C&ENVENG 4108 - Environmental Systems Dynamics

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2020

Natural environments are complex systems involving many different drivers and interacting components. Such components include the ecological processes of species interaction, the physical processes of contaminant transport, and the human processes driven by social values, policy and economics. This course presents a system dynamics approach towards understanding and modelling environmental systems. The emphasis will be on the development and analysis of models that describe the material flows and feedback processes within environmental systems, and the influence of environmental management. In the assignments and the projects, the system dynamics framework will be applied to some of the following systems: capacity constrained population growth and decay; predator-prey systems; coupled hydrology and wildlife systems; species migration; and matter cycling in ecosystems. Extensions to advanced integrated modelling of environmental systems will also be explored.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code C&ENVENG 4108
    Course Environmental Systems Dynamics
    Coordinating Unit School of Civil, Environmental & Mining Eng
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 4 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Assumed Knowledge C&ENVENG 3029, C&ENVENG 3079, C&ENVENG 3077, ECON 3500 & ENV BIOL 2005
    Assessment Assignments, essay, ANP design project
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Aaron Zecchin

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

    Please refer to the Course Profile on MyUni for more specific details.
  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

    1 Recognise the complex structure of environmental systems (dynamic, spatially distributed, multi-component, multi-process, integrated, and responsive), and apply qualitative modelling techniques (causal loop diagrams, and system-dynamics models) to describe and analyse the influence and feedback structures within these systems
    2 Comprehend the mathematical concepts underlying the quantification of system-dynamics models, and be able to construct quantitative models (ranging from low to high complexity) for the simulation of dynamic environmental systems.
    3 Comprehend fundamental dynamic systems theory concepts (phase-line and phase-space representations, nullclines, equilibria and stability analysis) and apply them to analyse 1- and 2-D dynamic systems.
    4 Classify the sources of uncertainty in environmental models, and be able to develop and analyse stochastic system-dynamics models (using the first order-second-moment method, and Monte Carlo analysis)
    5 Design structured computational studies, using system-dynamics models, to investigate and analyse the dynamic response of environmental systems subject to changing environmental conditions, and assessment of management policy interventions. Investigations include: parameter sensitivity and perturbation analysis; parametric and structural scenario analysis; and uncertainty analysis.
    6 Prepare engineering reports based on results from computational studies of environmental systems, involving a detailed presentation and analysis of modelling results, with lucid discussion and interpretation.
    7 Demonstrate knowledge of the broader field of integrated modelling of human-environmental systems, and review and critique current state-of-the-art frameworks.

    The above course learning outcomes are aligned with the Engineers Australia Stage 1 Competency Standard for the Professional Engineer.
    The course is designed to develop the following Elements of Competency: 1.1   1.2   1.3   1.4   1.5   1.6   2.1   2.2   2.3   3.2   3.3   3.5   3.6   

    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1 - 5, 7
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    2 - 6
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    5 - 7
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    5, 6
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    The course is largely built around the following book by Andrew Ford. I strongly urge all students to purchase this book as it will prove to be essential.

    Ford, A., (2010). Modelling the Environment, 2nd Ed, Island Press, Washington, US
    Recommended Resources
    The following book by Michael Deaton and James Winebrake will be extremely useful. It provides more of a mathematical basis to the stock and flow models used within the course.

    Deaton, M.L., and Winebrake, J.J., (2000). Dynamic Modelling of Environmental Systems, Springer  Science + Business Media, LLC, New York, US

    The following texts will provide informative background reading.

    Wainwright J, and Mulligan, M., (Eds), (2004). Environmental Modelling: Finding Simplicity in  Complexity, John Wiley and Sons Ltd, West Sussex, England

    Haefner, J.W., (2004). Modelling Biological Systems: Principals and Applications, 2nd Edition, Springer Science + Business Media Inc, New York, US (available as an e-book)

    Seppelt, R., (2003). Computer-Based Environmental Management, Wiley-VCH (available as an e-book)

    In addition to these texts, further material will be recommended throughout the duration of the course.
    Online Learning
    All handouts, course material and lecture slides will be made available on MyUni. The use of the discussion board on MyUni is also strongly recommended. Complementary material for the text Ford (2010) is available on the books website: http://www.wsu.edu/~forda/AA2nd.html

  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    The course will involve two one hour lectures, and one two hour CATS practical session weekly.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    In line with University guidelines, it is expected that the average student should spend 12 hours per week on this course. In addition to the lectures (2 hours) and the practical session (2 hours), students are expected to spend an additional 8 hours per week reviewing lecture material and working on the modelling exercises and projects.
    Learning Activities Summary
    Lectures and computer-aided design sesions will be offered on the following topics:
    • Qualitative modelling of environmental systems and causal loop diagrams
    • System-Dynamics modelling framework
    • Introductory dynamic systems theory
    • Parametric, scenario and stochastic analysis for environmental models
    • System-dynamics applied to environmental case studies (e.g. Mono Lakes; Kiabab Plateau; Pacific Salmon) 

    Please refer to the Course Profile on MyUni for more specific details.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Weighting (%) Individual/ Group Formative/ Summative
    Due (week)*
    Hurdle criteria Learning outcomes
    Assignment 1 5 Individual Summative Week 4 2, 3
    Assignment 2 15 Individual Summative Week 6 2, 3
    Assignment 3 20 Group Summative Week 9 1 - 3, 5, 6
    Project 40 Group Summative Week 12 1 - 6
    Essay 20 Individual Summative Week 13 1, 7
    Total 100
    * The specific due date for each assessment task will be available on MyUni.
    This assessment breakdown is registered as an exemption to the University's Assessment for Coursework Programs Policy. The exemption is related to the Procedures clause(s): 1. a. i   

    Please refer to the Course Profile on MyUni for more specific details.
    Assessment Related Requirements
    It is expected that students will participate in all practical sessions. All group work will involve peer assessment to determine the % contribution attributed to each member.
    Assessment Detail
    The assessment items are detailed below. Note that these details may be subject to minor changes.

    Assessment Item Brief Outline Associated Learning Objectives Approximate Weighting
    Assignment 1 This individual assignment will involve the analysis of a number of one variable dynamic systems models, and their development in Vensim PLE. 2, 3 ~ 5 %
    Assignment 2  This individual assignment will involve the analysis of a number of two variable dynamic systems models, and their development in Vensim PLE. 2, 3 ~ 15 %
    Assignment  3 This individual assignment will involve the analysis of a selected dynamic environmental system, developed in Vensim PLE, subject to parametric uncertainty, and stochastic drivers. 1 – 3, 5, 6 ~ 20 %
    Project 2 In groups of 2, the students are to investigate and analyse the Migration Behaviour of the Pacific Salmon in north-west US. The assessment will be based on the final report. 1 – 6 ~ 40 %
    Essay This assignment will be undertaken on an individual basis. The students are to write a short synopsis (approximately 1500-2000 words) of a selected integrated modelling paper. 1, 7 ~ 20 %
    All submissions will be in either hard or electronic form. The projects are expected to be formally structured reports. The essay is expected to be a formal academic essay with correct use of referencing.

    A penalty of 10% per day will apply to all late submissions.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/101/) course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

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