DASC20010 Applied Animal Physiology

I’m going to be upfront with this subject – unless you have to do it as a pre-req, walk away. Wait, don’t walk, RUN.

I don’t even know where to begin with Applied Animal Physiology. Out of all the subjects I’ve done at uni, this was the worst. I don’t think I’ve ever dislike a subject this much, or have ever struggled this badly with a subject before.

General info about the subject

Before I continue – I want to say that Applied Animal Physiology is DIFFERENT to Comparative Animal Physiology.

They have similar names, but Applied = bad, Comparative = awesome.

Applied Animal Physiology is looked after by MSLE, and I picked this subject because I was doing Comparative Animal Physiology which was a pre-req for my zoology major. I thought that this subject would support and reinforce the things I learned in Comparative.

Umm…that didn’t happen. It probably brought my scores down for Comparative because I had to spend so much time to keep up with Applied. I am still kicking myself that I didn’t change subjects early in the semester.

This subject is also offered as a breadth which I immediately went – HUH? I am a science student, doing this science subject, who nearly failed this subject. Highly recommend not doing this as a breadth – trust me, pick something else.

The communication in this subject was pretty poor. For the whole semester, we always had to email them to get the most basic information about anything. Things like when the mid semester test is on, when/where the prac class lists were etc.

I still don’t understand how this is ‘applied’ animal physiology. The focus of the subject seemed to be “let’s learn EVERYTHING about physiology”.

The lecturers were recorded with screen capture too. Attendance was marked in all the pracs, and the pracs run every 2 weeks.

Handbook link for Applied: http://go.unimelb.edu.au/7ypn

When was the subject taken?

I took this subject in semester 2, 2013.

What topics were covered in the subject?

We basically had to learn everything:

  • Nervous System
  • Muscle physiology
  • Circulatory system
  • Urinary system
  • Respiratory system
  • Digestive system
  • Endocrine system

Staff members

We had one lecturer for the entire semester (Peter Cakebread) and he was the main correspondence for the subject, even if the handbook says that another person is the coordinator. The lectures involved him reading off the slides.

I wanted to die.

Materials for the subject

They provided the prac book (which fell apart in the first lesson), and there’s the prescribed textbook – Animal Physiology: From Genes to Organisms (Sherwood, Klandorf and Yancey). If you want to pass this subject, you need access to the textbook. They basically took questions out of the textbook for the mid semester test, and the lecturer teaches out of the book.

Mind you – I found it hard to find a second hand copy of the textbook. I could never find them in the library, so I had to BUY one brand new, and it hurt my bank account dearly.

The assessments

  • 2 hour final exam (60%)
  • 1 hour online mid semester test (10%)
  • 2 prac reports (30%)

The prac reports were ridiculous, the MST was ridiculous, and the final exam was even more ridiculous.

You know that feeling when you’re sitting a test, and you go, “when did we even learn this?”. Yep – this summed up all the assessments. It was hard to gauge the level of understanding required for the assessments. Well, we found out that you were expected to go into a lot a detail.

Here are the assessments in a bit more detail:

Prac reports

The reports were based on two pracs were did in class. The first report was on haematology and we looked at blood samples from horses, chickens, dogs and sheep. The second, was on the endocrine system. We looked at the response of the sheep pancreas to glucose.

That second prac with the sheep was a good one. In fact – that prac was the highlight of the subject! I finally managed to go to the underground animal house on campus – YES, IT EXISTS – and first handedly taking blood samples from these sheep that were in the basement of the Zoology Building. Though, I’m not sure how ethical it is to keep sheep underground without sunlight for weeks…

The prac reports were horrendous because we had no idea what was expected of us, especially the stats component.

Getting marks and feedback for the reports was an interesting process. At first they told us that we weren’t getting feedback at all – which made us very grumpy. Then they gave us last year’s feedback. Then they decided to give us individual feedback.

I would assume that the second report was a chance for us to work off the feedback from the first report. But we received feedback on the day when the second report was due.

Because the marks and the feedback took longer to get to us than usual – they gave us an extension for our second report over the weekend. So it was originally due on a Friday, and they gave us till 9am the latest on the Monday to hand in. But the thing is – the Environments Student Centre opens at 9.

So…what extension?

Mid semester test

ARGH. It was an online test with around 60 multiple choice and ‘match the words’ kind of questions. Even with my textbook open, and using the internet to search for answers, I still did horribly.

There was so much detail in the questions, and none of us were expecting that.

Final exam

The worst. I could barely answer any of the questions.

If you have having trouble looking for exam papers, search ‘208-202 Animal Physiology’ or ‘264-200 Animal Physiology’. These were the old subject codes. You should be able to find papers dating back to 2003.

I discovered that they have been recycling exam questions since the 2003 exam paper, and I told everyone that the same questions pop up every year. And to my luck – they decided to write a paper with different questions this year.

As we walked out of REB after the exam, I spotted a couple of teary people. Yep, it was THAT bad.


Saving Applied Animal Physiology

Okay, so if you haven’t picked it up – I dislike this subject with a passion. In fact, I haven’t come across anyone with positive reviews with this subject. But if the University wants to save Applied Animal Physiology, here are some of my suggestions.


All announcements on the LMS should be sent via email. This shouldn’t be optional, it should be mandatory. I check the LMS quite frequently, but I still miss important information.

We have no idea what was expected of us in this subject. There needs to be a criteria for the lab reports, the exam structure needed to be explain in greater detail…

The instruction needs to be clearer. There is too much ambiguity with everything. Plus – I think we need more communication between staff and students in this subject – just tell us what is going on.

Cut down on the content

There is way too much going on in this subject, and I think the lecture content needs to be re-evaluated. The level of detail that needed to be understood was unrealistic to learn in 12 weeks.

I find that there are 2 main types of subjects at uni – one that wants you to know the concepts more over the details. Then there are the subjects that wants you to know all the details. But you never really find out the level of understanding required until it’s too late.

I didn’t understand the focus of the subject – what exactly is this subject about? It’s ‘applied’ animal physiology, but we didn’t do much ‘applying’. Most of the time we spent learning about how everything worked. Maybe it’s just me not connecting the dots – but the ‘applied’ part of this subject needs to be clearer and needs more emphasis.

This subject needs physiology pre-reqs 

I feel that students need to have some physiology background before doing Applied Animal Physiology. There were a couple of students who had a background in Human Physiology doing this subject with me, and they still struggled with Applied.

There is no way that this subject should be offered as a breadth. If you want to study animal physiology as a breadth, I high recommend Comparative Animal Physiology. It’s much lighter, content was interesting, the pracs were really great, do Comparative instead.

More lecturers

Having the same lecturer for the entire semester was a killer. We need a variety of lecturers. Having the one lecturer for the entire semester was boring. It would be great to have more variety.

And maybe this is why the prac reports took longer than usual to be marked – there weren’t enough staff members? Who knows.


Step away from Applied Animal Physiology unless you HAVE to do it. Do Comparative Animal Physiology instead – it’s 100 times better.

MSLE = 0, Zoology = 1

11 thoughts on “DASC20010 Applied Animal Physiology

  1. AT LEAST WE FINALLY passed the subject. i agree though, its kind of a bad subject. I was really happy i passed this year XD._.

  2. Congratulations on passing the course! I secretly wish you were a commerce student studying finance or economics so that you could review some of the subjects.

    I had an English teacher who communicated poorly with us. We never knew what to expect, and for someone who ovethinks everything, it was frustrating. Another rude thing that he did was evaluate a student in front of other students. It didn’t matter it were positive, negative or embarrassing. When my grades started to drop, I explained to him how hard it was to work towards an unknown goal and made him understand the situation (I almost cried while explaining, haha). He started explaining things clearly from that day, and did his best to help me understand an assignment. Luckily my grades went back up.

    Oh, and teachers who read off power points are the worst! Sometimes I wonder why they became teachers in the first place. They are getting paid to teach, not read!

  3. Ugh this subject! Was a prereq for the Animal Science and Management major or else I would have done Comparative. Can’t believe the level of communication that didn’t happen (had Cakebread for another subject and he was exactly the same). I agree there just seems to be too much content – needs to be split over two semesters or something. This subject really needs to be reviewed because I was interested but just found it really difficult to keep up!

    1. Hi Liz!
      Unfortunately I don’t believe anyone is doing this subject this year on the blog team. Sorry we can’t be of any help! It might be worth looking on Atar notes or something similar.

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