Back to: Environmental Science major Environmental Science major

Do you love nature, variety and challenges? Are you worried about the impact that humans are having on our world?

Making efficient use of scarce resources for the management and conservation of the environment is a major challenge within the sphere of environmental science. This major will enable you to help identify and solve our world’s pressing environmental problems, through studies in disciplines ranging from biology to earth science and chemistry. It will also equip you with valuable experience in environmental monitoring and management, as well as skills in risk and issues assessment.

Environmental Science provides you with the skills to identify and understand the risks posed to the natural environment by various human activities, and to understand the social and political context in which environmental scientists operate. It provides robust, scientifically sound and practical solutions to environmental problems.

Applicants for this major must have completed Units 3 and 4 Mathematical Methods or equivalent.

Careers

An Environmental Science major will provide you with opportunities for employment or research careers in environmental management and consulting, natural resource management, and chemistry.

Subjects you could take in this major

  • This subject extends students' knowledge of functions and calculus and introduces them to the topics of vectors and complex numbers. Students will be introduced to new functions such as the inverse trigonometric functions and learn how to extend the techniques of differentiation to these. Integration techniques will be applied to solving first order differential equations.

    Differential calculus: graphs of functions of one variable, trigonometric functions and their inverses, derivatives of inverse trigonometric functions, implicit differentiation, related rates. Integral calculus: integration by trigonometric and algebraic substitutions and partial fractions with application to areas and volumes. Ordinary differential equations: solution of simple first order differential equations arising from applications such as population modelling. Vectors: dot product, scalar and vector projections, plane curves specified by vector equations. Complex numbers: arithmetic of complex numbers, sketching regions in the complex plane, De Moivre's Theorem, roots of polynomials, the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra.

  • This subject will extend knowledge of calculus from school. Students are introduced to hyperbolic functions and their inverses, the complex exponential and functions of two variables. Techniques of differentiation and integration will be extended to these cases. Students will be exposed to a wider class of differential equation models, both first and second order, to describe systems such as population models, electrical circuits and mechanical oscillators. The subject also introduces sequences and series including the concepts of convergence and divergence.

    Calculus topics include: intuitive idea of limits and continuity of functions of one variable, sequences, series, hyperbolic functions and their inverses, level curves, partial derivatives, chain rules for partial derivatives, directional derivative, tangent planes and extrema for functions of several variables. Complex exponential topics include: definition, derivative, integral and applications. Integration topics include: techniques of integration and double integrals. Ordinary differential equations topics include: first order (separable, linear via integrating factor) and applications, second order constant coefficient (particular solutions, complementary functions) and applications.

  • The subject provides an introduction to organic acids and bases; nucleophilic substitution reactions; elimination reactions; addition reactions; electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions; nucleophilic addition reactions; organic redox reactions; chemical kinetics; elementary quantum mechanics, atomic spectra and atomic structure; redox reactions and electrochemistry; and transition metal and coordination chemistry.

  • The collection and evaluation of technical information is essential for farm planning, precision agriculture, post harvest storage, product processing, transport, and marketing of commodities and processed goods. Success depends upon the selection of appropriate tools for the measurement, collection, storage and retrieval of data as well as techniques for evaluating this information and putting it into context.

    Subject content:

    • Measurement of parameters
    • Determination of accuracy
    • Understanding spatial and temporal information
    • Determining data reliability
    • Methods of data collection, storage and retrieval
    • Principles of data-logging
    • Analysis of data in order to reduce its complexity and achieve simpler outcomes
    • Presentation and evaluation of data for decision-support
    • Understanding the role of technical information in analysis and decision making, including triple-bottom-line assessment and maintenance of the balance between resource utilization and conservation
  • This subject lays the foundations for an understanding of the fundamental concepts of probability and statistics required for data analysis. Students should develop expertise in some of the statistical techniques commonly used in the design and analysis of experiments, and will gain experience in the use of a major statistical computing package. They should develop skills in collecting random samples, data description, basic statistical inference including parametric and nonparametric tests to compare population proportions and means, data manipulation and statistical computing. The methods will be illustrated using applications from science, engineering and commerce. Descriptive statistics, data manipulation and the implementation of the statistical procedures covered in lectures will be reinforced in the computer laboratory classes.

    Sampling; introduction to experimental design; review of simple probability; estimation; confidence intervals; hypothesis testing including types of errors and power; inferences about means and proportions based on single and independent samples; matched pairs designs; introduction to nonparametric methods; contingency tables; regression; and analysis of variance.

  • This subject gives a solid grounding in key areas of modern mathematics needed in science and technology. It develops the concepts of vectors, matrices and the methods of linear algebra. Students should develop the ability to use the methods of linear algebra and gain an appreciation of mathematical proof. Little of the material here has been seen at school and the level of understanding required represents an advance on previous studies.

    Systems of linear equations, matrices and determinants; vectors in real n-space, cross product, scalar triple product, lines and planes; vector spaces, linear independence, basis, dimension; linear transformations, eigenvalues, eigenvectors; inner products, least squares estimation, symmetric and orthogonal matrices.

  • The subject introduces students to natural environments, and the elements and systems that shape the natural world. A critical understanding of these elements and systems is fundamental, not only to the sustainable management of natural environments, but also to nearly all aspects of human endeavor therein: including biodiversity and recreation management, primary production (agriculture and forestry), urban and regional land-use planning, environmental design (architecture and engineering), and local through to global environmental policy. In this subject, the student draws upon case studies and concepts from a broad range of disciplines to explore key components and processes of natural environments, and learns practical skills in landscape assessment for sustainable management and design. Major themes explored include plate tectonics; rocks and minerals; landscape processes and soil formation; weather, climate and climate change; microclimate; the water cycle and catchment hydrology; landscape ecology and the distribution, properties and functioning of different ecosystems. Practical skills in landscape assessment and interpretation are emphasised, as well as an appreciation of the effect of scale and temporal change in the examination of natural environments.

  • This subject covers key concepts associated with the synthesis and design of organic and inorganic molecules, molecular architecture and the energy transformations associated with chemical and physical processes. Topics covered include synthesis of simple polyfunctional organic compounds, thermodynamically controlled reactions of s-, p- and d- block elements and thermodynamics. In the last three weeks of the subject students will be able to choose between lecture modules with a focus on theory of advanced materials or biological chemistry. These topics have applications in drug discovery, chemical industry, nanotechnology, and energy harnessing through conventional and alternative energy sources.

  • This subject covers key concepts related to the stereochemical and electronic properties of molecules and the methods central to their study. Important elements of the subject include the spectroscopic characterisation and quantification of materials by a range of spectroscopic techniques, molecular orbital techniques and the application of approaches based on molecular symmetry and group theory to the understanding of molecular properties, stereo-selective reactions, bonding and spectroscopy. These topics have applications to advanced materials, light emitting polymers, chemical analysis and catalysis in biological and industrial systems.

  • An introduction to the study of natural hazards on the Earth, at various different spatial and temporal scales, their impact on human populations and principles of planning, response and mitigation. The course will cover hazards of geological and meteorological origin, as well as major global catastrophes such as those that may be produced by climate change and large impact events. Topics to be covered include: Earthquakes and their consequences; Tsunamis and other coastal hazards; Volcanoes and volcanic eruptions; Land instability and mass movements; Flooding and flood hazards, Drought and bushfire hazards; Tropical cyclones, thunderstorms and tornadoes; Extraterrestrial impacts and mass extinction events; Climate change and its implications for human populations; Managing and reducing the risks from natural hazards. At the end of this subject, students will have acquired: an understanding of the nature and causes of natural hazards, their distribution and predictability; a knowledge of how natural disasters impact on human populations and activities, and the kinds of responses that are possible; an appreciation of what can be done to manage and minimise the dangers posed by natural disasters.

  • This subject introduces students to four major ecological questions that can be addressed at the levels of individuals, populations, communities and ecosystems. Making use of aquatic and terrestrial examples, topics include organisms and the physical environment, life histories, population growth and regulation, managing populations, theoretical models, species interactions, community change and energy flows. The practical component will emphasise approaches to the collection and analysis of ecological data, and how to interpret and write scientific papers.

  • This subject comprises a 10 day intensive field trip to tropical far North Queensland in the mid-year break before the start of 2nd semester and a laboratory project to be completed during 2nd semester. Students will engage with topics such as past climate change, biogeography, glacial cycles, changes in sea level, archaeological trends, the effects of people on the environment and the development of modern landscapes. On completion, students should be familiar with the major forces which have shaped physical landscapes over the past 2 million years and the nature of anthropogenic impacts on landscapes. Students should acquire field and laboratory skills in palaeoenvironmental, archaeological and biogeographical methods.

  • The subject covers important aspects of the structure and chemistry of the hydrosphere, atmosphere and lithosphere (soil). The subject also examines sources, chemistry and impact of environmental pollution, energy resources (fossil fuels, nuclear and solar) and the impact of energy utilisation.

    Subject topics also include the principles and application of quantitative chemical analysis and environmental monitoring (calibration methods; experimental errors; volumetric analysis, spectrophotometry, gas and liquid chromatography, and atomic absorption spectrometry).

    A key aspect of this subject will be the comprehensive investigation of a current environmental chemistry issue, which will be covered in a small-group, scenario-based learning mode.

    The practical component of this subject will involve the application of titrimetric, optical (spectrophotometry, atomic absorption spectrometry) and chromatographic (gas chromatography, high performance liquid chromatography) analytical techniques to the determination of compounds of environmental interest.

  • This subject provides an introduction to plant structure, function, diversity and ecology and explores how these interact with landscape, climate, and production systems. While the subject deals with plant basics, it focuses on knowledge required for managing vegetation.

    Topics include:

    • How plants develop (architecture, adaptation, diversity) and how the plant structures contribute to reproduction (plant life-cycles)
    • Plants and energy (leaves as the primary light harvesting organ that supplies energy for most living things)
    • Plants and water (roots, transpiration, responding to water stress and salinity)
    • Plants and their interactions with other species, including humans, and the landscapes they shape

    Students taking BIOL10004 Biology of Cells and Organisms (BSc) as a Breadth subject will be exempt from this subject.

  • This subject allows students to develop skills in the synthesis of different classes of organic and inorganic compounds; analysis of samples with single and multiple components; determination of the kinetic and thermodynamic properties of molecules; measurement and interpretation of the spectroscopic and magnetic properties of inorganic and organic compounds. Students will have the opportunity to obtain expertise in the operation of modern analytical and spectroscopic techniques (including chromatography, atomic and molecular spectroscopy, mass spectrometry).

    The subject consists of eight lectures, two tutorials, and a program of experiments. The lectures and tutorials provide instruction on the basis of different analytical and computational techniques, spectroscopic identification of unknown compounds and cover various aspects of chemical safety, reporting of experimental data, data and error analysis and the use of chemical databases.

  • This subject develops the probability theory that is necessary to understand statistical inference. Properties of probability are reviewed, random variables are introduced, and their properties are developed and illustrated through common univariate probability models. Models for the joint behaviour of random variables are introduced, along with conditional probability and Markov chains. Methods for obtaining the distributions of functions of random variables are considered along with techniques to obtain the exact and approximate distributions of sums of random variables. These methods will be illustrated through some well known normal approximations to discrete distributions and by obtaining the exact and approximate distributions of some commonly used statistics. Computer packages are used for numerical and theoretical calculations but no programming skills are required.

  • This subject introduces the theory underlying modern statistical inference and statistical computation. In particular, it demonstrates that many commonly used statistical procedures arise as applications of a common theory. Both classical and Bayesian statistical methods are developed. Basic statistical concepts including maximum likelihood, sufficiency, unbiased estimation, confidence intervals, hypothesis testing and significance levels are discussed. Applications include distribution free methods, goodness of fit tests, correlation and regression; the analysis of one-way and two-way classifications.

  • This subject outlines the development of geomorphology as a discipline, the different approaches used to study landforms and theory of landscape processes and evolution. Topics covered include the denudation system; weathering; hill slopes; fluvial processes and landforms; glacial processes and landforms; karst landscapes and processes; deserts and aeolian processes; the coastal system and processes; and landform change during the Quaternary. Emphasis is placed on understanding the geomorphological processes that shape these landscapes. Through lectures, practicals and field exercises students should develop skills in the use of a range of analytical techniques for investigating landform processes and change. Students should also develop an appreciation of the ways landforms and process can be incorporated into environmental management and land use planning.

  • The lecture component of this subject covers the main sources and types of environmental contaminants with a focus on water contaminants and their effect on water quality. Frequently used analytical techniques in environmental and industrial monitoring and analysis, not covered in the prerequisite or other second year level chemistry subjects, will be outlined in the context of achieving desirable environmental outcomes. These include: volumetric analysis; gravimetric analysis; optical techniques (inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry); electroanalytical techniques such as potentiometry (ion-selective electrodes, potentiometric stripping analysis) and voltammetry (polarography, anodic stripping voltammetry); analytical separation techniques (ion chromatography, extraction); and automatic analytical techniques (flow injection analysis).

    The practical component of this subject involves the application of chromatographic (ion chromatography, gas chromatography and high performance liquid chromatography), electroanalytical (potentiometry, polarography and anodic stripping volatmmetry) and optical (atomic absorption spectrometry) analytical techniques to environmental samples.

  • The subject describes and evaluates the applications of ecological concepts for the conservation and management of natural and man-made ecosystems. In particular, it identifies the implications of global and local changes for ecological communities and habitats, especially within the Australian environment. It examines approaches to management of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, including the role of genetics, the effects of habitat fragmentation; the control of pest species, and restoration of damaged habitats

  • This subject provides a detailed synthesis of the physical processes and linkages operating within the earth’s coastal systems. The coast is one of the most intensively utilised landscapes worldwide and Australia is no exception. Population densities and development pressures are all rapidly rising providing ever increasing stress on the landscape. Intense human development is however a relatively recent phenomena. Coastal landforms operate over much longer timescales than people. Beaches and dunes have natural cycles of erosion and deposition of decadal to centennial scales while cliffs may have a history of several thousand years. It is therefore impossible to successfully manage, or simply enjoy this environment without knowledge of how it evolved and operates. During this course we will explore the operation and management of the key landforms found at the shore.

  • Australia is one of the most urbanised countries in an increasingly urbanised world. This subject will introduce students to urban ecology and landscape ecology concepts and illustrate how they can be applied to plan and design more ecologically sustainable human landscapes. Topics include the concept of scale in ecology, land transformation and habitat fragmentation, the structure and components of landscapes, patterns and processes along urban-rural gradients, the impacts of urbanisation on biodiversity and strategies to mitigate them.

  • The subject includes an outline of the framework for applying the concepts of risk assessment to achieve management goals. Students will learn how to perform fundamental exposure, hazard and ecological risk assessment procedures. The subject content includes the psychology and history of risk perception, exposure pathways, models for environmental toxicology, Australian standards for risk assessment, response surfaces, indicator species and exemplars, test endpoints, assessment endpoints and management goals, extrapolations among taxa, interval arithmetic, empirical modelling, parameter estimation, and risk assessment.

  • This subject introduces students to bushfires in Australia. The effects of fuel, weather and climate on the nature and periodicity of bushfires; the history of fire in Australia; the importance of fire to aboriginal culture and life; the effect bushfires have on fauna, flora, soils and hydrology; the importance of bushfire as an ecological process; the social and economic impact of bushfires; the role and impacts planned fire in the landscape; bushfire smoke and greenhouse gas production; design and planning of houses and towns in bushfire-prone environments.

  • This subject will investigate, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the fundamental physical and chemical processes governing groundwater flow and composition, including aquifer properties, regional geology and hydrology, water-rock interactions, and subsurface microbial activity. Field and laboratory methods used to characterize aquifer properties and groundwater chemistry, including well pumping tests, chemical tracers, and major ion and isotope analyses will also be covered. A two-day field excursion will draw together many of these concepts and topics.

  • AIMS

    This subject will introduce students to the use of imagery in the mapping of both human and natural environments. Imagery is often the cheapest way to gain spatial information about the environment, especially for large areas, but analysis and interpretation of the data requires sophisticated techniques. Usually the light or other electromagnetic radiation being emitted or reflected from the surface being imaged needs to be interpreted into another variable of interest, such as the type of vegetation on the surface. Once interpreted, the information must be communicated to others; usually in the form of maps or reports.

    This subject builds on a student’s knowledge of the physical and built environment relevant to their discipline and allows them to interpret and communicate that knowledge. On completion of the subject students should have the skills to perform routine image analysis tasks in the workplace using industry standard software. This subject partners with others to the Spatial Systems majors of the undergraduate science and environments degrees to allow the student to progress to the Master of Engineering (Spatial) or to enter the workforce in a paraprofessional role.

    INDICATIVE CONTENT

    • Image interpretation basics
    • Image acquisition and formation
    • Fundamentals of image processing and measurement
    • Both aerial photography and satellite imagery will be used to illustrate the techniques of measurement and interpretation by which both spatial position and semantic content can be extracted from image data.
  • Linear models are central to the theory and practice of modern statistics. They are used to model a response as a linear combination of explanatory variables and are the most widely used statistical models in practice. Starting with examples from a range of application areas this subject develops an elegant unified theory that includes the estimation of model parameters, quadratic forms, hypothesis testing using analysis of variance, model selection, diagnostics on model assumptions, and prediction. Both full rank models and models that are not of full rank are considered. The theory is illustrated using common models and experimental designs.

  • The oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface and are vital to the well being of humans in many ways. This subject covers our current understanding of the biology of marine organisms and how marine scientists assess environmental impacts, manage exploited species and conserve biodiversity.

  • The subject includes methods of hypothesis development, experimental design and testing in environmental impact assessment, design and analysis of sampling and monitoring programs and their subsequent analysis, and evaluating proposed solutions for their technical feasibility and risk.

  • This subject examines theories in the discipline of ecology and biogeography as they pertain to riverine environments, emphasising the use of theory to understand how to solve environmental management problems in river ecosystems. The subject examines the population, community and ecosystem dynamics of rivers, and the geographical distributions and diversities of the organisms that inhabit these ecosystems. Through practicals and fieldwork, students should develop an understanding of the relations between catchment characteristics, the nature of the water body and its associated biota. Students should become aware of the multidisciplinary nature of ecosystem management and the need for critical examination of ideas in the literature.

  • This subject provides a detailed knowledge of vegetation structure and natural values of Victorian plant communities and their assessment, including environmental limiting factors, threats due to land use, development and fragmentation, and management issues related to environmental impact assessment and conservation of native vegetation. The subject will be based around short excursions to examine different vegetation types in the Melbourne region, and a series of special lectures by scientists, managers and consultants from both the government and private sectors. Topics will include:

    • ecology and natural history of Victorian plant communities;

    • environmental impacts and vegetation assessment;

    • conservation and management issues (e.g. revegetation, rare species, faunal habitat, weed invasions);

    • biodiversity legislation and government agencies;

    • consulting services and client focus.

Entry requirements & Prerequisites

This major is available through more than one course, both of which have their own separate entry requirements.

You can read more on the the Bachelor of Environments & Bachelor of Science & Bachelor of Science Extended pages.