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Major: Environmental Earth Science

Environmental Earth Science


Department of Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Science and Engineering

This major must be completed as part of an award. The general requirements for the award must be satisfied in order to graduate.

Requirements for the Major:

Completion of a minimum of 24 credit points including the following prescribed units:

Credit points

100 level

Biophysical Environments (3)
The Planet Earth (3)

200 level

Natural Hazards (3)
Earth Surface Processes (3)
3cp from
Climate Change (3)
The Atmospheric Environment (3)
Introduction to Geographic Information Science (3)

300 level

Environmental Quality and Assessment (3)
Fluvial Geomorphology and River Management (3)
Environmental Change (3)
Advanced Environmental Earth Science (3)


Units marked with a C are Capstone units.
Units marked with a P are PACE units.
Overview and Aims of the Program Environmental Earth scientists have an appreciation of earth surface processes and environmental systems and are able to use evidence from the landscape to address challenging environmental issues. The Major in Environmental Earth Science provides a solid foundation for environmental inquiry by developing an understanding of global processes spanning, geomorphological, geological, biological, ecological and chemical concepts and understanding how these systems are influenced by human impact and management. This program provides a ‘hands-on’ approach to skills development with a focus on in-field training that allows the capacity for independent and team-based scientific inquiry. It encourages the development of essential field and analytical skills, critical thinking, communication and problem solving in an effort to produce environmental earth scientists with a broad but comprehensive skill set and knowledge base that can be applied to a range of professional roles within the workforce.

The general aims of this program are:
• to understand, critique the relevance of and then apply a set of core concepts that are fundamental to environmental science
• to develop a knowledge base that will enable the interpretation of earth processes and environmental systems
• to develop a skill set for collecting, analysing, interpreting and integrating scientific data that enables environmental inquiry in a range of sedimentary and hydrological environments
• to develop the capabilities to consider ‘big picture’ and ‘real world’ problems, and gather data sets to address challenging environmental issues
• to prepare students for application of scientific knowledge and skills in the workplace.
Graduate Capabilities

The Graduate Capabilities Framework articulates the fundamentals that underpin all of Macquarie’s academic programs. It expresses these as follows:

Cognitive capabilities
(K) discipline specific knowledge and skills
(T) critical, analytical and integrative thinking
(P) problem solving and research capability
(I) creative and innovative

Interpersonal or social capabilities
(C) effective communication
(E) engaged and ethical local and global citizens
(A) socially and environmentally active and responsible

Personal capabilities
(J) capable of professional and personal judgement and initiative
(L) commitment to continuous learning

Program Learning Outcomes By the end of this program it is anticipated you should be able to:

1. identify global environmental processes and evaluate the interactions between geomorphological, geological, biological, chemical and climatological processes within earth surface environments and the interconnectedness between different environments (K)
2. evaluate temporal and spatial frameworks and geomorphological concepts and define their relevance to environmental enquiry (K, T, J)
3. identify how geomorphic processes relate to, influence and shape other ecosystem processes (K, T)
4. demonstrate an understanding of chemical concepts and their application to environmental science enquiry (K,T)
5. exhibit an understanding of the magnitude and significance of human impacts on landscape processes (K, T, E, A)
6. identify important scientific concepts required for the proper and effective management of environments and resources and apply environmental science principles to management contexts including river, coastal, arid zone, soil, polar and urban environments (K, T, P, E, A, J).

7. confidently demonstrate field and analytical skills in the description and interpretation of a range of environmental media, including: aerosols (e.g. dusts), soil, sediment, water, and contaminants. Relate these analyses to environmental context through, sampling and survey. Apply EES learnt-knowledge to interpret and decipher the relevant sources, formation, causes, influences, triggers, impacts of a range of processes and human activities on the environment (K, T, P, C, J, L)
8. demonstrate the capacity to design rigorous and replicable scientific experiments and field-based projects, including: selection of field sites, site sampling strategies, analytical techniques, while addressing the reproducibility and reliability of data (K, T, P, J, L)
9. demonstrate the capacity for independent and team-based collection of data and inquiry when conducting field and laboratory studies, and applying techniques in accordance with WHS principles and in line with Australian standards, guidelines, policy and legislative requirements for environmental science related enquiry (K, T, P, C, J)
10. apply critical thinking and problem solving incorporated into the scientific method – to decipher and collect data to answer questions and support arguments for and against scientific causality and the development and testing of hypotheses (T, P)
11. select, determine and apply a range of standard methods, approaches, guidelines and quality assurance / quality control practices in data acquisition and analysis and comparing measurements against benchmarks (e.g. National Guidelines) and skills in decision-making processes (T, J)
12. communicate and present environmental information (including graphical and statistical analysis) in a range of formats including scientific reports, notes, visual and oral, confidently report results in a clear succinct format to specialised and community audiences while demonstrating generic literature and writing skills (C, E, A, L).
Learning and Teaching Methods The Major in Environmental Earth Science focuses on developing students’ abilities and skills, in addition to building knowledge. Graduates are able to contribute their knowledge, research skills and real-world experience to a broad range of career paths. Graduates are both equipped to gather and analyse data, critically analyse information and report their findings in a professional manner.

All units in this major link background concepts and knowledge with practical experience acquired in the classroom, the laboratory or in the field. Most units use a combination of lectures, practical classes, fieldwork and online activities. Specific field-based modules and units offer intensive authentic experience, skills development and research experience in a range of environments. Field trips go to locations on and around campus, in the Sydney area, and to areas such as western New South Wales, mining areas or New Zealand. Practical components involve laboratory-based sessions, deriving, analyzing and modeling data, and problem-solving in tutorial sessions. Students will learn a mix of qualitative and quantitative approaches to data analysis. Key units also develop student’s skills in presenting information in written and oral formats appropriate to the field. A feature of many units is working in small or large groups, where students can develop the capacity to work with others in a team to achieve a goal. Many of our units take advantage of a diversity of media for their delivery (e.g. videos, lectures, readings, activities). Our philosophy is that students learn by doing and we endeavour to make our units as hands-on as possible.

Several units are offered in external as well as internal mode. This means that, instead of attending weekly lectures and practical classes, students can opt to cover these in blocks over several weekends. Note that the external offering is designed to maximize flexibility, but does not eliminate the face-to-face component.

A key final year unit within the Environmental Earth Science major is designated a Participation and Community Engagement (PACE) unit where students can apply their skills in the real world in projects with partners outside the University.
Assessment Our assessments are designed not only to test students’ discipline-specific knowledge and skills but also their ability to integrate and analyse information to solve real-world problems. Assessments are spread throughout semester to enable students to gain feedback as they learn. Assessment tasks are also scaffolded from first year to final year to build skills and confidence.

The program incorporates both formative and summative feedback. Formative feedback is that which is received whilst students are working on a task, often during "hands on" practical sessions or fieldwork. Summative feedback is that received once students have completed a task. Both forms of feedback are extremely important and provide students with information and guidance on their development and progress. Feedback may be provided in written form or simply in discussion with peers and teachers.

In recognition that students learn and communicate in different ways, assessment methods are diverse, with at least three different types of assessment in every unit. Assessment methods include, but are not limited to, exams and quizzes, written assessments (such as scientific reports, professional portfolios, field research project reports, critiques of the scientific and popular literature), and oral presentations.
Recognition of Prior Learning

Macquarie University may recognise prior formal, informal and non-formal learning for the purpose of granting credit towards, or admission into, a program. The recognition of these forms of learning is enabled by the University’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Policy (see and its associated Procedures and Guidelines. The RPL pages contain information on how to apply, links to registers, and the approval processes for recognising prior learning for entry or credit.

Information can be found at:

Support for Learning

Macquarie University aspires to be an inclusive and supportive community of learners where all students are given the opportunity to meet their academic and personal goals. The University offers a comprehensive range of free and accessible student support services which include academic advice, counselling and psychological services, advocacy services and welfare advice, careers and employment, disability services and academic skills workshops amongst others. There is also a bulk billing medical service located on campus.

Further information can be found at

Campus Wellbeing contact details:
Phone: +61 2 9850 7497

Program Standards and Quality

The program is subject to an ongoing comprehensive process of quality review in accordance with a pre-determined schedule that complies with the Higher Education Standards Framework. The review is overseen by Macquarie University's peak academic governance body, the Academic Senate and takes into account feedback received from students, staff and external stakeholders.

Graduate Destinations and Employability The principal graduate destinations from this major are State and Federal Agencies, consultancy firms, industry and postgraduate study. Employers want a range of skills including field and laboratory skills, scientific writing and critique, policy development and application of science in management. All our 300-level units (and particularly our PACE and capstone units) are informed to some extent by trends in graduate opportunities and the needs of industry and agencies charged with the responsibility of understanding earth surface processes and environmental issues over a range of spatial and temporal scales. Our graduates enter a range of professional bodies as part of best environmental practice. Work integrated learning opportunities are offered through PACE (ENVE399) and capstone (ENVE338) units at 300-level.
Assessment Regulations

This program is subject to Macquarie University regulations, including but not limited to those specified in the Assessment Policy, Academic Honesty Policy, the Final Examination Policy and relevant University Rules. For all approved University policies, procedures, guidelines and schedules visit

Inherent requirements are the essential components of a course or program necessary for a student to successfully achieve the core learning outcomes of a course or program. Students must meet the inherent requirements to complete their Macquarie University course or program.

Inherent requirements for Macquarie University programs fall under the following categories:

Physical: The physical inherent requirement is to have the physical capabilities to safely and effectively perform the activities necessary to undertake the learning activities and achieve the learning outcomes of an award.

Cognition: The inherent requirement for cognition is possessing the intellectual, conceptual, integrative and quantitative capabilities to undertake the learning activities and achieve the learning outcomes of an award.

Communication: The inherent requirement for communication is the capacity to communicate information, thoughts and ideas through a variety of mediums and with a range of audiences.

Behavioural: The behavioural inherent requirement is the capacity to sustain appropriate behaviour over the duration of units of study to engage in activities necessary to undertake the learning activities and achieve the learning outcomes of an award.

For more information see

2019 Unit Information

When offered:
S1 Day
Permission of Executive Dean of Faculty
HSC Chinese, CHN113, CHN148