University Subjects

BIOL10001: Biology of Australian Flora and Fauna

BIOL10001: Biology of Australian Flora and Fauna

University of Melbourne
Subject Link
View Subject

Subject Reviews


10 years ago

1 X Large, Intimidating Exam!(60%)

This exam proved all of my hitherto unfounded fears about this subject. It wants detail. A lot of detail. The exam is entirely fair in that it only tests what was in the lectures, but you need to know EVERYTHING that isn't explicitly peripheral. And I mean everything. There was a question about how the Northern Pacific seastar affected the populations of spotted handfish, which came up as a seemingly random aside during Jenny Martin's lectures. There were so many little nitty-gritty details in the multiple choice (some of them anyway) and the fill-in-the-blank questions that I'd wager a large number of people were quite shocked by the exam. Don't neglect the fisheries lecture because it seems unstructured or tangential; there was a highly detailed Section B question worth 7% of the exam on this and I'm very glad I decided to spend the morning looking at this lecture, the only one I hadn't studied extensively (or at all).

The exam, by the way, has three sections (multiple choice+T/F, fill-in-the-blanks and "short" answer). Section C (short answer) was exhausting, and I spent 2 and a half of the 3 hours available in the exam completing this section, worth just 74 of the 180 marks. The questions are, mercifully, broader and more open this time, though you will need to detail some specifics if you want all the marks. The questions were mostly fair, though some were strange and unwelcome, like Ian Woodrow's "three features of a CAM plant question" (he really taught us only one, the obvious 'stomata closed at night' feature), which almost felt like he wanted to know about the many features of xerophytes. I stated the aforementioned reason alongside their storage of CO2 in malic acid and their usage of a PEP carboxylase enzyme pump (but explicitly stated they shared these features with all or some C4 plants). Jenny Martin also asked us to discuss biodiversity of our oceans with reference to upwellings, the intermediate disturbance hypothesis and geological events; this question was quite strange and required you to think outside the box using little snippets of her and Jan Carey's lectures to provide a sensible answer; she never discussed this topic in direct relation to the other three, so the question made you think actively (a good thing), but was objectively ill-worded, as her discussion of geology and the intermediate disturbance hypothesis was quite ephemeral (necessitatingthe self-derived answer). The remainder of the questions were very sensible, but my wrist died by the end of this exam; there was SO MUCH WRITING for that 43% of the exam I wanted to cry by the end. I suspect you could get away with writing far less than I did, but I was keen to cover all bases due to the amount of detail that could be assessed and not put in my answer. These questions will all be answerable if you've studied properly, and completely awful if you haven't (though you can probably write something down based on your own logic and bullshitting ability for half of them), and that goes for the entirety of the exam. STUDY EVERYTHING PROPERLY AND LISTEN TO THE LECTURES AT HOME OR YOU WILL MISS OUT.
1 X M S T(15%)

The mid-semester test is an entirely multiple-choice affair of 25 1-mark questions, and is quite well-structured. As I understand, from next year onward it will switch to an online format, but I assume the test is taken under tutor supervision on university computers. If not, this is a free 15%!
This test was designed to cover a wide range of the topics covered by lecturers, and, provided you had studied the lectures (1-15 were tested, in week 8 of semester) was not particularly difficult, though there were a few obscure questions. This test, more than anything, really serves as a covert warning for the exam itself, showing that this subject isn't as bludgy as you thought and you do actually need to know things in detail. Only 3 people from a 300+ cohort achieved 100% on the test (one of them was a Masters student), but the vast majority of people sat comfortably in the H2B-H1 range. Don't underestimate this subject; please study the relevant lectures properly for this test, because some very specific things come up! The saving grace is that no understanding is really required; you just have to know the facts to do well (but there are an awful lot of them).
2 X Self-Study Activities( I L As)(12.5% Each)

Let's start the proceedings with the most poorly handled part of the course! Upon beginning these assignments (two chosen at random each year by the staff to prevent collusion with former BIOL10001 students), you will discover that Trisha Downing is hypocritical and makes mountains out of molehills. She is a self-proclaimed believer in the fact that she had it harder when she went to university and will, make no mistake, deduct marks for things that aren't even incorrect after contradicting herself five times on the LMS discussion board. If you have Trisha as a tutor, SWAP TO EMMA'S TUTORIALS IMMEDIATELY; Emma is straightforward, extraordinarily friendly and very fair. Email her if you have problems, and only resort to the discussion board if you have to (if Emma is away doing botanical work, for instance).

ILA 3 was about soil and nutrients, and how these related to plants in various ways. I won't bother describing the ILAs themselves as you'll have a different combination of them next year, but what I would like to highlight is this; Trisha not only consistently gave strange, contradictory feedback on question queries, but contradicted herself regarding a 1000 word limit SEVEN TIMES on the discussion board. SEVEN. There was a minor student uproar and in the end I don't think the world limit was imposed; it was far too restrictive for what the assignment entailed. I flipped my table, wrote 2.5k words and got 100% for this; Emma actively dislikes Trisha and doesn't seem to care too much about what she says. ILA 7 was about the reproductive biology of mammals and was also handled like a pile of liquefied cow excrement. Trisha told us we had to put four variables onto a single graph. Then, the night before the final day we had to work on the assignment, she "discovered" that it was, in fact, meant to be three graphs. She helpfully provided (an unhelpful type of) graph paper and told us we had to do that instead. It transpired that this was the ONLY CORRECT WAY to present the graphs. Fuck you, Trisha, you had three weeks to figure this out. Needless to say, students were all in an uproar (furore even) over the whole debacle and Emma actually took our tute group aside and told us she strongly disagreed with Trisha and would mark us fairly. Of course, given how strange Trisha's explanations were, most people answered the entirety of the graph questions inappropriately anyway.

With regards to the marking of these assignments, it wasn't particularly harsh. Trisha will possibly take away marks for things that aren't really incorrect, but Emma is very reasonable. I lost 1 mark (of 12.5) for forgetting to alphabetically order my reference list and 1 mark for misinterpreting my graphs on ILA 7, but these mistakes had nothing to do with the actual content of the assignment; if you invest time and effort into presenting the content you should come away with an H2A or H1. I WILL say that doing outside research is important for a good mark on your ILA, as is correct in-line citation practice. reCite is your best friend. Note that you can reference websites and the like as this is not a research essay; standards for the quality of references are surprisingly low. Overall, these assignments were handled very poorly and were a lot more effort than they were worth, letting the otherwise well-run and interesting subject down a huge amount.

Biology of Australian Flora & Fauna was, overall, a fantastic introduction to the fields of botany, zoology and ecology (with quite a few nods to the importance of geography, meteorology and geology) with relation to Australia, which is (as you will discover) a very large place with an intriguing history and biota. Most of the relevant comments have already been made above, but if you are looking for a science elective that exposes you to new things or if you think you may be interested in zoology and botany, this subject will hopefully convince you that you're interested in these fields. For me, it consolidated my choice to study zoology and made me actually find plants interesting, and it's not really that hard to pull an 80 with some effort, so taking this subject could be quite eye-opening and beneficial to your average as well. From this subject, you take away a suite of knowledge that should provide a stable foundation for understanding Australian biology, but more than that it helps to give a general feel for relevant fields and provides you with a better understanding of how various macroscopic and microscopic scientific professions can come together to analyse a habitat, ecosystem or ecological issue. What this subject covers are things glossed over rapidly or not even considered by the core biology subjects, so if you're into life science I strongly recommend it. Just make sure to land in Emma Lewis's tutorial session.
Ian Woodrow Lectures7-11

Ian is also a botanist and covers the invasion of the prickly pear (genus Opuntia) into Australia, CAM plants and adaptations, the managing of energy loads via latent/sensible heat loss and the adaptations of xerophytes to their environments. He speaks at a glacial pace, but when listening to his lectures I found that many of the most important facts came from the rare spells in which he spoke too fast to write everything down the first time. His lecture content was actually quite interesting, even if he was not. Be prepared to remember things you think were peripheral from his lectures, like the name of the chemical people once used to kill the prickly pear, the name of the pigment the cochineal mealybug yields and the two identification tests for a CAM plant (one of which is incredibly silly).
Jan Carey Lectures25-28

Jan covers marine algae, with emphasis on seaweeds, then moves briefly onto freshwater plants/protists before going back to the ocean to discuss seagrasses, mangroves and finally coral reef flora. Her lectures were quite boring in person, but I found them fairly well-structured during revision. Make sure you don't neglect her sections on the uses of marine plants and their ecosystem importance. While most people found Jan and her lectures dull, it can't be said that she taught unimportant concepts or that she didn't teach a well-rounded area of the subject. Her exam questions were quite forgiving and left room for interpretation in the short answer.
Jenny Martin Lectures23-24,29-33

Jenny covers Australian mammal diversity and reproduction, then returns later to talk about Australia's marine habitats and diversity, upwelling zones, the fauna and importance of temperate waters, coral reefs and fisheries. Jenny is a very friendly lecturer and does a good job of lecturing, but occasionally is stumped by questions, since she is lecturing outside her field of expertise for five of her lectures. Her questions on the exam were quite hard and specific, but I can't hate her for it.
Kath Handasyde Lectures12-22

Kath covered an enormous range of topics in quite a lot of detail; these included the adaptations of animals to desert, alpine and rainforest environments, the importance of rainforest, an unbelievable amount on Australian invertebrate diversity and the importance of ants and termites in our ecosystems, invertebrate conservation, Australian birds and mating systems (apostlebirds are fucking cute), Australian frogs (emphasis on reproductive diversity) and Australian reptile diversity (do learn the family names and ins and outs of this lecture in a lot of detail). Kath's questions are well-structured and put together, testing a large number of concepts in a cute little one-liner or multiple choice, and are also very fair, provided you've studied her lectures. Kath herself is wonderfully enthusiastic and a great lecturer, but speaks at a breakneck pace; if you only listen to the recordings from one lecturer, make it hers.
Lectopia Enabled
Yes, without screen capture. I strongly recommend you download these all and relisten to them; you WILL miss important details the first time around. Use your printed slides to help figure out the pacing and topics the lecturer is covering.
Mike Bayly, Ian Woodrow, Katherine Handasyde, Jenny Martin, Jan Carey, Terry Walshe
Mike Bayly Lectures1-6

Mike (who looks a bit like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo but with bulging eyes) is one of the subject coordinators and covers the topics of Australia's geological history, Australian rainforest plants, sclerophylly and the plant families Fabaceae, Mimosaceae, Myrtaceae and Proteaceae. He is friendly, highly approachable and extremely helpful, and his lectures are moderately paced and easily digestible; you may find yourself at least a little interested in plants by the time his lecture series concludes. It's worth noting that he really wants you to learn the detail from his lectures and I strongly advise you to get a good handle on it before the mid-semester test. He puts online quizzes up for self-assessment of his material, so take these every so often to ensure you've committed his topics to heart.
Past Exams Available
There is a single sample exam posted on the LMS late in the semester, but it's effectively useless; no short answer solutions are given and the multiple choice/fill-in-the-blanks are entirely unrepresentative of the actual exam.
4.25 out of 5
Terry Walshe Lectures34-36

Terry (very poorly) covers some concepts in conservation biology very briefly, such as the importance of stochasticity, the Lazarus effect, Solow's equation and Population Viability Analysis. His lectures make no sense when you listen to them, but if you take notes during them you'll find they make sense to you later. Use the lecture recordings, slides and Google and revising his content adequately will probably only take a couple of hours. It's a fairly laidback addendum to the main bulk of the subject, but make sure you DO study it. Google anything you're confused by; I promise it isn't that bad, even if he's an egotistical dick.
Textbook Recommendation
R B Knox, P Y Ladiges, B K Evans and R Saint, Biology, An Australian Focus. 4th Ed, McGraw-Hill, 2009
36 x 1 hr lectures, 5 x 1 hr tutorials, 10 x self-study activities (2 of which are assessed)
Year & Semester Of Completion
2013, Semester Two
Your Mark / Grade
95 (H1) :D

Did you find this review helpful?

Australia Treasury

Help shape the future for all Australians

Want to make an impact to your local community and across Australia? Join Treasury, the Government’s lead economic advisor and be involved in developing policies and providing well informed, innovative and sound advice on key issues that impact Australians.

Find out more