ENVS 2004: Weather, Climate and Fire

With second semester approaching quickly, it's time for me to start advertising how awesome ENVS 2004: Weather, Climate and Fire is going to be this year.  So if you're thinking about taking the course - why not read on?  By the end of it, I'll ensure you'll be enrolling for what will surely be a fun semester.  Let's get straight into it:

Why should you take Weather, Climate and Fire?

1. This year, ENVS 2004 is getting a makeover.  Students can expect to get hands-on in analysing meteorology, forecasting bushfire risk and describing climate-fire connections.

Never mind talking about the weather - let's talk about why the weather happens!  From the start, this course will be about critical thinking on why the atmosphere does what it does.  We'll connect the dots on climate events such as El Ninos and the associated increased fire risk, while delving into the weather events that intensify/weaken fires. 

2. You won't just look at powerpoint lectures, you'll be doing it yourself

My get-your-hands-dirty practicals will teach you how to analyse weather events, develop your own indices for fire risk and even learn to forecast tomorrow's weather conditions.  I don't want you to step through exercises just to get them done - I want you to walk away knowing exactly what you learned.

3.  My exams will require you to think, analyse and respond - not memorise facts.

Who needs to remember individual pieces of information when you have Google?  What this world needs is young people who can think hard, work together and solve problems .  That's what you can expect from the course assessment in ENVS 2004.  And most importantly, I'll help teach you to think like a 'thinker' that can solve such problems.

4. You'll never think of 'the weather' the same way again - you'll walk outside and know why it's windy/cold/hot/raining = real world skills!

I know why you came to University - to get a fun, interesting and well paid job to start off a life that you'll love (and probably to have a lot of fun too :-) ).  In this course, we'll focus on practical skills - how do you explain what's happening outside?  Is your auntie's house safe from an approaching bushfire? Will this coming summer be hot and dry?  You'll surprise yourself with what you're capable of.

5.  I see my students for what they are:  incredibly capable, eager to learn and in need of an engaging environment

Weather, Climate and Fire will challenge you, because I will demand you turn your brain on.  I've a strong teaching philosophy that recognises how capable each of you are, which is a fresh perspective that you will benefit a lot from. 

So if you're ready for a challenging, exciting and FUN learning experience.  Enrol in ENVS 2004 today! You can download a draft of the course schedule here.

Find more about the course, including timetable information and how to enrol at:



A Backup Plan is Essential

Well why not kick off my teaching blog with an example of near disaster?

Today, I arrived at my lecture a solid 15 minutes before it started.  I knew I'd need some extra time, as The ANU just upgraded its lecture PCs to Windoze (or was that Windows? I'm an Apple fan) to Windows 8.  Supposedly the first time you log in, it takes a few minutes to get sorted.

Well the machine didn't even let me get that far.  It threw an indiscriminate memory error that wouldn't go away even after restarting the machine!  So a short jog was in order to retrieve my laptop ("good thing I'm not a fat old guy" I told my students).  As it is a trusty macbook pro, it started up no dramas and we were all ready to boot up the projectors...

But of course one of the projectors isn't working.  Quick fix, digging out the remote and abandoning the built in controls on the lectern PC switches it on (thank goodness the wall was white, because the screen wasn't coming down).

So then we progress to the point where my mic batteries die - not a big deal, as more were on hand.  With a quick setup of my iPhone to record the lecture (as the Digital Lecture Delivery relies on the broken Windows machine), voila - we're only 10 minutes late starting the lecture, so the students can finally get back to yawning while I drone on about "What is The Planet?".

Moral of the story:  I need a better backup plan, so here it is:

  • Always arrive a the lecture 10 minutes ahead of time
  • Never go to a lecture trusting the lecture hall PC to work (bring a laptop)
  • Always take a spare set of batteries for the mic
  • Have the IT guys number on hand (ext 54321)
  • Be ready to record your own lecture 
  • Have a thumbdrive and Dropbox copy of the lecture ready to go

Don't worry students, you can download the lecture here:

[PDF of slides]

[MP4 Audio File]