BIOSCI 766 : Global Change Ecology


2024 Semester One (1243) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Discusses the profound impacts global change processes have on ecological systems, including climate change, land use change, biodiversity loss and changes in biogeochemical cycles. Covers the complex concepts of global change and approaches for planning and mitigation. Some previous knowledge of ecology is desirable.

Course Overview

Global change is a growing threat for ecology and conservation. Addressing global change requires collaboration between between a huge range of people including researchers, policy makers, tangata whenua, land managers and community groups. Working with diverse groups of people requires clear and concise communication. We will be working to develop communication skills using a range of media to present complex problems in an accessible way.

The learning environment will be welcoming and inclusive. We will begin the course with a range of guest lectures to explore current research on global change within the University of Auckland. We will learn about the complex and interactive nature of global change impacts in Aotearoa. We will explore key vulnerabilities for species and ecosystems and strategies for mitigation.  

This course is designed for all students with an interest in ecology, biodiversity and conservation. While climate change is not the only relevant global change process, this is a threatening process that cannot be ignored.  With a focus on skills development through group learning and feedback, students will learn to distil complex scientific data to produce different forms of communication. 

Students will have the option to follow their own interests in their assessment work. Possible topic streams include -

- Terrestrial biodiversity-climate interactions

- Aquatic processes (marine and freshwater)

- Global change at the interface – urban/rural, marine/terrestrial

- Global change impacts on Indigenous communities

- Extinction vs sub-lethal impacts (physiological, behavioural impacts)

This is an exciting opportunity for students to increase their knowledge and understanding in a rapidly changing field.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 2: Sustainability
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 7: Collaboration
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism
Graduate Profile: Master of Ecology

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Describe the major factors and processes contributing to global change, with a focus on issues relevant to Aotearoa New Zealand (Capability 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  2. Identify and critically evaluate informative and relevant literature within their chosen topic of global change impacts (Capability 4, 5 and 6)
  3. Critically evaluate impacts, adaptation, vulnerability and opportunities for mitigation in the global change context (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  4. Identify and critically evaluate knowledge gaps and approaches for addressing uncertainty (Capability 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  5. Synthesise complex ecological information and create an informative infographic or conceptual diagram (Capability 3, 4 and 6)
  6. Plan, research and write a concise but informative piece for an informed audience on their chosen topic (Capability 3, 4 and 6)
  7. Provide constructive feedback to other students on their summary document (Capability 4 and 7)
  8. Consider and describe eco-anxiety and eco-grief as responses to environmental degradation and climate change (Capability 1 and 8)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Case Studies 5% Individual Coursework
Reports 10% Individual Coursework
Essay 40% Individual Coursework
Portfolio 20% Individual Coursework
Coursework 15% Individual Coursework
Discussions 10% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Case Studies


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Key Topics

Self directed learning could include any of the following list of global change topics. Students will produce a policy briefing document and infographic on their chosen topic once it has been approved by the subject coordinator. 
• Rising tropospheric, ozone, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide concentrations
• Changing global radiation and stratospheric ozone depletion
• Ecosystem and biome collapse
• Mechanisms of species and ecosystems resilience
• Contaminant and pollutant impacts of global relevance
• Biological adaptations and evolutionary processes
• Management in the face of climate change
• Invasive species
• Urbanisation
• Wildfire
• Global climate change
• Biological sinks and sources of atmospheric trace gases
• Perturbations of biogeochemical cycling
• Land use change and system connectivity
• Loss of biodiversity
• Biological feedback on climate change
• Biological mitigation for atmospheric change

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 20 hours of lectures/tutorials, 24 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 100 hours of work on assignments.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including weekly 2 hour lectures/tutorials to complete components of the course.
The course will include live events including group discussions and tutorials.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Students will be drawing on the latest literature on global change ecology so will be using journal articles, policy documents and briefing materials. Some of this will be provided but students will need to find materials suitable for their chosen research topic. Guidance will be provided on finding relevant materials.

Health & Safety

Maintaining good physical and mental health is an important part of an effective learning environment.  We acknowledge that climate anxiety and eco-anxiety can arise when discussing uncertainty about future climate and other issues associated with global change. We aim to foster a supportive atmosphere and encourage students to speak up if they feel distressed at any point. The subject coordinator has completed the St Johns Mental Health First Aid course but this does not replace the support of mental health professionals.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

This was a new course in 2023. Students were generally very satisfied with the course as they enjoyed the guest lectures and interactive seminars. The assessment structure was also well-received. One addition to the course in 2024 will be a session on eco-anxiety to address feelings about environmental degradation and climate change. 

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 06/11/2023 08:36 a.m.