VCE Environmental Science enables students
to explore the interrelationships between Earth’s four systems. Students examine
how past and current human activities affect the environment and how future challenges can be managed sustainably.
>In undertaking this study, students gain an understanding of the complexity of
environmental decision-making, and how innovative responses to environmental
challenges can reduce pressure on Earth’s natural resources and ecosystem services.
In VCE Environmental Science, students
develop a range of scientific inquiry skills including practical
experimentation, research and analytical skills, problem-solving skills including
critical and creative thinking, and communication skills. Students pose
questions, formulate hypotheses, conduct investigations, and analyse and
critically interpret qualitative and quantitative data. They assess the
limitations of data, evaluate methodologies and results, justify their conclusions,
make recommendations and communicate their findings. Students investigate and
evaluate environment-related issues, alternative proposals and responses to
challenges by considering both short- and long-term consequences for the
individual, the environment and society.
Environmental Science provides direct pathways to a range of careers related to
atmospheric sciences, ecology, environmental chemistry and geosciences. The
interdisciplinary nature of the study leads to pathways including, but not
limited to, architecture, environmental law, engineering, environmental
consultancy, environmental advocacy, government policy development, industrial
management, landscape design, regional and urban planning, and teaching and
research. Environmental scientists also work in cross-disciplinary
solutions-oriented areas such as coastal management, climate risk management
and disaster risk management.
Units of Study
been dramatically altered over the past 4.5 billion
years by naturally occurring climate swings, volcanic activity, drifting
continents and other transformative processes. Human activities and lifestyles have
an impact on, and are impacted by, Earth’s systems both directly and indirectly,
and with both immediate and far-reaching effects.
In this unit students examine the processes
and interactions occurring within and between Earth’s four interrelated systems
– the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. They focus on how
ecosystem functioning can influence many local, regional and global
environmental conditions such as plant productivity, soil fertility, water
quality and air quality. Students explore how changes that have taken place
throughout geological and recent history are fundamental to predicting the
likely impact of future changes. They consider a variety of influencing factors in achieving
a solutions-focused approach to responsible management of challenges related to
natural and human-induced environmental change.
A student-adapted or student-designed
scientific investigation is undertaken in Area of Study 3. The investigation
involves the generation of primary data and is related to ecosystem components,
monitoring and/or change. It draws on the key science skills and key knowledge from Area of
Study 1 and/or Area of Study 2.
sustainable food and water system with a minimal environmental footprint is
necessary to secure the food and water supplies that can meet the demands of
current and future populations of Earth’s species, including humans. Both
natural and human activities can generate pollution that can cause adverse
effects across Earth’s four interrelated systems – the atmosphere, biosphere,
hydrosphere and lithosphere – and consequently affect food and water security. Pollution can make air
and water resources hazardous for plants and animals. It can directly harm soil
microorganisms and larger soil-dwelling organisms, with consequences for soil biodiversity,
as well as impacting on food security by impairing plant function and reducing
In this unit students consider pollution as
well as food and water security as complex and systemic environmental
challenges facing current and future generations. They examine the
characteristics, impacts, assessment and management of a range of pollutants
that are emitted or discharged into Earth’s air, soil, water and biological
systems, and explore factors that limit and enable the sustainable supply of
adequate and affordable food and water.
A student-directed investigation is to be undertaken in Area of Study 3.
The investigation explores how
science can be applied to address Earth’s capacity to sustain life in the
context of the management of a selected pollutant and/or the maintenance of food
and/or water security.
The investigation draws on the key science skills and key knowledge from Area
of Study 1 and/or Area of Study 2.
In this unit students focus on environmental
management through the application of sustainability principles. They explore
the value of the biosphere to all living things by examining the concept of
biodiversity and the ecosystem
services important for human health and well-being.
They analyse the processes that threaten biodiversity and evaluate biodiversity
management strategies for a selected threatened endemic animal or plant
species. Students use a selected environmental science case study with
reference to sustainability principles and environmental management strategies to
explore management from an Earth systems perspective, including impacts on the
atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere.
A student-designed scientific investigation involving
the generation of primary data related to biodiversity, environmental
management, climate change and/or energy use is undertaken in either Unit 3 or
Unit 4, or across both Units 3 and 4, and is assessed in Unit 4, Outcome 3. The
design, analysis and findings of the investigation are presented in a
scientific poster format as outlined on pages 11–12.
In this unit
students explore different factors that contribute to the variability of
Earth’s climate and that can affect living things, human society and the
environment at local, regional and global scales. Students compare sources,
availability, reliability and efficiencies of renewable and non-renewable
energy resources in order to evaluate
the suitability and consequences of their use in terms of upholding
sustainability principles. They analyse various factors that are involved in
responsible environmental decision-making and consider how science can be used
to inform the management of climate change and the impacts of energy production
environmental indicators often involves uncertainty. Students develop skills in
data interpretation, extrapolation and interpolation and test predictions. They
recognise the limitations of contradictory, provisional and incomplete data
derived from observations and models. They explore relationships and patterns
in data, and make judgments about accuracy and validity of evidence.
scientific investigation involving the generation of primary data related to
biodiversity, environmental management, climate change
and/or energy use is undertaken in either Unit 3 or Unit 4, or across both
Units 3 and 4, and is assessed in Unit 4, Outcome 3. The design, analysis and
findings of the investigation are presented in a scientific poster format as
outlined on pages 11 and 12.
- Civil Engineer
- Environmental Scientist
This is a guide only, please see the careers team for pathway planning advice.
There are no prerequisites for entry to Units 1, 2 and 3. Students must undertake Unit 3 prior to undertaking Unit 4.
Unit 3 and 4 Assessment
Percentage contributions to the study score in VCE Environmental Science are as follows:
- Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework: 20 per cent.
- Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework: 30 per cent
- End-of-year examination: 50 per cent