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Unit of study_

ENVI5705: Ecological Principles

Semester 1, 2022 [Normal day] - Remote

This unit of study introduces fundamental concepts of modern ecology for environmental scientists through a series of modules focussing on applied questions. Using case studies from Australia and internationally, students are exposed to the challenges of doing ecology and how cutting edge research is being applied to environmental management using evidence-based approaches. Field and lab practicals will give students an insight into the ways that ecologists address ecological problems and how way they generate an understanding of natural systems. Students have the opportunity to consider different ways of doing science and ways of dealing with different kinds of data, including qualitative, quantitative, anecdotal and experimental approaches.

Unit details and rules

Unit code ENVI5705
Academic unit Life and Environmental Sciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge

This unit assumes a sound understanding of scientific principles, HSC level Mathematics and understanding of basic statistics

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Thomas Newsome,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Opinion article
Written report
20% Week 06 1,500 word limit excluding references
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5
Assignment Field report
Written report
45% Week 09 4,000 word limit excluding references
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment Graphical abstract
Graphical abstract outlining big idea in ecology
15% Week 11 See Canvas
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO5 LO4 LO3
Tutorial quiz Quiz
Four essay questions
20% Week 13 90 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4

Assessment summary

  • Opinion article: The article is designed to assess your capacity to integrate current knowledge to address a key question in applied ecology.
  • Field report: The field report demonstrates your understanding of various field sampling techniques, data collection and analysis, interpretation of results and critical review of relevant literature using clear, succinct arguments in appropriate scientific language.
  • Graphical abstract: The aim of this task is for students to distill a fundamental ecological concept into a clear, succinct, evidence-informed narrative, as well as be informed of the key issues of the ecological theory behind the concept.
  • Quiz: The quiz allows you to demonstrate your understanding of the key ecological concepts covered in the unit, your ability to interpret data from a range of sources, and to apply knowledge from the course to new scenarios about ecological issues.

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

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’ reflects solid 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:

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 Practical: (1) Lecture: Introduction to the course and the group; (2) Lecture: Background to ecological principles in environmental science. Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1
Week 02 Lab: (1) Lecture: Population ecology and managing small populations; (2) Computer work: Population simulations using vortex. Computer laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO4
Week 03 Practical: (1) Discussion: What is an alien species and why does it matter; (2) Lecture: Landscape ecology. Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5
Week 04 Practical: (1) Discussion: Field trip preparation, sampling populations, field sites and sampling plants. Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 05 Lab: (1) Computer: field data entry; (2) Lecture: statistical tests. Computer laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO3 LO5
Week 06 Practical: (1) Field data presentations; (2) Discussion: sampling techniques and interpreting data. Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 07 Practical: (1) Lecture: Community ecology; (2) Discussion: Big ideas in ecology and graphical abstract Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 08 Practical: (1) Lecture: Guest topic Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Week 09 Practical: (1) Lecture: Plant Ecology Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Week 10 Practical: (1) Lecture: Fire Ecology Computer laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 11 Practical: (1) Lecture: Guest topic Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 12 Practical: (1) Practice quiz. Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5
Week 13 Practical: (1) In class quiz Performance (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5

Attendance and class requirements

Due to the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance requirements for this unit of study have been amended. Where online tutorials/workshops/virtual laboratories have been scheduled, students should make every effort to attend and participate at the scheduled time. Penalties will not be applied if technical issues, etc. prevent attendance at a specific online class. In that case, students should discuss the problem with the coordinator, and attend another session, if available.

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.

Required readings

Readings will be provided in class and through Canvas.

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 the ecological principles underlying environmental problems
  • LO2. critically evaluate the literature on environmental research and problem-solving
  • LO3. ask questions, collect and interpret data from a field investigation, and articulate outcomes in a report
  • LO4. evaluate information from a range of sources in a form meaningful to colleagues in different fields of environmental management
  • LO5. communicate your understanding of ecological data and issues in written and oral presentations.

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.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered.

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:


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