The University of Newcastle, Australia
Available in 2020

Course handbook


The study of chemistry, as the science that provides the nexus between the molecular and the material, is absolutely crucial for understanding the mechanisms which underpin the operation of our environment. This is all the more important now because we can no longer assume that the natural environment will self-rectify and humankind must be proactive in reducing and repairing their effect on the environment. In this course we will study the chemical processes that form the basis for the operation of the natural environment, and how they are affected by human activities and by broad environmental factors such as changes in climate.

Availability2020 Course Timetables


  • Semester 1 - 2020

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Describe the chemical processes underlying the operation of the natural environment;

2. Explain how human impacts on chemical processes can lead to degradation of the natural environment;

3. Relate chemical processes to a variety of environmental scenarios;

4. Use, interpret and report on a range of chemical methods used to study environmental processes;

5. Work safely and competently in an environmental chemical laboratory setting;

6. Contribute to team and group work for scientific investigation and reporting;

7. Independently integrate chemical processes occurring in the environment and their applications.


The content of this course is in three sections, The Atmosphere (air), The Hydrosphere (water) and The Geosphere (earth) and involves study of selected topics from the following:

  1. Introduction to Environmental Chemistry:
  • chemistry and the atmosphere, hydrosphere and geosphere
  • the role of chemistry in environmental studies
  1. The Hydrosphere:
  • fundamentals of aquatic chemistry
  • speciationand redox equilibria in natural waters
  • gases in water
  • organic matter in water
  • metals in water
  • environmental colloids
  • element cycles in the environment
  1. The Atmosphere:
  • introduction to the nature and composition of the atmosphere
  • the greenhouse effect and global warming
  • global warming
  • energy production and global warming
  1. The Geosphere:
  • igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks and the rock cycle
  • weathering
  • development of soils and soil profiles
  • characteristics of soils suitable for plant growth
  • soil degradation: salinity and sodicityand acid soils

Assumed knowledge

CHEM1010 and CHEM1020

Assessment items

Formal Examination: Formal Examination *

Quiz: Tutorial Quizzes

Presentation: Presentation - Oral/Video

Tutorial / Laboratory Exercises: Laboratory Exercises and Reports *

* This assessment has a compulsory requirement.

Compulsory Requirements

In order to pass this course, each student must complete ALL of the following compulsory requirements:

General Course Requirements:

  • Laboratory: There is a compulsory attendance requirement in this course. - Students must attend and participate in all but one of the scheduled weekly laboratory sessions.
  • Laboratory: Induction Requirement - Students must attend and pass the induction requirements before attending these sessions.

Course Assessment Requirements:

  • Tutorial / Laboratory Exercises: Attempt / Submission Requirement - Students must attempt/submit this assessment item to pass the course. - Students must attend and participate in all but one of the scheduled weekly laboratory sessions.
  • Tutorial / Laboratory Exercises: Pass Requirement - Students must pass this assessment item to pass the course. - Overall mark of 50% or more.
  • Formal Examination: Minimum Grade / Mark Requirement - Students must obtain a specified minimum grade / mark in this assessment item to pass the course. - Mark of 40% or more.

Contact hours



Face to Face On Campus 3 hour(s) per Week for Full Term


Face to Face On Campus 2 hour(s) per Week for Full Term


Face to Face On Campus 1 hour(s) per Week for Full Term