Earth and Environmental Science

Earth and Environmental Science (A/T)

The knowledge, understanding and skills introduced in Earth and Environmental Science will encourage students to become confident, active citizens who can competently use diverse methods of inquiry, and will provide a foundation for further studies or employment in Earth and Environmental science-related fields.

Earth and Environmental Science is a multifaceted field of inquiry that focuses on interactions between the solid Earth, its water, its air and its living organisms, and on dynamic, interdependent relationships that have developed between these four components.

This subject emphasises the way Earth materials and processes generate environments including habitats where organisms live; the natural processes and human influences which induce changes in physical environments; and the ways in which organisms respond to those changes.

Unit 1: Introduction to Earth Systems

Students critically examine the scientific evidence for the origin of life, linking this with their understanding of the evolution of Earth’s hydrosphere and atmosphere. They review evidence from the fossil record that demonstrates the interrelationships between major changes in Earth’s systems and the evolution and extinction of organisms. They investigate how the distribution and viability of life on Earth influences, and is influenced by, Earth systems.

Unit 2: Earth Processes

Students explore how the transfer and transformation of energy from the sun and Earth’s interior enable and control processes within and between the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. Students examine how the transfer and transformation of heat and gravitational energy in Earth's interior drive movements of Earth’s tectonic plates. They analyse how the transfer of solar energy to Earth is influenced by the structure of the atmosphere; how air masses and ocean water move as a result of solar energy transfer and transformation to cause global weather patterns; and how changes in these atmospheric and oceanic processes can result in anomalous weather patterns.

Unit 3: Living on Earth

Students examine the occurrence of non-renewable mineral and energy resources and review how an understanding of Earth and environmental science processes guides resource exploration and extraction. They investigate how the rate of extraction and other environmental factors impact on the quality and availability of renewable resources, including water, energy resources and biota, and the importance of monitoring and modelling to manage these resources at local, regional and global scales. Students learn about ecosystem services and how natural and human-mediated changes of the biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and geosphere, including the pedosphere, influence resource availability and sustainable management.

Unit 4: The Changing Earth

Students review the scientific evidence for climate change models, including the examination of evidence from the geological record, and explore the tensions associated with differing interpretations of the same evidence. They consider the reliability of these models for predicting climate change, and the implications of future climate change events, including changing weather patterns, globally and in Australia (for example, changes in flooding patterns or aridity, and changes to vegetation distribution, river structure and groundwater recharge).

Students can complete a Major by completing 4 units or a Minor by completing any 2 units.