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Unit outline_

OLET1664: Science of Australia's Deadly Animals

Intensive September, 2021 [Online] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Australia's biodiversity is globally celebrated for its unique beauty and distinctiveness. Australia also has a reputation for being home to some of the world's deadliest animals. This reputation, sometimes well earned, has created an aura of danger and mystique around Australia's native fauna. The purpose of this unit is to provide students with an appreciation of these animals and the skills to investigate organisms perceived as risks to humans. Completing modules on snakes, spiders, crocodiles, sharks, octopuses, jellyfish, insects, and ticks, you will assess and evaluate the evidence addressing key questions: Just how dangerous are Australian animals? How much of their deadly reputation is myth? Why, and how, do people get killed by these extraordinary animals? How well do we estimate the risks they pose? How does understanding of the science of how these animals operate help us manage the dangers they pose? You will learn about how the threats posed by different animals are a function of their behaviour, ecology, morphology and evolutionary history. You will also identify medical responses to these threats, examining the latest research and investigating how these advances have changed our perceptions of the risk posed by these animals. You will also reflect on the role these animals play in Australian culture, looking how they have been portrayed historically and how they are represented today. By completing this unit you will develop a deeper understanding of the evidence, knowledge gaps, and misconceptions that are behind the science of our most misunderstood animal groups; those that pose a threat to us.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Life and Environmental Sciences Academic Operations
Credit points 2
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Dieter Hochuli,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Online task Module Quizzes
Completed at the end of each module
50% Ongoing 8 x 15 minute quizzes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO3 LO2
Assignment Supporting document for science communication video
Written assignment
20% Week 06
Due date: 01 Oct 2021 at 23:59
1 page
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Assignment Video presentation
Uploaded into Canvas
30% Week 06 2 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Assessment summary

Each module is assessed with a series of multiple-choice questions to be answered at the end of the module.  

You will create a short video linked to a reflective statement that will examine the science behind some of the misconceptions about Australia's deadly animals.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

Multiple choice questions are marked online. Videos and supporting documents are assessed using the detailed information in the rubrics found on Canvas.

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
Multiple weeks Module 1: Introducing Australia's deadliest creatures Independent study (6 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO6
Module 2: Spiders Independent study (6 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Module 3: Snakes Independent study (6 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Module 5: Crocodiles Independent study (6 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Module 6: Insects and ticks Independent study (6 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Module 7: The Fisherman's basket: Jellyfish, other fish, and molluscs Independent study (6 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Module 8: Sharks Independent study (6 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Module 4: How to survive Australia's deadly animals Independent study (6 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Attendance and class requirements

This unit is taught online.

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 2 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 40-50 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

There are no prescribed readings.  All readings and sources for this unit can be accessed through the Library/eReserve, available on 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. Recognise the diversity of Australian animals perceived as threats to humans
  • LO2. Identify the risks posed by these Australian animals to humans
  • LO3. ​Interpret the science underpinning threats associated with iconic Australian species
  • LO4. Evaluate the reasons humans may be at risk from Australian animals and ways to minimize these risks
  • LO5. ​Understand the medicine behind the main approaches to treatment when Australian animals are encountered
  • LO6. Evaluate how misconceptions regarding dangerous animals are widely held, and how these are clarified, using and presenting the best available evidence to support the current understanding

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.

This is the first time this unit has been offered.


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

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