University of Sydney Handbooks - 2018 Archive

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Soil Sciences and Hydrology

About the major

Soil and water security are major human existential challenges to the planet and more so in Australia, being the driest continent with highly weathered soils.

The Soil Science and Hydrology major provides students with training in three key areas; soil, water and climate, and their links with functional, resilient and productive ecosystems.

Soil, water and climate define the physical constraints to ecosystems, and the interpreting of these along with their costs and benefits supports the development of policy and sustainable management strategies. This knowledge will help secure our soil and water resources to maintain healthy, functional and productive ecosystems. We will explore the complex interaction between soil, water and climate, and the way we manage our landscapes.

Ecosystems are considered across paddock to catchment scales and include all sectors from agriculture to forestry to mining to nature reserves.

This major has a strong emphasis on field-based learning through field schools and emphasis on field measurement and modelling through analysis of non-spatial and spatial data. Working with case studies and projects, you will identify and analyse real-world problems with the aim of identifying options to maintain the functionality of these interrelated systems. Students will develop generic skills in GIS, laboratory and data analysis that will enable students to contribute to water and soil security.

Requirements for completion

A major in Soil Science and Hydrology requires 48 credit points, consisting of:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 18 credit points of 3000-level core units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level selective units

A minor Soil Science and Hydrology is available and articulates to this major.

Pathway through the major

The requirements for a major in Soil Science and Hydrology are spread out over three years of the degree (possibly four years if students are completing a combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degree).

A sample pathway for the Soil Science and Hydrology major (over three years of a degree) is listed below.

Sample pathway: Soil Science and Hydrology major (48 credit points)



Units of study


Semester 1

Core: BIOL1XX6 Life and Evolution

Semester 2

Core: BIOL1XX7 From Molecules to Ecosystems


Semester 1

Core: SOIL2005 Soil and Water: Earth’s Life Support Systems

Semester 2

Core: GEOS2X16 Earth Surface Processes


Semester 1

Core: LWSC3007 Advanced Hydrology and Modelling

Semester 2

Core: ENVX3001 Environmental GIS

Semester 1 or Semester 2

Core: SOIL3011 The Soil Resource

Selective: 3000-level units listed for major


Please Note. This sample progression is meant as an example only. Depending on unit prerequisites, students may be able to complete these units in a different sequence from that displayed in the table above.

For details of the core and selective units of study required for the major or minor please refer to the Soil Science and Hydrology section of the unit of study table, Table S, in this handbook.

Fourth year

The fourth year is only offered within the combined Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Advanced Studies course.

Advanced Coursework
The Bachelor of Advanced Studies advanced coursework option consists of 48 credit points, which must include a minimum of 24 credit points in a single subject area at 4000-level, including a project unit of study worth at least 12 credit points. Space is provided for 12 credit points towards the second major (if not already completed). 24 credit points of advanced study will be included in the table for 2020.

Requirements for Honours in the area of Soil Science and Hydrology: completion of 24 credit points of project work and 12 credit points of coursework.

Honours units of study will be available in 2020.

Contact and further information


T +61 2 9036 5417

School of Life and Environmental Sciences
Level 5, Carslaw Building (F07)
University of Sydney NSW 2006

Associate Professor Damien Field
Phone: +61 2 8627 1138
Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate from Soil Science and Hydrology will be able to:

  1. Understand the unique features of soil science and hydrology with a particular focus on the theories, concepts and principle sub-disciplines
  2. Understand how knowledge of soil science and hydrology is integrated with other disciplines particularly within agriculture, ecology and the environment
  3. Explain the relevance and application of soil science and hydrology in the study of contemporary agricultural, ecological and environmental issues, which underpins changes in policy and management strategies
  4. Develop strong field and laboratory analytical skills and the ability to quantify, analyse and interpret integrated soil and water data
  5. Integrate soil science and hydrology through research –based projects and developed expertise solving real-world problems and engaging directly with industry
  6. Communicate soil science and hydrology concepts and knowledge effectively to specialist and non-specialist audiences using appropriate oral, written and visual means.
  7. Contribute effectively as a member of leader of diverse teams working in soil and hydrology or multidisciplinary contexts.