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.

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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 John Beardall (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.


Plants are arguably the most important organisms in our daily life - all life depends on plants in some way. They provide the oxygen on which aerobic life depends and they form the basis of food webs, so they support most of the diversity of life on our planet, both in the ocean and on land. Plants provide our food, and much of our clothing and shelter, drugs to prevent or combat disease, and fossil fuels that drive our modern lifestyle are derived from ancient plants. Our world and our lifestyle would be completely unrecognisable without plants.

Plant science is the study of plants, their diversity and structure, and how they function. It involves studying plants living on land, in the sea and in freshwater environments, from the scale of genes and molecules to ecology. Plants are a diverse set of organisms that are able to live autotrophically, harvesting light and using its energy to fix carbon and manufacture complex organic molecules. In plant science we study the great diversity of plant groups, from algae and mosses through to gymnosperms and angiosperms; we investigate how plants function, for example, how they obtain water and nutrients and how they use energy from sunlight to produce carbohydrates by photosynthesis. We also study how plants are adapted to particular environments, and the factors that influence the distribution and diversity of plant species and the plant communities in which they grow. These factors are particularly important in understanding the impact of human activities, including global climate change, on plant communities so that we can provide better management into the future.

Studying plant science begins with study of general biology in first year, in which the basics of plant chemistry, genetics, structure, function, evolution and ecology are covered. In second year, studies focus on the different types of plants, their key features and evolutionary development, and on the structure and development of plants and how these are integrated with plant function. These studies continue at third year, with units focusing on the biology and ecology of terrestrial and aquatic plants and plant communities in their natural environment. Additional units can be included that expand on some aspects of research methods, ecological management, and the biology and ecology of aquatic organisms. Students may also include units that focus more on genetic control of development and function, or on plant biotechnology.

Examples of careers available to students that study plant sciences include environmental management and consulting, biotechnology, a range of careers in government departments (e.g. related to environmental issues, park management, primary industry and sustainability), crop science, research and teaching.

Learning outcomes

Graduates will be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the methods used in plant sciences and explain how scientific knowledge is contestable and testable by further enquiry and recognise the importance of biodiversity for sustaining life on our planet
  • exhibit a breadth of knowledge about plant diversity and the evolution and ecology of the major plant groups, including the development, morphology and physiology of plants and how these are integrated with plant function
  • gather, synthesize and critically evaluate information relevant to the plant sciences by applying practical and/or theoretical techniques and tools to conduct an investigation within the lab, field or virtual environment
  • convey scientific ideas, results and arguments effectively to diverse audiences and in a variety of modes
  • work and learn independently and collaboratively while exercising personal, professional and social responsibility that recognises the importance of practising plant sciences sustainably, ethically and safely in an internationalised world.


Level one

Level two

Level three

  • BIO3011 Research methods in biology
  • BIO3021 Marine biology
  • BIO3070 Trends in ecology
  • BIO3082 Global change biology
  • BIO3091 Biology of Australian vegetation
  • BIO3820 Tropical terrestrial biology
  • BIO3990 Biology in action research project
  • GEN3030 Molecular, cellular and developmental genetics
  • GEN3040 Genomics and its applications
  • GEN3062 Evolutionary and ecological genetics
  • GEN3990 Genetics in action research project

Sequence requirements

Minor in plant sciences (24 points)

Major in plant sciences (48 points)

* These units have compulsory level-one and/or level-two prerequisites beyond those units listed at level two.

Requirements for honours in plant sciences

Additional information

Level one

Coordinator: Dr Gerry Rayner

Students studying plant sciences will take BIO1011 plus BIO1042 and/or BIO1022 in their first year. The focus in first year is to provide basic knowledge of the structure and evolution of plants, their cellular and molecular composition, genetics from the scale of molecule to population, and some fundamentals of physiology and ecology that assist in understanding plant adaptations to the environment.

Level two

Coordinator: Professor John Beardall

Students planning to complete a major must study BIO2181 and BIO2022 or GEN2041 before proceeding to level three plant sciences. There is also the option to include BIO2011 in the major. Alternatively, completion of the level two plant science units after a sequence in biology at first year can comprise a minor in plant sciences. Level two plant sciences builds upon studies at first year to examine the diversity and evolutionary development of plants in more detail. It starts by focusing on key features of the different plant groups and the implications of evolutionary developments for the spread and diversification of particular groups. Students examine the implications of autotrophy and being sessile, and how these factors have shaped differences in function and behaviour of plants compared with animals. Aspects of plant function and structure are then investigated in detail, including uptake and transport of nutrients and water, gas exchange and assimilation processes, and reproduction, and how these are modified in the short-term and in the long-term by environmental factors.

Teaching of these units involves a combination of lectures and practical activities, including plant identification and investigation of live plants and their structure and function in the laboratory, glasshouse and in the field.

Level three

Coordinator: Professor John Beardall

The third year of plant sciences builds upon the knowledge gained in earlier years and continues it in BIO3091 and BIO3082. These units focus first on understanding the characteristics of Australian plant species and plant communities, and the factors that have shaped their development and distribution. The emphasis then shifts to focus on plant development, how it is controlled by environmental signals, and the way that plant growth and productivity respond to environmental factors such as light and temperature, or to stresses like drought and salinisation. These are discussed at scales ranging from molecular changes in gene expression to effects on communities. These units combine lecture, practical and project work with some time spent in the field seeing plants in action. Both units are required for completion of the plant sciences major, along with one or two from a range of other units offered by the school, including BIO3021, BIO3011, GEN3030 and GEN3040. Several of these level three units have other prerequisites at level one and level two that do not contribute to the major or minor in plant sciences.

Note that recommended course streams for the major are available and you can view examples of degree structures that a student could take with plant sciences as their majorexamples of degree structures that a student could take with plant sciences as their major (


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)