu.au. 

Check out this great Video: Functional Ecology Field trip to Kosciuszko National Park in December 2016 and the Daintree Rainforest in July 2017

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, time for this will be allotted during the quizzes). Notebook will be assessed twice during the course (10) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
  2. Final report: each student will write up their independent project in the form of a scientific paper. This will be due one week after course completion (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
  3. Lecture presentation: each student will liaise with lecturers in advance and prepare a ~10 minute mini-lecture on a topic of mutual interest. Lectures will be presented to entire class (20) [LO 1,2,7]
  4. Literature review/Protocol: each student will write EITHER a literature review based on the topic of their mini lecture or an online protocol based on methods used in their independent project (20) [LO 1,2,4,7]
  5. Presentation: each student will present their independent project to the group (10) [LO 5,6,7]

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available via Wattle and/or students should have been advised by the offering College. 

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:

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

Students are expected to actively participate and contribute towards discussions.

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:

  • Safety traverse 2-3 km 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

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 the primary literature. Course will travel with a library of relevant texts.

Assumed Knowledge

Basic understanding of biology, especially ecology and evolution, commensurate with successful completion of second year biology.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and 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). You can find your student contribution amount for each course 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
2020 $4050
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $5760
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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.

Spring Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
9377 06 Dec 2020 11 Dec 2020 11 Dec 2020 20 Dec 2020 In Person N/A

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions