University of Sydney Handbooks - 2019 Archive

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Soil Science 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) 12 credit points of 3000-level major core units
(iv) 6 credit points of core interdisciplinary project units
(v) 6 credit points of 3000-level major selective or interdisciplinary project selective units

A minor in Soil Science and Hydrology requires 36 credit points, consisting of:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 6 credit points of 3000-level minor core units
(iv) 6 credit points of core interdisciplinary project units

First year

BIOL1XX7 From Molecules to Ecosystems and
BIOL1XX6 Life and Evolution

Second year

GEOS2X16 Earth Surface Processes and
SOIL2005 Soil and Water: Earth's Life Support Systems

The second year provides the breadth of knowledge in soil, hydrology, and landscapes processes with units related soil science and hydrology along with units focusing on earth surface processes.

Third year

LWSC3007 Advanced Hydrology and Modelling,
SOIL3888 Protecting the Soil Resource,
ENVX3001 Environmental GIS

and 6 credit points from either:
ENVX3002 Statistics in the Natural Sciences or
SCPU3001 Science Interdisciplinary Project

The third year provides further depth in in soil science and hydrology and this is complimented by developing skill in spatial and temporal analysis and data analytics. This will involve working on real world problems and developing options to support the functionality of landscapes. In your third year you must take at least one designated project unit.

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 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 9351 5819

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

Associate Professor Stephen Cattle
Phone: +61 2 8627 1142

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Exhibit a broad and coherent body of knowledge in soil science and hydrology with a depth of knowledge in underlying theories, concepts and principle sub-disciplines.
  2. Integrate deep knowledge of soil science and hydrology with concepts and principles in other disciplines including agriculture, ecology and environmental sciences.
  3. Evaluate the application of soil science and hydrology to contemporary agricultural, ecological and environmental issues and the development of policy and management strategies.
  4. Quantify, analyse and interpret integrated soil and water data in the field and the laboratory.
  5. Communicate soil science and hydrology concepts and findings through a range of modes for a variety of purpose and audiences using evidence-based arguments that are robust to critique.
  6. Integrate soil science and hydrology through research-based projects and develop expertise in solving real-world problems.
  7. Address authentic problems in soil science and hydrology, working professionally and responsibly and with consideration of cross-cultural perspectives, within collaborative, interdisciplinary teams.
  8. Engage directly with industry in a professional and ethical manner to address real-world issues in soil science and hydrology.