Credit points


Campus offering

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20 cp of 200-level Geography units

Teaching organisation

Lectures, tutorials and fieldwork. Three hours per week for twelve weeks or equivalent.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Geographers need an understanding of the deadliest and most destructive forces of nature and their impact on society in order to bring their disciplinary expertise to some of the most significant events the world faces.

Topics covered include local and global scale natural hazards (severe storms, floods, drought, bushfire, biohazards, earthquakes and tsunami) and their impact on humans. This unit will focus on key local and international case studies of natural hazards to examine the human and environmental circumstances that lead to natural disasters. Questions pertaining to the role of international aid and risk management (including mitigation, protection and adaptation strategies), and the long-term challenge of recovery, will be discussed. 

The aim of this unit is to assist students to apply and further develop skills and knowledge in the study and management of natural hazards, including key skills in collaborative research, project direction, spreadsheet and statistical software skills and report writing.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Understand the origin and nature of environmental hazards, including concepts of event magnitude and frequency of occurrence (GA4, GA5)

LO2 - Analyse and interpret natural hazard data using a range of geographical and statistical approaches, as an individual and as the member of a team (GA5, GA8)

LO3 - Critically evaluate the social and demographic factors which enable an environmental process to becomes a human disaster (GA2, GA4)

LO4 - Summarise and discuss strategies to minimise the risk posed by natural hazards and strategies to respond to disasters that occur (GA5, GA8)

LO5 - Clearly communicate, using correct Geographical language, research findings using verbal and written communication forms (GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics may include:

  • What is a natural hazard?
  • Risk and vulnerability
  • Atmospheric hazards: storms, hail, lightening, tropical cyclones
  • Atmospheric-landscape hazards: floods and droughts
  • Biohazards: the geography of disease outbreaks (SARS, Ebola) and deadly animals
  • Geological hazards: earthquakes, landslides, volcanoes and tsunami
  • Hazard mitigation and adaptation
  • Social, cultural and indigenous framings of natural hazards
  • Post-disaster migration, reconstruction and recovery

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is delivered as a face to face class in order to immerse students in Active Learning through activities which facilitate the development of skills fundamental to the discipline of geography and deep understanding of course content. This unit engages students in active learning activities, such as reading, writing, discussion and problem-solving to promote analysis, synthesis and evaluation of class content. Students use case studies to explore how what they have learned applies to real world situations. Students in this unit will be encouraged to develop specific skills relevant to geography and earth science, including mapping skills, research skills, and the use of computer programs, such as Microsoft Excel and GIS. Written and oral communication skills will also be fostered. A number of computer programs will be used for practical work. These will be provided on computers in the computer lab during tutorials.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to achieve a final grade of 50% or better as an aggregate of all points from assessment tasks completed in this unit. The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for you to demonstrate your achievement of each learning outcome.

Assessment Task 1: Skills based tasks, where students will analyse and interpret natural hazard data in order to evaluate the factors that enable disasters.

Assessment Task 2:  Presentation and Research report. Working in teams, students will complete a semester-long student-led project on natural hazards. Early in the semester, each group will deliver a presentation that outlines their project and its feasibility. Students will produce individual research reports that detail the results of their group’s project by the end of semester.

Assessment Task 3: Formal semester-end examination where students will be required to (a) demonstrate an understanding of the origin and nature of environmental hazards, including concepts of event magnitude and frequency of occurrence, and (b) evaluate natural hazard risk minimisation and disaster response strategies 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Skills based tasks


LO2, LO3

GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8

Presentation and Research report.


LO2, L03, L05

GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Formal semester-end examination


LO1, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA8

Representative texts and references

Boulter, S. et al. 2013. Natural Disasters and Adaptation to Climate Change. Cambridge, Melbourne.

Bryant, E. 2005. Natural Hazards (2nd edition). Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

Davis, I. and Alexander, D. 2015. Recovery from Disaster. Routledge, London.

Keller, E.A. and Devecchio, D.E. 2014. Natural Hazards: Earth's Processes as Hazards, Disasters, and Catastrophes (4th Edition) Prentice Hall, London. 

López-Carresi, A., Fordham, M., Wisner, B., Kelman, I. and Gaillard, J., 2014. Disaster Management: International Lessons in Risk Reduction, Response and Recovery. Routledge, London.

Sivanpillai, R. and Shroder, J. 2015. Biological and Environmental Hazards, Risks, and Disasters. Academic Press.

Smith, K. 2013. Environmental Hazards: Assessing Risk and Reducing Disaster (6th edition). Routledge, London and New York.

Wisner, B., Gaillard, J., Kelman, I. 2015. Disaster Risk. Routledge, London.

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