Environmental studies in Western Australia

Find out the difference between environmental science and environmental management, and why Western Australia is a great place to study either.

Around the world, pressures from human populations are having a dramatic impact on the environment, ranging from physical changes to loss of biodiversity. The result is that many of the ecosystems upon which we as humans rely for provision of clean water, air and food are increasingly becoming less clean, less productive and less safe. The two major undergraduate courses offered in the Environmental area are broadly Environmental Science and Environmental Management.

Environmental studies in western australia

“There are a number of rare and unique animals that occur here”

What is the difference?Environmental Science focuses on understanding the science behind environmental problems, and as such has a more industrial focus. Environmental Management emphasises the role that people play in causing environmental problems, but importantly recognises that working with people is the only way to resolve most of these issues. Most courses focus on encompassing the breadth of the discipline with an emphasis on the learning of job ready skills. These skills are developed through an intensive laboratory and field experience, with students often having opportunities to attend field trips and camps.

Western Australia, a state the size of western Europe but with a population of only 2.2 million, has some exceptional natural environments and biodiversity.

Perth, the state capital has the distinction of being the most isolated city in world. Perth is, as a result, a vibrant, modern city with an outdoor and relaxed lifestyle, with beautiful beaches and a warm and sunny climate. Isolation of the state from other parts of the continent by the (treeless) Nullarbor Desert has allowed a high degree of endemism (species only found here) to occur, as species have adapted to the dry conditions and frequent fires.

With one of the world’s plant biodiversity hotspots in the south, the vegetation is unique and fascinating in many ways. The marine ecosystem is unique, with some of the largest areas of seagrass and highest diversity of seagrass species in the world. In few other parts of the world can you interact with wild dolphins (monkey mia), swim with whale sharks (ningaloo) and dive on superb coral reef.

Although koalas and kookaburras don’t occur naturally in the state, there are a number of rare and unique animals that occur here. Although native animals are threatened by introduced populations of cats, dogs, rats and rabbits, the state has the fortune that its fauna are highly resistant to a poison derived from native vegetation, whereas introduced fauna aren’t. This has allowed the state to undertake a number of ambitious schemes to control introduced species. The state has an abundance of resources including uranium, coal, gold, iron and diamonds.

Mining these resources pose challenges for the environment in terms of pollution, rehabilitation and water management. Employment for Environmental graduates was, in a recent survey, highest in Queensland and Western Australia, the two main resources states, with the mining sector being the largest employer.

Assoc. Professor Mark Lund (2011)
Head of the School of Natural Sciences
Edith Cowan University