Environmental Science


Environmental science is an interdisciplinary science, involving aspects of biology, chemistry and physics, that explores the interactions and interconnectedness between humans and their environments and analyses the functions of both living and non­‐living elements that sustain earth systems. In VCE Environmental Science, Earth is understood as a set of four interdependent systems: the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. The study explores how the relationships between these systems produce environmental change over a variety of time scales. Students investigate the extent to which humans modify their environments and the consequences of these changes in local and global contexts with a focus on pollution, biodiversity, energy use and climate change; they explore the conceptual, behavioural, ethical and technological responses to these changes. Students develop a range of inquiry skills involving practical experimentation and research, analytical skills including critical and creative thinking, and communication skills. Students use scientific and cognitive skills and understanding to analyse contemporary issues related to environmental science, and communicate their views from an informed position.

Unit 1: How are Earth systems connected?

This unit focuses on the four major inputs that life on earth is dependent on; energy, nutrients, air and water. Students examine the processes and interactions occurring within and between the Earth’s four systems. Students will also explore changes in systems over different time scales (short term, medium term and long term). Natural and human impacts on these systems are also explored during the unit. Students will also be expected to design and conduct a practical investigation that monitors changes within an ecosystem.

Unit 2: How can pollution be managed?

This unit focuses on biotic and abiotic indicators of pollutants that result in bioaccumulation, and air and water pollutants. Students investigate three pollutants of national or global concern. They will exam how pollutants move through, and affect, the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. Students will also compare different treatment and management options for each pollutant. Students will also investigate a case study involving the management of a selected pollutant of local interest.

Assessment activities:

·      Log book of practical activities ·      Written comparison of three selected pollutants
·      Report of practical activities ·      Management of a pollutant report
·      Media analysis report ·      End of unit exams
·      Problem solving task on pollutants that make management complex


Unit 3: How can biodiversity and development be sustained?

Students will examine the categories of biodiversity and the role of biodiversity in sustaining ecosystems. Students will understand how to sustain ecosystems and how biodiversity can be maintained in the short and long term. Students explore definitions of sustainability and consider how these may be interpreted and applied in different environmental issues. Students will select a case study and research in detail any associated environmental impacts and risks to this ecosystem.

Unit 4: How can the impacts of human energy use be reduced?

Students will examine the concepts associated with different forms of energy by human society. They will focus on local sources of energy to examine the global impacts of these uses (including short and long term consequences).  Students will investigate the astronomical, solar and earth systems and human-based factors that have altered important relationships between the energy, water and nutrient cycles that have resulted in enhanced greenhouse effect and climate change. At the end of the unit students will design an investigation related to biodiversity or energy use from an environmental management perspective.

Selection advice:

This subject would suit students who enjoy working in the environment and want to be influential in the expanding field of environmental management and science and undertaking the challenge of securing effective biodiversity management and a sustainable future and have a passion for science.

Please note that Environmental Science is a subject that requires investigations of habitat and ecosystems more diverse than those found in the immediate Ballarat area. As a result it can be necessary to travel further afield for periods of time on excursion.

Links to further pathways:

VCE Environmental Science provides for many continuing study pathways and leads to a range of careers. Diverse areas of employment range from design, including landscape or building architecture, engineering and urban planning, environmental consultancy and advocacy, which may involve employment in air, water and/or soil quality monitoring and control, agriculture, construction, mining and property management and water quality engineering. Environmental scientists also work in cross-disciplinary areas such as bushfire research, environmental management and conservation, geology and oceanography.


Related Subjects

Units 1-4


This subject focuses on the procedures of accounting and finance and the way in which these may be used.

Units 3-4

Australian History

This subject would suit students with an interest in history who like to research information to broaden their knowledge and understanding of Australian history.