Faculty of Science

Monash University

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2014 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered, or view unit timetables.

FacultyFaculty of Science
Organisational UnitSchool of Geosciences
OfferedClayton Second semester 2014 (Day)
Coordinator(s)Dr Jeffrey Stilwell


Investigates evolutionary patterns of Gondwana fauna, for 3.8 billion years. Topics: origin of life, metazoan origins in late Precambrian, Cambrian 'explosion' of shelled organisms, rapid evolution and mass extinctions (acritarchs, dinosaurs), biologic effect extraterrestrial impacts, volcanism, changing climate and geography (impact of developing aridity on biota, 'Snowball Earth' metazoan origins), origin of major animal groups (molluscs, marsupials). Emphasis on strengths/weaknesses of interpretive methods and how complex science can be presented to a wide audience. Optional Field Trip.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Recount some detail of the course of life on Earth from 3.8 billion years to present;

  1. Interpret the effect that tectonic plate movement and the waxing and waning of continents and ocean basins have had on the biosphere, climate and environments through time;

  1. Summarise the background to the formation of the modern biosphere of Australasia - that modern environments and climate in Australia are very atypical, and how this has impact on the future predictions of climatic and environmental change;

  1. Appraise how the fossil record can be used in the dating of rock sequences;

  1. Elucidate how the biosphere interacts significantly with the physical environment;

  1. Outline the history of research in palaeontology on the Australian continent;

  1. Illustrate how to present a research paper at a scientific meeting in the form of an oral presentation and a poster, how to interpret scientific research to a public audience and also how to deal with the media.


Poster (A0) and Essay (2000 words) worth 10% each: 20%
Oral Presentation: 10%
Examination (2 hour): 30%
Laboratory work: 40%

Students must pass the theory examination to achieve an overall pass grade. Students who do not pass the theory examination will receive a mark of 45%, unless their aggregate mark is lower in which case that mark will be recorded.

Chief examiner(s)

Workload requirements

Two 1-hour lectures and one 3-hour practical per week.

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study