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Unit of study_

BIOL3007: Ecology

Semester 2, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit explores the dynamics of ecological systems, and considers the interactions between individual organisms and populations, organisms and the environment, and ecological processes. Lectures are grouped around four dominant themes: Interactions, Evolutionary Ecology, The Nature of Communities, and Conservation and Management. Emphasis is placed throughout on the importance of quantitative methods in ecology, including sound planning and experimental designs, and on the role of ecological science in the conservation, management, exploitation and control of populations. Relevant case studies and examples of ecological processes are drawn from marine, freshwater and terrestrial systems, with plants, animals, fungi and other life forms considered as required. Students will have some opportunity to undertake short term ecological projects, and to take part in discussions of important and emerging ideas in the ecological literature.

Unit details and rules

Unit code BIOL3007
Academic unit Life and Environmental Sciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
[12cp of BIOL2XXX] OR [6cp of BIOL2XXX and (MBLG2X72 or GEGE2X01 or GENE2002 or AVBS2XXX or ENSC2001)]
Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Glenda Wardle,
Lecturer(s) Peter Banks,
Clare McArthur,
Dieter Hochuli,
Glenda Wardle,
Project supervisor(s) Aaron Greenville,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Supervised exam
40% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Presentation group assignment Research project proposal talk
Oral presentation
5% Week 04
Due date: 23 Aug 2023 at 14:00
10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Presentation Key ideas in ecology
Presentation (1min), graphical abstract and written statement
20% Week 07
Due date: 13 Sep 2023 at 14:00
Diagram plus 2-pages of text
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3
Presentation group assignment Research project final presentations
Oral presentation
10% Week 13
Due date: 01 Nov 2023 at 14:00
10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO4
Assignment Research project report
Written task, individual work
25% Week 13
Due date: 05 Nov 2023 at 23:59

Closing date: 17 Nov 2023
Maximum 7500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

Exam: The final exam will test your overall knowledge of the subject synthesising and applying material from the lectures and practical learning activities.

If a second replacement exam is required, this exam may be delivered via an alternative assessment method, such as a viva voce (oral exam). The alternative assessment will meet the same learning outcomes as the original exam. The format of the alternative assessment will be determined by the unit coordinator. 

The final exam assessment is compulsory and failure to attend, attempt, or submit will result in the award of an AF grade.

Written and oral assessments – Detailed information and a marking matrix for each assessment task will be provided via Canvas. 

Group work – Working collaboratively in teams is essential for employment in many ecological positions. All students must contribute to group assessments and will not receive credit unless they do so.

Participation – attendance at all lectures and practical classes is essential to do well, avoid getting behind as it will be difficult to catch up.

Special consideration procedures apply.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2021 (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

At HD level, a student demonstrates a flair for the subject as well as a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the unit material. A ‘High Distinction’ reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding to produce original solutions for novel or highly complex problems and/or comprehensive critical discussions of theoretical concepts.


75 - 84

At DI level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a well-developed understanding of the unit material. A ‘Distinction’ reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding of the subject to produce good solutions for challenging problems and/or a reasonably well-developed critical analysis of theoretical concepts.


65 - 74

At CR level, a student demonstrates a good command and knowledge of the unit material. A ‘Credit’ reflectssolid achievement and is awarded to a student who has a broad general understanding of the unit material and can solve routine problems and/or identify and superficially discuss theoretical concepts.


50 - 64

At PS level, a student demonstrates proficiency in the unit material. A ‘Pass’ reflects satisfactory achievement and is awarded to a student who has threshold knowledge.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

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.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

Non-attendance for the group project presentations attracts a mark of zero.

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 Population growth Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Life histories Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Develop ideas for group research projects Science laboratory (3 hr) LO4
Week 02 Population models Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO4
Population models: case studies Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
Design the experiments and data collection for group projects Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO4
Week 03 Population regulation Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Metapopulations and extinctions Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Build and analyse population models to understand life histories and how to manage populations Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 04 Ecological interactions: overview Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Competition and predation Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Group project presentations Science laboratory (3 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 05 Plant-herbivore interactions – herbivore perspective Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Plant-herbivore interactions – plant perspective Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Key ideas in ecology discussion of literature Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 06 Complex interactions Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Interactions with invasive species – what can we learn? Lecture (1 hr) LO5
Progress data collection for research projects Science laboratory (3 hr) LO4
Week 07 What are communities? A short history Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Community dynamics and succession Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Graphical abstract presentations on key ideas Science laboratory (3 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 08 Disturbance and patch dynamics Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Assembly rules and Gamma diversity Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Progress data collection for research projects Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2
Week 09 No lecture - public holiday Lecture (1 hr)  
Managing disturbance and communities Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO5
Progress data collection for research projects Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2
Week 10 Ecological units beyond communities Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Landscape ecology in a changing world Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO5
Progress data collection for research projects Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2
Week 11 Trait-based approaches to understanding global ecology Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Fragmentation and the Extinction Debt Thresholds: what can we afford to lose? Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO5
Research projects - results and analysis Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2
Week 12 Hotspots and surrogates Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5
Restoration ecology: individuals and landscapes Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO5
Research projects - plan reports and presentations Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 13 Co-extinction: how evolutionary biology fits into conservation Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5
Future of ecology Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Research projects final presentations Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5

Attendance and class requirements

Group work – Attendance for group presentations is required.

Participation – attendance at all lectures and practical classes is essential to do well, avoid getting behind as it will be difficult to catch up.

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. Explain key concepts and processes in ecology
  • LO2. Demonstrate how experimental evidence informs ecological theory
  • LO3. Discuss and critically evaluate relevant research articles
  • LO4. Demonstrate the principles used in well-designed ecological research to advance knowledge
  • LO5. Assess the role of applied ecology in solving environmental problems

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.

Changes to the learning outcomes, assessment tasks, guidelines and design of the Key ideas in ecology practical classes and Demography practical classes have been made based on feedback.

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. Information about the Uni-versity’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

Your staff, lecturers and supervisors must do what they can to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.

Students and visitors - are required to take reasonable care that their acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of themselves or others, and to comply with any reasonable instructions given to ensure health and safety. With respect to working in the practical classes, “reasonable care” includes wearing a lab coat and closed in shoes (the top of the foot must be covered), and complying with safety instructions when handling hazardous materials and/or equipment.


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.