Earth and Environmental Science




The extent to which a measurement result represents the quantity it purports to measure; an accurate measurement result includes an estimate of the true value and an estimate of the uncertainty.

Animal ethics

Animal ethics involves consideration of respectful, fair and just treatment of animals. The use of animals in science involves consideration of replacement (substitution of insentient materials for conscious living animals), reduction (using only the minimum number of animals to satisfy research statistical requirements) and refinement (decrease in the incidence or severity of ‘inhumane’ procedures applied to those animals that still have to be used).

Biogeochemical cycles

Pathways by which chemical substances move through the biosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere.


The mass of living matter (microbial, plant and animal) in a given environmental area.

Biomass pyramid

A representation of the total biomass at each trophic level within a system.

Biophysical interactions

Interaction between the biotic and abiotic elements of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere.

Carrying capacity

The largest number of individuals (within populations) that can be supported by the ecosystem.


The plural of datum; the measurement of an attribute, for example, the volume of gas or the type of rubber. This does not necessarily mean a single measurement: it may be the result of averaging several repeated measurements. Data may be quantitative or qualitative and be from primary or secondary sources.

Environmental sampling techniques

Techniques used to survey, measure, quantify, assess and monitor biotic and abiotic components of the environment and their interactions; techniques used depend on the subject and purpose of the study and may include: random quadrats, transects, grid arrays, netting, trapping, aerial surveys and rock, soil, air and water sampling.


In science, evidence is data that is considered reliable and valid and which can be used to support a particular idea, conclusion or decision. Evidence gives weight or value to data by considering its credibility, acceptance, bias, status, appropriateness and reasonableness.

Field metering equipment

Tools used in the field to measure and record environmental parameters including light meters, weather stations, electromagnetic induction (EMI) meters, magnetometers and radioactivity sensors.

Field work

Observational research undertaken in the normal environment of the subject of the study.


The categories into which texts are grouped; genre distinguishes texts on the basis of their subject matter, form and structure (for example, scientific reports, field guides, explanations, procedures, biographies, media articles, persuasive texts, narratives).


A tentative explanation for an observed phenomenon, expressed as a precise and unambiguous statement that can be supported or refuted by experiment.


A scientific process of answering a question, exploring an idea or solving a problem that requires activities such as planning a course of action, collecting data, interpreting data, reaching a conclusion and communicating these activities. Investigations can include observation, research, field work, laboratory experimentation and manipulation of simulations.


A statement describing invariable relationships between phenomena in specified conditions, frequently expressed mathematically.

Mapping and field location techniques

Techniques used in the field to describe the field location and to measure and record data and field observations, including use of maps, global positioning system (GPS), magnetic compasses and electronic devices with geopositioning capacity (for example, cameras).

Measurement error

The difference between the measurement result and a currently accepted or standard value of a quantity.

Media texts

Spoken, print, graphic or electronic communications with a public audience. Media texts can be found in newspapers, magazines and on television, film, radio, computer software and the internet.


The various processes of communication – listening, speaking, reading/viewing and writing/creating.


A representation that describes, simplifies, clarifies or provides an explanation of the workings, structure or relationships within an object, system or idea.


A group of organisms of one species that interbreed and live in the same place at the same time.

Primary data

Data collected directly by a person or group.

Primary source

Report of data created by the person or persons directly involved in observations of one or more events, experiments, investigations or projects.

Principle of Uniformitarianism

The principle that all geologic phenomena may be explained as the result of existing forces having operated similarly from the origin of Earth to the present time.


The degree to which an assessment instrument or protocol consistently and repeatedly measures an attribute achieving similar results for the same population.

Reliable data

Data that has been judged to have a high level of reliability; reliability is the degree to which an assessment instrument or protocol consistently and repeatedly measures an attribute achieving similar results for the same population.


A verbal, visual, physical or mathematical demonstration of understanding of a science concept or concepts. A concept can be represented in a range of ways and using multiple modes.


To locate, gather, record, attribute and analyse information in order to develop understanding.

Research ethics

Norms of conduct that determine ethical research behaviour; research ethics are governed by principles such as honesty, objectivity, integrity, openness and respect for intellectual property and include consideration of animal ethics.

Risk assessment

Evaluations performed to identify, assess and control hazards in a systematic way that is consistent, relevant and applicable to all school activities. Requirements for risk assessments related to particular activities will be determined by jurisdictions, schools or teachers as appropriate.

Rock and soil sampling and identification procedures

Procedures used in the field to enable rock and soil sampling and identification, including use of classification charts, geological hammer, hand lens, soil auger, soil pH kit and other soil testing chemicals (for example, dilute acid).

Secondary data

Data collected by a person or group other than the person or group using the data.

Secondary source

Information that has been compiled from records of primary sources by a person or persons not directly involved in the primary event.


A representation of a process, event or system which imitates a real or idealised situation.

Spatial analysis

The range of techniques used to examine imagery and datasets covering large spatial areas and commonly compiled in geographical information systems (GIS) including maps, satellite imagery, aerial photographs, geophysical data sets, water or rock samples and other directly sensed data.


Study of rock layers and layering of materials such as sediments including ash, meteoritic impact ejecta layers, and soils.


A group of interacting objects, materials or processes that form an integrated whole. Systems can be open or closed.

Tectonic plate supercycle

The cycling of Earth over a period of 400 to 600 million years from a single continent and ocean with an inferred icehouse climate to many continents and oceans with a moderate to warm climate.


A set of concepts, claims and/or laws that can be used to explain and predict a wide range of related observed or observable phenomena. Theories are typically founded on clearly identified assumptions, are testable, produce reproducible results and have explanatory power.


Range of values for a measurement result, taking account of the likely values that could be attributed to the measurement result given the measurement equipment, procedure and environment.


The extent to which tests measure what was intended; the extent to which data, inferences and actions produced from tests and other processes are accurate.

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