University of Sydney Handbooks - 2019 Archive

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Environmental Science

Study in the discipline of Environmental Science is jointly offered by the School of Geosciences and School of Life and Environmental Science. Units of study in this major are mostly available at standard and advanced level.

About the program

In the 21st century the demand on the earth’s resources is placing the world’s future on a non-sustainable course, where there is ongoing degradation of natural resources and diminishing biodiversity, and planetary cycles related to climate are reaching points of irreversible change. James Martin states that it is the 'young people who collectively, will be responsible for the greatest transition in human history. We must teach young people to understand this century and play its complex game'.

The environmental science program will provide students with the understanding and skills they need to find solutions to environmental problems. Students in the environmental science program will develop the knowledge and skills to find solutions to complex environmental problems. In this program students will develop the technical laboratory and field skills to measure, monitor and analyse environmental problems and to integrate this information with spatial data to propose management solutions.

Students will develop a strong multi-disciplinary scientific understanding of regional, national and global environmental issues. Taken in combination with a major in Environmental Studies or another disciplinary major (i.e. Chemistry, Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Microbiology) students will contribute to solving contemporary global issues and sustaining life on earth in this “make or break” century. Students will also have pathways to teach Earth and Environmental Studies and continue to Masters level in Sustainability and Science.

Requirements for completion

A program in Environmental Science requires 60 credit points, consisting of:

(i) 12 credit points of 2000-level program core units
(ii) A 48 credit point major in Environmental Science

A major in Environmental Science requires 48 credit points, consisting of:

(i) 6 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 6 credit points of 1000-level selective units
(iii) 6 credit points of 2000-level major core units
(iv) 6 credit points of 2000-level major selective units
(v) 6 credit points of 3000-level core units
(vi) 12 credit points of 3000-level disciplinary selective or interdisciplinary project selective units
(vii) 6 credit points of 3000-level core interdisciplinary project units

First year

CHEM1XX1 Chemistry 1A and 6 credit points from a selection of GEOS1X01 Earth, Environment and Society and ENVI1003 Global Challenges: Food, Water, Climate.

Second year

Core for major: ENSC2001 Environmental Monitoring.
Core for program: GEOS2X16 Earth Surface Processes, SOIL2005 Soil and Water: Earth's Life Support Systems.

The second year provides the breadth of knowledge in environmental science with units related to biodiversity, soil, landscapes and water. This is complemented in a unit related to the measurement and monitoring of environmental properties in the field and lab, and development of skills in the associated data analytics.

Third year

ENVX3001 Environmental GIS
and 12 credit points from a selection of
ENVX3003 Hydrological Monitoring and Modelling
AVBS3003 Wildlife Management
BIOL3X04 Terrestrial Plant Ecology
SCPU3001 Science Interdisciplinary Project
ad 6 credit points from a selection of
GEOG3888 Integrated Geographical Practice
SOIL3888 Protecting the Soil Resource

The third year provides further breadth and depth with units in physical geography and climate. Data analytic skills are further developed with a unit related to the analysis of spatial data – crucial for all environmental management issues. Students will also have the opportunity to choose electives in a specialist area of interest from wildlife, energy, soil or water.

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, with a minimum of 24 credit points at 4000-level or above. Of these 24 credit points, you must complete a project unit of study worth at least 12 credit points. Advanced coursework will be included in the table for 2020.

Meritorious students in the Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Advanced Studies may apply for admission to Honours within a subject area of the Bachelor of Advanced Studies. Admission to Honours requires the prior completion of all requirements of the Bachelor of Science, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units. If you are considering applying for admission to Honours, ensure your degree planning takes into account the completion of a second major and all OLE requirements by the end of your Honours year.

Unit of study requirements for Honours in the area of Environmental Science: 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 9351 4796

School of Geosciences
Room 348, Madsen Building F09
The University of Sydney NSW 2006

Dr Daniel Penny
T +61 2 9351 6464

Assoc/Prof Damien Field
T +61 2 8627 1138

Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate from Environmental Science will be able to:

  1. Exhibit a broad and coherent body of knowledge in the environmental sciences, with deep understanding of core scientific principles in the context of natural and unmanaged environments.
  2. Exhibit depth of knowledge of the interdependencies between human societies and natural and managed environments at multiple scales.
  3. Investigate, critically evaluate and synthesise data on environmental issues using appropriate tools and techniques.
  4. Communicate concepts and findings in environmental science through a range of modes for a variety of purposes and audiences, using evidence-based arguments that are robust to critique.
  5. Assess, evaluate and respond to key sustainability challenges for natural and managed environments.
  6. Integrate approaches across disciplines to identify, measure and analyse materials, patterns and processes relevant to contemporary environmental challenges.
  7. Address authentic problems in environmental science, working within collaborative, interdisciplinary teams.
  8. Participate constructively in decision-making consistent with regulatory frameworks and principles of sustainable development, across social and cultural boundaries.
  9. Reflect critically on the process of environmental decision making and on their own and others’ values, knowledge and perspectives.