GEOG 334 : Environmental Change


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

An exploration of the nature and causes of change in selected aspects of the physical environment. Key themes are: a) natural processes driving environmental change and variability; b) humans as agents of change, and; c) biophysical and societal sensitivity to change. Course content will include past, present, and future interactions between society and environmental change, with examples primarily drawn from climatology, hydrology/water resources, and ecology.

Course Overview

This course explores of the nature and causes of change in selected aspects of the biophysical environment during the late Quaternary and Holocene. During the course we will explore selected approaches to reconstructing past environmental change and variability, such as dendrochronology,  radiocarbon dating, palynology, and ecological modelling.  As a key theme is humans as agents of change, particular attention given to examples from New Zealand since human arrival in the late 13th century. The course is useful for students in geography, earth science and allied disciplines such as archaeology, and will support into further study in environmental change at postgraduate level. It will be useful to students looking ahead to careers in environmental sectors.

The course content is delivered using a combination of lectures and laboratory exercises. A remote version of the course will be provided to students located overseas - please contact course coordinator for details. 

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 45 points at Stage II, including EARTHSCI 261 or GEOG 261, or equivalent

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Explain and apply selected methods used to reconstruct and date past environmental changes (Capability 1 and 2)
  2. Describe and discuss aspects of environmental change during the late Quaternary and Holocene (at multiple time scales) and potential future change (Capability 1, 2 and 6)
  3. Demonstrate awareness of likely causes of environmental change and be familiar with the underlying processes (Capability 1 and 2)
  4. Understand and appreciate the concept of uniformitarianism and its central importance to environmental change research (Capability 1 and 2)
  5. Identify, evaluate and apply selected analytical skills for environmental change research (Capability 1, 3, 5 and 6)
  6. Develop and demonstrate skills in formal writing and scientific communication (Capability 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 30% Individual Coursework
Laboratories 30% Individual Coursework
Exam 40% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6


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 organise group study and facilitate direct assistance regarding material taught in this course. 

For more information regarding the Tuakana Programme please see:

Key Topics

  • Holocene context and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction
  • Chronology and sources of proxy records
  • Reconstructing past climate and societal change
  • Reconstructing ecological change
  • The New Zealand story: fire, extinction and ecosystem change
  • Biodiversity in the Anthropocene

Learning Resources

Neil Roberts, 2014. The Holocene: an environmental history. Chichester, England: Wiley Blackwell. 3rd edition
Other readings are recommended with each lecture.

Special Requirements

There are no special requirements for this course.

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, 12 hours of tutorials (6 x 2 hours), 48 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 66 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Digital 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.


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.

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 against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

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 at

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.

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.

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 you may be asked to submit your 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. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 04/08/2020 12:57 p.m.