Skip to main content
Unit outline_

BIOL1007: From Molecules to Ecosystems

Intensive February, 2021 [Block mode] - Remote

Paradigm shifts in biology have changed the emphasis from single biomolecule studies to complex systems of biomolecules, cells and their interrelationships in ecosystems of life. Such an integrated understanding of cells, biomolecules and ecosystems is key to innovations in biology. Life relies on organisation, communication, responsiveness and regulation at every level. Understanding biological mechanisms, improving human health and addressing the impact of human activity are the great challenges of the 21st century. This unit will investigate life at levels ranging from cells, and biomolecule ecosystems, through to complex natural and human ecosystems. You will explore the importance of homeostasis in health and the triggers that lead to disease and death. You will learn the methods of cellular, biomolecular, microbial and ecological investigation that allow us to understand life and discover how expanding tools have improved our capacity to manage and intervene in ecosystems for our own health and organisms in the environment that surround and support us . You will participate in inquiry-led practicals that reinforce the concepts in the unit. By doing this unit you will develop knowledge and skills that will enable you to play a role in finding global solutions that will impact our lives.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Life and Environmental Sciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
BIOL1907 or BIOL1997
Assumed knowledge

HSC Biology. Students who have not completed HSC Biology (or equivalent) are strongly advised to take the Biology Bridging Course (offered in February).

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Osu Lilje,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Open book) Type C final exam Final Exam
Final exam with multiple choice and short-answer questions
35% Formal exam period
Due date: 04 Mar 2021 at 17:00
2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Tutorial quiz Pre-practical week quizzes
8% Multiple weeks Approximately 10 min
Outcomes assessed: LO2
Tutorial quiz Post module quizzes
9% Multiple weeks Approximately 20 min
Outcomes assessed: LO2
Assignment Reflection on module
Written reflection on lectures and practicals
4% Multiple weeks Approximately 1 page
Outcomes assessed: LO1
Assignment Scientific report
Experimental report
24% Multiple weeks Approximately 4 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment LabArchives
Online note-taking for practical classes
10% Ongoing Variable, more information on Canvas
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO3
Skills-based evaluation Proficiency Assessment
MCQ and SA, including calculations
10% Week 03 Approximately 40 min
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO5 LO3
Type C final exam = Type C final exam ?

Assessment summary

  • Scientific report: A report based on the photosynthesis practical. Your scientific report should be uploaded to Turnitin via Canvas. 
  • Reflection: A personal reflection on each module and how the practical and lectures support and integrate the concepts in the module.
  • LabArchives record: An assessment of record keeping and question answering on LabArchives.
  • Proficiency assessment: Perform a skills test relating to practical techniques
  • Pre-practical quizzes: These quizzes will test your understanding of what is going to be taught in the practical that week and should be completed prior to you attending your practical. All quizzes to be done via Canvas.
  • Post-module quizzes: These quizzes will test your understanding of the concepts you have been taught in each module.
  • Exam: The exam will cover all material in the unit from both lectures and practical classes. The exam will have a mixture of multiple choice questions and short answer questions. More information and sample exam papers, will be available later in the session

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

  • factual information of an outstanding standard with a sophisticated grasp of the principles and interpretation
  • clear evidence of critical analysis, understanding of experimental design and statistical analysis, integration of knowledge and application to the experimental situation, evidence of originality of thought


75 - 84

  • factual information of a superior standard with a sophisticated grasp of the principles and interpretation
  • good evidence of critical analysis, understanding of experimental design and statistical analysis and integration of knowledge; good understanding of the application of knowledge; some evidence of application to the experimental situation


65 - 74

  • factual information of a high standard, but some information may be incorrect or missing, with sound grasp of the principles and interpretation
  • critical analysis is mainly superficial and relevance of knowledge not always clear, understanding of experimental design and statistical analysis is sufficient and applied to the experimental situation


50 - 64

  • factual information is of an acceptable standard but basic and contains gaps, errors or inconsistencies/contradictions
  • critical analysis is relatively poor, material may be correct but not entirely relevant; surface understanding of experimental design and statistical analysis with limited application to the experimental situation and limited interpretation


0 - 49

  • a significant amount of factual information is incorrect
  • misses the point, fundamental misunderstandings evident
  • evidence of plagiarism

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 1. Intro, expectations and overview; 2. Chemistry of Life; 3. Biopolymers Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Welcome Practical (3 hr) LO4 LO5
1. The central dogma of molecular biology; 2. Copying DNA and RNA; 3. Making Proteins Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 02 DNA isolation Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
1. Enzymes and Thermodynamics; 2. Q&A with the lecturer; 3. Energy conversion - Photosynthesis I Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Exploring a diagnostic enzyme assay Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
1. Energy conversion - photosynthesis II; 2. Respiration in plants Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Photosynthesis, respiration and climate change Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 03 1. Q&A with lecturer; 2. Metabolism; 3. Cells diversity Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Scientific writing and resources Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
1. Compartmentalisation of cells; 2. Cell, tissue and communication; 3. Q&A with the lecturer Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Understanding water movement Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 04 1. Microbiology and the 'One Health Concept'; 2. Microbes, food and nutrition 3. Report Writing Skills Part a Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Microbes in the environment and transmission and epidemiology I Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
1. Planetary health: microbes and ecosystems; 2. Cell factories and biotechnology 3. Q&A with Lecturer Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Microbes in the environment and transmission and epidemiology II Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 05 Soil and epidemiology tracing (results and discussion) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
1. Individual, behaviour & environment 2. Groups and populations; 3. Do species matter? Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Report writing skills Part b Practical (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 06 1. Trophic ecology; 2. Assemblages and ecosystems; 3. The Human footprint Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Estimating population size and conservation Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
1. Conservation; 2. Q&A with the lecturers Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
The effect of pollution on infaunal assemblages Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5

Attendance and class requirements

Attendance: Unless otherwise indicated, students are expected to attend a minimum of 80% of timetabled practicals for a unit of study, unless granted exemption by the Associate Dean. The Associate Dean may determine that a student has failed a unit of study because of inadequate attendance.

Semester 1 Cohort:

  • Study load: You are expected to dedicate at least 5-6 hours per week face to face on campus for 13 weeks of this unit and  at least another 5-6 hours off campus.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. demonstrate an understanding of biology: (i) value the diverse range of biological sub-disciplines and the complexity, variability and unpredictability of living systems (ii) appreciate the importance of sustainability and the impact of biology within the broader economic, social and environmental context
  • LO2. demonstrate depth and breadth of biological knowledge: (i) describe and explain broad biological concepts with relevant examples (ii) explain the biological organisation from molecules to cells and to ecosystems which integrate to form a dynamic network (iii) describe how structure and function are interrelated from the level of molecules to organisms
  • LO3. demonstrate inquiry and problem-solving abilities: (i) propose and test hypotheses to explain biological phenomena (ii) identify and use appropriate technical and analytical skills to collect data (iii) analyse quantitative data to critically evaluate evidence for biological explanations
  • LO4. demonstrate appropriate and effective communication: (i) produce written, visual, and oral explanations to communicate to a scientific audience and to the general public (ii) contribute to both independent and group tasks
  • LO5. demonstrate development in personal and professional responsibility: (i) evaluate and debate arguments on biological phenomena in a respectful and ethical manner (ii) reflect on your development as a student and the responsibility you have to find and apply information and work ethically, responsibly and safely

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

As is normal process of improving units of study the assessment profile of the unit has been adjusted to take into consideration feedback from the previous year.

Work, health and safety

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.

General Laboratory Safety Rules

  • No eating or drinking is allowed in any laboratory under any circumstances 
  • A laboratory coat and closed-toe shoes are mandatory 
  • Follow safety instructions in your manual and posted in laboratories 
  • In case of fire, follow instructions posted outside the laboratory door 
  • First aid kits, eye wash and fire extinguishers are located in or immediately outside each laboratory 
  • As a precautionary measure, it is recommended that you have a current tetanus immunisation. This can be obtained from University Health Service:


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.