Understanding Urban Soils

Soils are essential to sustain terrestrial life on Earth and perform critical ecosystem functions. Increasingly, soils are just as important in the highly modified environments of cities and peri-urban areas as they are in natural or agricultural environments.

In this course you will explore and the past and present connections between soils and urban ecosystems, against the background of increasing urbanisation of Earth's human population. You will study how and why urban soils differ from (or resemble) non-urban soils, and consider the archaeological information preserved by soils in cities.

You will examine the processes that add materials such as pollutants to urban soils, and how urban soils can also contribute material to other environmental compartments. Finally, you will study how the relationship between urban soils and human health (such as, but not only, soil contamination) can be understood in the context of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

We also raise the issue of what 'environmental justice' means in the context of urban soils, and discuss the types of soil-related environmental benefits and risks that are unfairly distributed in cities.

Upon successful completion, you'll receive:

  • Two PD Points - stackable for unspecified academic credit in award courses
  • A Certificate of Achievement
  • A UWA Plus Professional Development Transcript, listing all successfully completed micro-credentials
Delivery mode
Course date
17 October 2022
Applications close
10 October 2022
8 weeks
50 hours (including contact hours, personal study time and assessment)
Academic lead
Dr Andrew Rate
$660 inc. GST
Critical information summary
ENVTM201 Understanding Urban Soils [PDF 41KB]

What you'll learn

Explain how cities and soils are related in history and the present day

Understand the ecosystem functions performed by soils in cities

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Know how urban soils preserve human signatures of contamination and/or archaeological information

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Critically assess the role of the urban soil resource in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Notebook and a workspace 

Why study this course?

  • Explore how soils and urban ecosystems are connected, in our urbanising world, comparing urban soils with non-urban.

  • Study archaeology in soils in cities, contamination processes, relationships between soils and urban health through a Sustainable Development Goals lens, and discuss soil related environmental justice.

  • For people who have not studied soil science formally, this course introduces the soils many of us are most familiar with - in the gardens, parks and open spaces of the cities we live in.

Who should study this course?

Local government land managers, environmental consultants, landscape architects, landscape gardeners, urban food producers, urban planners, and anyone with an interest in soils in urban areas.

How does it work?

The course is structured as pre-recorded videos to support self-guided learning, plus weekly real-time online workshops.

What's next after this course?

Students may be able to stack this micro-credential with other short micro-credentials from UWA to obtain advanced standing
credit towards units in a future degree or diploma.


Applications are open.

Apply now