ENV BIOL 2520 - Animal Identification (Wildlife Conservation) II

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2021

This short intensive course, in the mid semester break, provides a basic understanding of the diversity of vertebrates and the policies, ethics and compliances associated with working on them. Specialist skills in the use of morphological, genetic and behavioural techniques used in the identification of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals will be taught. The course includes a 5-day field camp, during which field-based skills in trapping, handling, identification, tagging and collection of morphological data will be taught. This includes the use of modern techniques for remotely sensing the presence of wildlife. Students will develop skills necessary for biological surveys and undertaking field research involving vertebrates, and gain understanding of the ethical obligations when undertaking such research.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code ENV BIOL 2520
    Course Animal Identification (Wildlife Conservation) II
    Coordinating Unit School of Biological Sciences
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact 34 hours in week 1; 40 hours in week 2; 2 hours in each of weeks 8, 9,10 &11
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange N
    Assumed Knowledge BIOLOGY 1101 or BIOLOGY 1401 or equivalent, BIOLOGY 1202 or BIOLOGY 1001
    Restrictions BSc (Wildlife Conservation Biology)
    Course Description This short intensive course, in the mid semester break, provides a basic understanding of the diversity of vertebrates and the policies, ethics and compliances associated with working on them. Specialist skills in the use of morphological, genetic and behavioural techniques used in the identification of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals will be taught. The course includes a 5-day field camp, during which field-based skills in trapping, handling, identification, tagging and collection of morphological data will be taught. This includes the use of modern techniques for remotely sensing the presence of wildlife. Students will develop skills necessary for biological surveys and undertaking field research involving vertebrates, and gain understanding of the ethical obligations when undertaking such research.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Kieren Mitchell

    Course Timetable

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

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes

    On successful completion of this course students should be able to:

    1. Understand the role of ethical compliance and research permits needed to study vertebrate animals.

    2. Demonstrate the core practical skills needed by conservation biologists to identify a range of vertebrate taxa, including use of dichotomous keys and the integration of morphological, genetic, behavioural and remotely-sensed evidence.

    3. Construct and curate databases that detail the fauna collected in line with government and ethical reporting obligations

    4. Extract, synthesise and report in written or oral forms on the taxonomic and geographic range, conservation status and basic ecology of Australian vertebrate fauna.

    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)
    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
    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
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    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 & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    A series of lectures will introduce students to the major vertebrate groups, and how various species are classified and identified using morphological, behavioural and molecular evidence. These lectures will include information on ethics, permits and the reporting required for compliance when studying vertebrates. Practical sessions will allow students to workshop, practise and develop identification skills with face-to-face interactions with trained staff will support the lectures. A 5-day intensive field camp will apply the skills learn to a field situation. The field camp delivers strong experiential (hands-on) learning for students by allowing them to engage in some of the monitoring that forms part of a long-running conservation program. Students will work in small groups to collect a diversity of field data that forms part of an existing long-term research program in the conservation and restoration of arid ecosystems. Each student will also produce a written profile of an individual species.


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

    A student enrolled in a 3 unit course, such as this, should expect to spend, on average 12 hours per week on the studies required. As this is an intensive course run predominantly over 2 weeks, students are expected to spend 48h per week during the mid-semester break, and ca 8 h per week for the latter half of the semester. This includes both the formal contact time required to the course (e.g., lectures and practicals), as well as non-contact time (e.g., reading and revision).
    Learning Activities Summary

    The first week of this two week intensive course will introduce students to the classification of terrestrial vertebrates and how morphological, behavioural and molecular techniques are used to identify animals. The course will cover amphibians and reptiles, birds and mammals. Lectures will highlight the anatomical and behavioural features that can be used to identify different species within the different taxonomic groups and where molecular studies can enhance the precision of those identifications, particularly were several species are difficult to separate by other means. Methods used to age and sex some of the vertebrate groups will also be taught. Lectures will be supported with tutorials, workshops, and practicals where students will learn to use keys and practice identifying animals using images, recordings and preserved specimens or components (bones, feathers, etc). These initial lectures will also cover ethical areas and compliance requirements for studying vertebrate animals.


    The second week of the course will consist of a 5 day field trip to Arid Recovery near Roxby Downs. Arid Recovery is a joint initiative between the University of Adelaide, BHP Billiton and the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. A key component of Arid Recovery is a large fenced reserve (123 km2) where rabbits, foxes and cats have been removed and native mammals (bettongs, bilbies, bandicoots) reintroduced. During this field trip the class will execute a component of some of Arid Recovery’s long-term monitoring programs for mammals, reptiles, and birds. The field camp will involve setting traps and pitfall lines to trap small mammals and reptiles at sites inside and outside a fenced reserve. Students under guidance will then check traps, extract, handle, identify, measure and tag the animals that are caught before releasing them. Other components of the field camp will include similar field assessments of bird populations inside and outside the reserve plus training in the use of remote recording (camera traps, using anabat recorders) and indirect methods (track counts) to assess the presence and relative abundances of different species of animals. For the field camp, students will work in small groups and switch activities each day.


    The final component of this course will be run during the second half of the semester and involve students producing a profile of an individual species. This task requires each student to select a species and produce a species profile where they provide details on its taxonomy and how it is classified, provide a detailed description and highlight distinctive features, determine how it is distinguished from similar species, establish and report on its distribution, identify any geographic variations and what these are, indicate how the different ages and sexes can be distinguished, and then continue with other information on their general ecology, behaviour and conservation status. The task involves searching the literature and various accessible data bases, and extracting and compiling information. A series of four tutorials will be used to instruct and assist the students with this task.
    Specific Course Requirements

    The course has a 5-day field trip to Arid Recovery in the second week of the mid-semester break of semester 1.
    Small Group Discovery Experience

    Two small group discovery experiences will be run as part of this course. In the first week students will work in small groups (3-5 students) to produce a dichotomous key for the common birds seen along the River Torrens. While collecting initial observations and constructing their key they will interact with1 or 2 staff. The dichotomous key will be assessed as a group.  In the second week students will work in small groups (3-5 students) throughout the 5 day field camp as they develop skills in animal trapping, handling and observations. Each group will be involved in at least 5 different field activities and will interact with up to 5 different staff/researchers during the field camp. These groups will also be responsible for data entry and checking into the long-term databases established for the conservation and monitoring program which will be assessed at a group level.

  • 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 Task Type Weighting Hurdle Yes or No Learning Outcome Approximate timing of assessment
    Practical quizzes Formative and Summative


    No 1,2 Week 1
    Field skills Formative 15% No 2 Week 2
    Field data processing Formative & Summative 10% No 1,3 Week 8
    Project Formative & Summative 50% No 4 Week 13
    Assessment Detail

    Quizzes (total of 25%)

    Students will complete a total of 5 quizzes (each of 15 min duration and each worth 5%) during the first week. Quizzes are designed to refresh knowledge of topics covered in lectures and practicals and indicate the major features that are used to identify different taxonomic groups and ethical issues (learning outcomes 1 & 2) Quizzes will be held at the end of the practical sessions on each day. They will consist of multiple choice and short answer questions.

    Field skills (total of 15%)

    This formative assessment will score the field skills, approach and aptitude of students to field work during the 5 day field trip to Arid Recovery. Each student will be scored on a series of competencies from setting traps, checking traps, handling and processing animals, collecting mensural and observational data. This will be on-going assessment throughout the 5 day camp with an open discussion between the students and supervisors of the different field programs each evening. This will allow self –reflection. The intention is to have all students reach at least a minimum standard with all field tasks.

    Data base construction and management (10%)

    Each group will be required to establish and propagate a suitable database for the data they have collected during the field trip. The database must conform with the expected requirements of permits for scientific research, meet the needs of Arid Recovery, and be easily read and interpreted by others. This assesses learning outcome 3 and reinforces learning outcome 1. This will be done as a small group exercise and assessed as a small group.

    Individual species report (~ 3000 words; 50%)

    The task involves students searching the literature and various accessible data bases, and extracting, compiling and synthesising information. It builds on the field skills around animal identification developed in the course but also exposes students to a suite of other tools and information needed to fully appreciate and study wildlife populations. The task is often required in government employment situations and would be required as a pre-cursor to conducting research on a species. This task assesses learning outcome 4.


    If an extension is not applied for, or not granted then a penalty for late submission will apply. A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment for each calendar day that the assignment is late (i.e. weekends count as 2 days), up to a maximum of 50% of the available marks will be applied. This means that an assignment that is 5 days late or more without an approved extension can only receive a maximum of 50% of the marks available for that assignment.

    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

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.