ENVSCI 201 : Natural and Human Environmental Systems


2024 Semester One (1243) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

An examination of current environmental issues in coupled natural and human systems such as urban environments. Interactions among biological, physical and social processes are discussed and means of measuring and managing the environmental outcomes of their interactions are addressed.

Course Overview

In ENVSCI 201 you will study how humans modify environmental systems, the potential impact this has, and what we can do about it. The course focuses on the two major human activities: urbanisation and agriculture. You will link what humans do in urban and agricultural systems to interactions among biological, physical, and social processes to better understand the fundamental issues caused when we build cities and produce food, and how we might go about proposing solutions.

The course will start by considering the challenge of maintaining healthy waters in the face of urban and agricultural development. As part of this you will study the fundamental changes to the physical environment, how the ecological health of systems is changed, how we try to measure and manage those systems, and prospects for restoring some of the natural function of places with a high human footprint. You will then consider how humans can modify the chemical composition of our environment through the release of pollutants. We will cover traditional sources of pollution (e.g. pesticides, persistent organic pollutants) and reflect on how practices have (luckily!) evolved over the last decades with the introduction of international regulation (e.g. Stockholm Convention). Based on the lessons learnt, we will then consider contaminants of emerging concerns (e.g. pharmaceuticals, microplastics) and discuss what can be done to reduce their release and impact on human and environmental health. To round off the course, you will bring together these two ideas (freshwater and pollution) to critically examine a proposed environmental solution. The physical problem is the pollution of urban freshwaters. The proposed solution is to develop the Water Sensitive City. The critical part is to examine how certain assumptions about how the world works get sneaked into the solution, and how this limits its more radical potential. The course therefore establish a foundation for thinking more critically about efforts to deal with the environmental crisis writ large.

The course includes lecture and discussion sessions and a series of tutorials. In the tutorials you will use real-world data to consider issues raised in class. A key focus of those is learning how to interpret data and present them in multiple formats for different audiences.  Yes the course is about two major human activities, urbanisation and agriculture, and how they change the ecology, chemistry, and health of key environmental systems. But more than that, the course will provide you with a way into examining the current theories, methods, and approaches put forward to address complex environmental problems and their shortcomings. 

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: At least 45 points at Stage I

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: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Characterise the interactions between human, biophysical and ecological processes (Capability 1 and 2)
  2. Evaluate the effects of urbanization and agriculture on chemistry and ecosystem function (Capability 3)
  3. Obtain, analyze, synthesize and interpret data in the context of the contemporary literature (Capability 3 and 4)
  4. Recommend ways to manage the impact of human activities on environmental systems (Capability 5, 6, 7 and 8)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Tests 50% Individual Test
Assignments 50% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

As part of the University-wide Tuākana community, The School of Environment Tuākana Programme aims to provide a welcoming learning environment for and enhance the success of, all of our Māori and Pacific students. We are led by the principles of tautoko (support) and whanaungatanga (connection) and hope you find a home here at the School. Students who have identified as Māori and/or Pacific will receive an invitation to our online portal introducing the Programme, the resources we have available, and how you can get involved. This course is supported by our Programme Coordinator, Kaiāwhina/Māori student adviser, and Pacific student adviser. They are able to organize group study and facilitate direct assistance regarding material taught in this course. 

Special Requirements

Field-based exercises.

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 24 hours of lectures, a 1-hour tutorial per week, ~ 120 hours of reading and thinking about the content, work on assignments, and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled classes, including lectures and laboratories/tutorials to complete components of the course. Lectures will be available as recordings, but other learning activities including laboratories/tutorials will not be available as recordings.

Attendance on campus is required for the final examination.

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.


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.

As a stage 2 course, this is a step up from stage 1; consequently, students are expected to think for themselves. This requires effort from staff and students, particularly in communicating expectations, which is the focus of improvements this year. Although not a prerequisite, it is strongly recommended that students have completed ENVSCI 101 before they take this class and come prepared to engage independently with course content.  

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 http://disability.auckland.ac.nz

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 https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/academic-information/exams-and-final-results/during-exams/aegrotat-and-compassionate-consideration.html.

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 https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/forms-policies-and-guidelines/student-policies-and-guidelines/student-charter.html.


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 08:40 a.m.