Course Title: The Soil Environment

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: The Soil Environment

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


135H Applied Sciences


Sem 2 2006,
Sem 2 2007,
Sem 2 2008,
Sem 2 2009,
Sem 2 2010,
Sem 2 2011,
Sem 2 2012,
Sem 2 2013,
Sem 2 2014,
Sem 2 2015,
Sem 2 2016


City Campus


171H School of Science


Sem 2 2017,
Sem 2 2018,
Sem 2 2019,
Sem 2 2020

Course Coordinator: Dr Samantha Grover

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 1982

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 3.02.09

Course Coordinator Availability: Drop in session most Thursdays in semester 9:30-10:30am

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

The chemistry of soils is covered in CHEM1085 Chemistry of Sediments and Soils. It is recommended as a complementary course to ENVI1012 The Soil Environment.

You should have satisfactorily completed ENVI1142, ENVI1146, CHEM1014, CHEM1015, ENVI1008, before you commence this course.

Alternatively you may be able to demonstrate the required skills and knowledge before you start this course. Contact your course coordinator if you think you may be eligible for recognition of prior learning. For further information go to Recognition of prior learning (RPL) in Higher Education.

Course Description

Soils are fundamental to life. Every meal you eat, your clothes, your house: these have all come from the soil. Even the air we breathe is directly affected by soil processes. In this course, The Soil Environment, we will explore how soils support life and how we can sustainably manage the earth’s finite soil resource. Foundational knowledge of soil formation, soil physics and soil biology drawn from Soil Science Australia’s curriculum for Certified Professional Soil Scientists inform the key concepts covered in this course. We will explore how soil management interacts with critical global issues, such as climate change and food security. Field work and laboratory testing with Australian soils will develop your technical skills and team work expertise. Assessment tasks will support your soil science knowledge development over the semester and culminate in an industry-relevant assignment that will enable you to showcase your scientific and communication expertise.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

Course Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this course you will be able to

CLO 1 Describe how soils form and identify the components of soils

CLO 2 Describe, test and classify Australian soils using the Australian Soil Classification

CLO 3 Illustrate the concepts of soil physics and apply appropriate soil physics analyses to environmental problems

CLO 4 Illustrate the concepts of soil biology and identify appropriate soil biology analyses to environmental problems

CLO 5 Recognise how management impacts upon soil and apply concepts of land capability to environmental problems

CLO 6 Outline the interconnections between soil health and critical global issues such as climate change and food security

CLO 7 communicate convincingly about soils to a range of audiences in written and visual format

For ENVI 1012 students this course contributes to the development of the following Program Learning Outcomes (PLO) at AQF level 7:

  • PLO 1: Understanding science. Demonstrate a coherent understanding of environmental science.
  • PLO 2: Scientific knowledge. Exhibit depth and breadth of environmental science knowledge.
  • PLO 3: Inquiry and problem solving. Critically analyse and solve problems in environmental science.
  • PLO 4: Communication. Be an effective communicator of environmental sciences.
  • PLO 5: Personal and professional responsibility. Be accountable for individual learning and scientific work in environmental science.

For ENVI 1217 students this course contributes to the development of the following Program Learning Outcomes (PLO) at AQF level 9:

  • PLO 1.2: Knowledge. Knowledge of research principles and methods applicable to studying the chemical, biological and physical processes occurring in the environment
  • PLO 2.1: Skills. Cognitive skills which demonstrate mastery of theoretical knowledge about environmental processes enabling critical reflection on environmental theory and professional practice or scholarship
  • PLO 2.4: Skills. Communication and technical research skills to enable you to justify and interpret theoretical propositions, methodologies, conclusions and professional decisions to specialist and non-specialist audiences

PLO 3.1: Application of knowledge and skills. Apply knowledge and skills with creativity and initiative to new situations in your role as an environmental professional practitioner and/or in your further studies

Overview of Learning Activities

This is a Blended Learning Course, combining face to face and online learning. As part of this Course, you will

  • regularly access on-line learning resources via Canvas
  • undertake independent research and private study, working through the course material each week and developing independent leaning skills
  • attend lectorials in which syllabus material will be presented and explained using a range of presentation techniques; topics will be illustrated with demonstrations and examples.
  • actively participate in small group activities during lectorials
  • participate in 3 field excursions to relevant locations around Melbourne;
  • participate in peer-assisted learning activities, including constructively reviewing written and visual work
  • develop your written communication skills by writing technical reports and writing, reviewing and redrafting a soil science communication piece

Teacher guided hours: 42, Learner directed hours 72

Overview of Learning Resources

Resources for this course will be provided in the form of on-line materials and relevant reference sources which will be listed in lecture materials and discussed in lectures.  A number of texts and scientific journal articles will also be used as recommended reading materials.

Overview of Assessment

In this course you will complete:

  • Field trip reports (3, worth a total of 15%; CLOs 1,2,7 Weeks 3,7,9)
  • Laboratory reports (2, worth a total of 10%; CLOs 1,2,7 Weeks 4,6)
  • Soil Science Communication Assignment: A 4 part written and visual exercise comprising a first draft of science communication assignment, a peer review of 2 class mates’ work, a final draft of a science communication piece and a reflection on the process (35%; CLOs 3,4,5,6,7) Weeks 8-12)
  • In-class test (25%; CLOs 1,2,3,4,5,6 Week 12)

The technical reports from your field and laboratory exercises will provide you with the opportunity to practise detailed observation and recording of soils in the field and laboratory, reflection on the implications of these observations, and communication of scientific knowledge in a technical report format.

The soil science communication assignment will develop your independent research skills and build your capacity to convincingly communicate scientific concepts to a range of audiences. You will engage in peer to peer learning, giving and receiving constructive criticism on a draft of your work and revising to produce a polished final product for possible public distribution.