Monash University

Undergraduate - Area of study

Students who commenced study in 2015 should refer to this area of study entry for direction on the requirements; to check which units are currently available for enrolment, refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your area of study.

print version

This area of study entry applies to students commencing this course in 2015 and should be read in conjunction with the relevant course entry in the Handbook. Any units listed for this area of study relate only to the 'Requirements' outlined in the Faculty of Science component of any bachelors double degrees.

Managing facultyFaculty of Science
Offered bySchool of Biological Sciences
CoordinatorProfessor Paul Sunnucks (School of Biological Sciences)


  • Unit codes that are not linked to their entry in the Handbook are not available for study in the current year.


Globally, loss of biodiversity and the associated ecosystem services is reaching crisis levels. Ecology is the scientific study of interactions between organisms and their environment, the understanding of which is of both fundamental and applied interest. The major sequence in ecology and conservation biology equips students with knowledge of core ecological principles at levels from individuals to ecosystems. Strong emphasis is placed on applying those principles to real-life management issues, particularly in the conservation field. The key goals are to describe and explain pattern and process in the natural world, understand human impacts and devise practical means to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem function.

The extended major in ecology and conservation biology provides students with a broad and comprehensive and synthetic overview of contemporary ecology, conservation, and evolutionary biology, with particular focus on techniques for the exploration and analysis of the key issues facing humanity with respect to the management and persistence of biodiversity including ecosystem functions. This extended major encompasses the basic principles of the discipline, the biological questions that can be addressed by the study of biodiversity at the main recognised levels (genes, species and ecosystems), and introduced the latest methodologies, technologies and analyses in the light of their applications. Students will be equipped with the intellectual, experimental, analytical and communication skills required to gain employment in many situations including research institutes, government departments, schools and universities, analytical laboratories, environmental management companies, or to continue onto more specialised postgraduate studies.

Learning outcomes

Graduates will be able to:

  • understand ecology and conservation, exhibiting a coherent understanding of the field through articulating its methods and explaining why current ecological knowledge is contestable and testable through further inquiry. Graduates will recognise that ecological knowledge is acquired by curiosity and creativity and will apply creativity in thinking and problem-solving. They will be able to explain the principles underlying ecological and evolutionary interactions between organisms and their environment, and describe the application of those principles to conservation management. This knowledge will be complemented by an appreciation of the role and relevance of ecology in society, in particular, in connection with its significant role of biodiversity in sustaining life on our planet
  • exhibit depth and breadth of ecological knowledge by demonstrating a well-developed understanding of identified core concepts, making interdisciplinary connections in science and other disciplines
  • demonstrate inquiry and problem solving by: applying analytical and practical skills in the conduct of ecological studies in terrestrial, marine, or freshwater diverse environments including the identification of plants and animals, laboratory and field methods for their study, and quantitatively assessing their relationships with the physical and biotic environment; demonstrating analytical, numerical and practical management skills, including survey and inventory of biodiversity, ecological measurement, and techniques relevant to biological conservation, from genes to species to ecosystems including measurement of genetic and species diversity, adaptive management, risk analysis, and decision-making theory; critically analysing observations of ecological phenomena by creating and developing models and proposing and testing hypotheses; designing and conducting field, laboratory-based or virtual experiments, selecting and apply practical and/or theoretical techniques, and collecting, accurately recording, interpreting, analysing, and drawing conclusions from ecological data
  • demonstrate, in the context of the discipline, the graduate attributes of effective communication, working in teams, quantitative literacy, information and communication literacy, inquiry and critical thinking, and ethical, social and international understanding. Graduates will effectively synthesise and communicate ecological results using a range of modes (oral, written, and visual) for a variety of purposes and audiences
  • exhibit personal and professional responsibility, including being accountable for their own learning and ecological work by being independent and self-directed learners, with the ability to work effectively, responsibly and safely in individual and peer or team contexts. They will demonstrate knowledge of the regulatory frameworks and ethical principles relevant to their sub-disciplinary area within biology and apply these in practice. This will be accompanied by the capacity to undertake further study, research and employment in ecology and conservation biology or a related area of the biological sciences.


Level one

Level two

Level three

Sequence requirements

Minor in ecology and conservation biology (24 points)

Major in ecology and conservation biology (48 points)

Extended major in ecology and conservation biology (72 points)

* Note that this unit has a strict quota.

** These units have additional level two pre-requisites that will need to be taken in addition to the level one or two units listed.

Requirements for honours in ecology and conservation biology

Additional information

Level one

Coordinator: Dr Gerry Rayner/Professor Paul Sunnucks

Students studying ecology and conservation biology in their first year will take BIO1011 plus BIO1022 and/or BIO1042. The focus in first year is to provide the basic knowledge on the structure and evolution of animals, their cellular and molecular composition and the fundamentals of patterns and processes in ecological systems. Examples are drawn from a wide range of invertebrate and vertebrate animals to illustrate and explain the participants in ecological communities and their interactions with the environment.

Students must complete a level one statistics unit (SCI1020 or STA1010) which is a pre-requisite for BIO3011.

Level two

Coordinator: Professor Paul Sunnucks

Students planning to complete a major sequence must complete BIO2011, BIO2040 and BIO2022 before proceeding to level three ecology and conservation biology. Students planning to complete an extended major sequence must complete BIO2011, BIO2040, BIO2022, BIO2060 plus BIO2181 or BIO2231, BIO3990, GEN3062 or GEN3990 before proceeding to level three ecology and conservation biology. BIO3011 is a pre-requisite of honours in the are of study and, along with BIO2060, is highly recommended for all students for provision of skills and knowledge for quantitative analysis that is of broad use and in high demand by most types of employer of students with biology degrees. Level two ecology and conservation biology builds upon first year to examine patterns of biodiversity and the underpinning processes, and ecosystem processes that occur in natural food webs. A strong emphasis is placed on developing the core understanding of plant and animal taxa that make up biodiversity, and the ecological and evolutionary principles that underpin their occurrence and interactions. Conservation biology emphasises the application of ecological principles and modern evolutionary genetic and genomic approaches to manage species of conservation influence. The teaching in the units available at level two is a combination of lectures and practical activities, including field exercises and laboratory sessions examining live organisms and prepared specimens. Skills in taxonomic identification are also gained through hands-on practical activities. The four core level two units plus an option from second or third levels are required for completion of the ecology and conservation biology extended major.

Level three

Coordinator: Professor Paul Sunnucks

The final year of the ecology and conservation biology area of study builds upon the knowledge gained in earlier levels. BIO3011 and BIO3070 emphasise the practical skills needed to study ecological systems effectively, complemented by practical examples in BIO3111. The core units draw heavily on real examples from conservation and emphasise how the ecological principles taught in second year can be applied to addressing issues of conservation concern. These units combine lecture, practical and project work with time spent in the field directly assessing patterns of biodiversity and ecosystem function. The three core units are required for completion of the ecology and conservation biology major. The three core units plus two options are required for completion of the ecology and conservation biology extended major.

Note that recommended course streamsrecommended course streams ( with ecology and conservation biology as a major are available.


In addition to the requirements listed above, students must meet the entry requirements for the science honours program relevant to their course of enrolment. See the entries for:

  • S3002 Bachelor of Science Advanced - Research (Honours)
  • 0051 Bachelor of Science (Honours)
  • 2188 Bachelor of Science (Science Scholar Program) (Honours)

Full details regarding the course structure for honours in this area of study are outlined in course 0051 Bachelor of Science (Honours).

Relevant courses

Single degrees

  • 3544 Bachelor of Environmental Science
  • S2000 Bachelor of Science
  • S3001 Bachelor of Science Advanced - Global Challenges (Honours)
  • S3002 Bachelor of Science Advanced - Research (Honours)

Double degrees

  • 4642 Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering (Honours) and Bachelor of Science
  • 0530 Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science
  • 3528 Bachelor of Biomedical Science and Bachelor of Science
  • 1469 Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Science
  • D3005 Bachelor of Education (Honours) and Bachelor of Science
  • 4646 Bachelor of Environmental Engineering (Honours) and Bachelor of Science
  • 4069 Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Science
  • L3007 Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Science
  • 3517 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Computer Science
  • 4638 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
  • S2003 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Global Studies

Honours degrees

  • 0051 Bachelor of Science (Honours)
  • 2188 Bachelor of Science (Science Scholar Program) (Honours)