University of Sydney Handbooks - 2020 Archive

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Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

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

About the major

Ecology and evolution are important concepts that underlie a broad range of the biological sciences. Ecology investigates the processes that govern the biological interactions between individuals and that operate on ecosystem scales. Evolution is a unifying theme that explains the patterns we observe in the natural world, ranging from genomes to the diversification of life through time.

The fields of Ecology and Evolution intersect at multiple levels and are critically relevant to real-world challenges.

In this major you will learn about evolutionary and ecological processes and how these influence the population dynamics of animals, plants, and other organisms. This knowledge forms the basis for the effective management and conservation of biodiversity, ecosystems, and habitats.

Requirements for completion

A major in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 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 core units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level selective units
(v) 6 credit points of 3000-level interdisciplinary project units

First year

The core units in first year Biology, Life and Evolution (BIOL1XX6) and From Molecules to Ecosystems (BIOL1XX7), provide students with an understanding of the concepts that are central to Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. These units will provide a broader context within which these concepts can be interpreted, including the scientific framework, hypothesis testing, and experimental design. First year Biology units also provide sufficient background in (bio)chemistry for this major.

Second year

In the second year, Biology Experimental Design and Analysis (BIOL2X22) provides students with sufficient background to design complex ecological and evolutionary experiments in the field, including multifactorial experiments, and to analyse and interpret their data. Ecology and Conservation (BIOL2X24) builds on the broad introduction to Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the first year.

Third year

In the third year there will be dedicated units on Ecology (BIOL3X07) and Evolutionary Biology (BIOL3005). Selective units include Marine Field Ecology (BIOL3X08) and Terrestrial Field Ecology (BIOL3X09). For those students who need an on-campus experience, units include Evolution of the Australian Biota (BIOL3034), Animal Ecological Physiology (BIOL3X45) and Animal Behaviour (BIOL3X46). Throughout, there will be emphasis on experimental design and analysis, building on the material taught in the second year. In your third year you must take at least one designated project unit.

Fourth year

The fourth year is only offered within the 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.

Meritorious students 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's degree, 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 prior to Honours commencement.

Unit of study requirements for Honours in the area of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: completion of 36 credit points of project work and 12 credit points of coursework.

Contact and further information

T 1800 793 864

Professor Frank Seebacher

Professor Simon Ho

Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate from Ecology and Evolutionary Biology will be able to:

  1. Exhibit a broad and coherent body of knowledge in ecological and evolutionary patterns and processes.
  2. Integrate a deep knowledge of principles and concepts in ecology and evolutionary biology across subdisciplines and recognise the interdisciplinary connections with other biological sciences.
  3. Source, collate, and critically interpret ecological and evolutionary literature relevant to their investigations.
  4. Select and use appropriate statistical tools and concepts to analyse and critically interpret ecological and evolutionary data.
  5. Communicate concepts and findings in ecology and evolutionary biology through a range of modes for a variety of purposes and audience, using evidence-based arguments that are robust to critique.
  6. Describe and explain the meaning of ecological and evolutionary experimental results within the context of the current scientific literature.
  7. Design, plan and carry out an experiment in ecology and evolution, including generating testable hypotheses and communicate research plans and findings in presentations.
  8. Address authentic problems in ecology and evolutionary biology, working professionally and ethically within collaborative interdisciplinary teams.
  9. Examine and evaluate contemporary issues in ecology and evolution from multiple ethical perspectives and across social and cultural contexts.