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Unit of study_

ENVI5708: Introduction to Environmental Chemistry

Semester 1, 2024 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

The aim of the course is to introduce students to the major physical and chemical processes that control the concentration and dispersion of chemical pollutants in natural and impacted environments. The course will demonstrate how to use contaminant data effectively and how to judge the quality of chemical data. This knowledge will be used to design and to assess environmental projects, and to judge the magnitude of impact by human activity on environments and the risk posed by contaminants to ecosystem functioning. The course aims to provide present and future managers employed in environmental professions with the skills to use data with confidence and to make management decisions knowing the risks inherent in variable data quality. A field trip will be undertaken early in the semester.

Unit details and rules

Unit code ENVI5708
Academic unit Life and Environmental Sciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Feike Dijkstra,
Lecturer(s) Liana Pozza,
Thomas Bishop,
Floris Van Ogtrop,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Participation Lab participation
Lab attendance for students
5% Multiple weeks During lab hours
Outcomes assessed: LO6
Assignment group assignment Presentation
Oral presentation
7.5% Week 07
Due date: 12 Apr 2024 at 23:59
10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO7
Assignment Peer review
See Canvas
7.5% Week 09
Due date: 26 Apr 2024 at 23:59
300-500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO4
Assignment Lab report
See Canvas
35% Week 10
Due date: 03 May 2024 at 23:59
2500-3500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Assignment group assignment Writing assignment
Site Assessment or Monitoring Report
35% Week 11
Due date: 10 May 2024 at 23:59
2500-3500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO7 LO5
Assignment Computer prac
Short report on computer-based exercises
10% Week 13
Due date: 24 May 2024 at 23:59
500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO4
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

  • Writing assignment: You will work in groups on a writing assignment. You will write an Environmental Site Assessment or Monitoring Report for a specific site.
  • Oral presentation and peer-review: In week 7 you will give a 10-minute long group presentation of the writing assignment you have been working on. After week 8 your first draft of the writing assignment will be distributed among other students. Each student will peer-review one writing assignment (individual review).
  • Lab report: During the field trip you will collect soil and water samples. These will be analysed in the weeks after the field trip.
  • Computer prac: In week 12 and 13 you will examine your results from the soil and water samples using computer-based exercises. You will write a short report based on these exercises.
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

Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at an exceptional standard, as defined by your mark for your final exam and the grade descriptors for your oral presentation and lab reports. You demonstrate a flair for the subject and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the unit material. It reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply subject knowledge to novel situations.


75 - 84

Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at a very high standard, as defined by your mark for your final exam and the grade descriptors for your oral presentation and lab reports. You demonstrate an aptitude for the subject and a solid knowledge and understanding of the unit material. It reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply the key ideas of the subject.


65 - 74

Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at a good standard, as defined by your mark for your final exam and the grade descriptors for your oral presentation and lab reports. You demonstrate a good command and knowledge of the unit material. It reflects solid achievement and is awarded to a student who has a broad understanding of the unit material but has not fully developed the ability to apply the key ideas of the subject.


50 - 64

Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at an acceptable standard, as defined by your mark for your final exam and the grade descriptors for your oral presentation and lab reports. You demonstrate proficiency in the unit material. It reflects satisfactory achievement and is awarded to a student who has threshold knowledge of the subject.


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.

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.

Support for students

The Support for Students Policy 2023 reflects the University’s commitment to supporting students in their academic journey and making the University safe for students. It is important that you read and understand this policy so that you are familiar with the range of support services available to you and understand how to engage with them.

The University uses email as its primary source of communication with students who need support under the Support for Students Policy 2023. Make sure you check your University email regularly and respond to any communications received from the University.

Learning resources and detailed information about weekly assessment and learning activities can be accessed via Canvas. It is essential that you visit your unit of study Canvas site to ensure you are up to date with all of your tasks.

If you are having difficulties completing your studies, or are feeling unsure about your progress, we are here to help. You can access the support services offered by the University at any time:

Support and Services (including health and wellbeing services, financial support and learning support)
Course planning and administration
Meet with an Academic Adviser

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Course structure, assessment, assignment and timetables Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 02 Introduction to fieldtrip Lecture (2 hr) LO1
Week 03 Field trip to Muttama catchment Field trip (20 hr) LO5 LO6
Eutrophication, water and soil analyses Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Water analyses: dissolved organic carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, dissolved oxygen, and biochemical oxygen demand Science laboratory (3 hr) LO6
Week 04 Investigation of contaminated sites, quality control/quality assurance Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO5
Water pH and alkalinity, total soil carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus Science laboratory (3 hr) LO6
Week 05 Sampling designs Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO5
Soil pH, electrical conductivity, available N and P in soil Science laboratory (3 hr) LO6
Week 06 Introduction to ecotoxicology Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Soil moisture, texture, sodicity and cation exchange capacity Science laboratory (3 hr) LO6
Week 07 Oral presentations Lecture (2 hr) LO4 LO7
Week 08 Monitoring, biological indicators Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Week 09 PAHS, phytoremediation Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Week 10 Pesticides Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Computer lab Computer laboratory (3 hr) LO4 LO6
Week 11 Nanoparticles and other pollutants Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Computer lab Computer laboratory (3 hr) LO4 LO6
Week 12 UV and ozone Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3
Week 13 Heavy metals Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3

Attendance and class requirements

You are required to go on the field trip and attend all laboratory classes.

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

All readings for this unit can be accessed on the Library eReserve link available on Canvas.
  • Suggested textbook: Hanrahan, G. 2012. Key concepts in Environmental Chemistry. Elsevier, Amsterdam.

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. describe the major processes controlling the concentration and distribution of chemical pollutants in natural and managed environments
  • LO2. describe techniques for evaluating and interpreting chemical data in environmental assessment and monitoring programs and for determining pre-anthropogenic, or background concentrations
  • LO3. provide techniques for evaluating functioning of estuarine and terrestrial ecosystems
  • LO4. identify and evaluate relevant environmental information from written and spoken presentations
  • LO5. design sampling strategies to assess the risk of specific sites to human and environmental health
  • LO6. carry out sampling and analyses of air, water and soil samples
  • LO7. communicate assessment and monitoring results of chemical pollutants in the environment to a range of audiences.

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.

Introduced peer-assessment for the group presentation.

Additional costs

To cover for travel and accommodation costs, you will be asked to pay $100 for the field trip. Please check the Canvas site for detailed information on how to pay.

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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