Approved by Faculty Senate

University Studies Course Approval

Department or Program: Geoscience

Course Number: 225

Course Title: Environmental Geoscience

Catalog Description:

Study of geologic and hydrologic processes operating in various terrestrial environments, including how these processes relate to land use, land-use planning and geologic hazards. Includes investigation of impact of human activity on natural systems. Lecture and laboratory. Prerequisite: GEOS 120 or instructor's permission. Offered alternate years.

This is an existing course that has previously been approved by A2C2 ___X__.

OR

This is a new course proposal ______. (If this is a new course proposal, the WSU Curriculum Approval Form must also be completed as in the process prescribed by WSU Regulation 3-4.)

Department Contact Person for this course: Dr. Rebecca Ambers

Email: rambers@winona.edu

 

The proposed course is designed to satisfy the requirements in (select one area only):

 

Course Requirements

 

A. Basic Skills: (October 4, 2000)

______ 1. College Reading and Writing

______ 2. Oral Communication

______ 3. Mathematics

______ 4. Physical Development and Wellness

B. Arts & Sciences Core: (November 1, 2000)

______ 1. Humanities

______ 2. Natural Science

______ 3. Social Science

______ 4. Fine & Performing Arts

 

 

C. Unity and Diversity: (January 17, 2001)

______ 1. Critical Analysis

___X__ 2. Science and Social Policy

______ 3. a. Global Perspectives

______ b. Multicultural Perspectives

______ 4. a. Contemporary Citizenship

______ b. Democratic Institutions

Flagged Courses: (February 14, 2001)

______ 1. Writing

______ 2. Oral

______ 3. a. Mathematics/ Statistics

______ b. Critical Analysis

 

 

 

Approval/Disapproval Recommendations

 

Department Recommendation: Approved_____ Disapproved____ Date______

 

Chairperson Signature_______________________ Date ______

 

Dean's Recommendation: Approved_____ Disapproved ____* Date:______

Dean's Signature_______________________ Date______

*In the case of a Dean's recommendation to disapprove a proposal a written rationale for the recommendation to disapprove shall be provided to USS

USS Recommendation: Approved_____ Disapproved____ Date ______

 

University Studies Director's Signature_______________________ Date ______

 

A2C2 Recommendation: Approved_____ Disapproved_____ Date ______

 

A2C2 Chairperson Signature_______________________ Date ______

 

Faculty Senate Recommendation: Approved_____ Disapproved____ Date ______

 

FA President's Signature_______________________ Date ______

 

Academic Vice President's Recommendation: Approved_____ Disapproved____ Date ______

VP's Signature_______________________ Date ______

 

President's Decision: Approved_____ Disapproved____ Date ______

 

President's Signature_______________________ Date ______

 

 

The purpose of the Science and Social Policy requirement in the University Studies program is to promote students' understanding of the interrelated concerns of society and the sciences. These courses should integrate issues related to one of the sciences with the social and government policy decisions that stem from these issues. Issues might include the environment, genetic testing and mapping, applications of technology, etc. They should be treated from the perspective of the scientific foundations of the problem and address ethical, social, historical, and/or political implications of the issue.

GEOS 225 is an interdisciplinary course that deals both with geologic processes involving soil, water, and the atmosphere and with some of the social and political issues created by human interactions with the Earth. A number of environmental problems resulting mainly from human interference with natural, geologic and atmospheric processes are discussed in the context of historical and modern society. Connections are also made to related biological and ecological problems. Potential solutions to these environmental problems often require significant changes in current human behavior, so the scientific, political, economic, and social ramifications of the problem-solving process are integrated into course content and activities.

These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...

a. understand the scientific foundation of the topic;

This course expands upon certain aspects of physical geology covered in the prerequisite course (GEOS 120: Dynamic Earth), particularly those related to soil, rivers, and groundwater. In addition, basic material about the atmosphere is covered. Many of the environmental issues related to soil, water, and air require a fundamental understanding of Earth surface and atmospheric processes in order to grasp why the problems have presented themselves in the first place. The structure of the course is designed to introduce students to the relevant scientific material before or during investigation of each environmental problem. Written examinations and in-class exercises, such as think-pair-share questions and graph interpretation, probe students' understanding of these concepts.

b. understand the social, ethical, historical, and/or political implications;

While an understanding of the scientific basis of environmental problems is important, such issues cannot but fully understood without delving into the social, ethical, historical, and political context of the story. In GEOS 225, students investigate and grapple with all sides of particular environmental issues through a series of readings, videos, case studies researched by students, and in-class discussions. The historical side of certain issues is traced through one or more case studies. As an example, students research the causes and effects of the intense soil erosion that occurred in the American Dust Bowl during the 1930's. In addition to learning about the origin of the Soil Conservation Service, they later discover how lessons learned from the Dust Bowl led both to laws affecting cattle grazing and streams on public lands in the west and to modern overuse of groundwater resources in the Plains states. Highly politicized issues such as the severe pollution problems at Love Canal in New York are also included as case studies, and critical pieces of environmental legislation like the Clean Water Act are part of lectures and discussions. In response to the case studies and various readings, students are encouraged to write about and discuss the ethical implications of human actions with regard to the natural world. They are also encouraged to reflect on the impact that common social attitudes and activities have on the environment, especially during the section of the course on atmospheric problems such as smog, acid rain, and global warming. Students' own contribution to both the problems and solutions is the subject of a web-based exercise.

c. understand and articulate the need to integrate issues of science with social policy;

To be scientifically literate in a way that enables them to make intelligent decisions as citizens, students must develop an understanding of both the scientific issues and the ramifications of social policy on environmental problems. Through in-class discussions, researching and writing up case studies, and answering examination questions, students in GEOS 225 learn, write, and speak about the closely intertwined nature of science, social policy, and environmental issues. For example, during the section on global warming, students clearly see how a clear understanding of the science is needed to provide motivation to change policy before disaster strikes. At the same time, policy and economics may influence scientific findings and opinions in subtle yet significant ways.

d. evaluate the various policy options relevant to the social dilemmas posed by the science;

In-class discussions and written responses to case studies give students the chance to explore and evaluate a variety of solutions to the environmental problems covered. Often, these solutions involve not only social changes but also various policy options that could be implemented in the United States and around the world. Students are encouraged to assess the effectiveness, ethics, and realistic chances of implementation for different environmental and social policies. In some cases, policies already in place in other countries allow them to judge the effectiveness of a range of approaches to a particular problem.

e. and articulate, choose among, and defend various policy and/or scientific options to cope with the challenges created.

Part of the process of evaluating policy options (described above) involves students choosing which solutions are most viable from a scientific and social standpoint. During discussions, case study write-ups, and written examinations, they articulate and support their views on a wide spectrum of solutions to particular environmental problems. This aspect of the activities provides an important link between the classroom and real life and promotes the kind of critical thinking about environmental issues that will enable students to make better decisions as private citizens and voters.

 

Sample Syllabus

GEOS 225: Environmental Geoscience

Fall 2000: MWF 1:00-1:50 (PA 220)

3 credits

About the Course

Environmental geoscience involves the realm in which humans and the Earth interact. This intersection of nature and human society is what makes the field so exciting to learn about! In this course, we will study natural processes that occur in soil, water, and air (the parts of the Earth that sustain human life) and the ways that people have affected these processes. At the same time, we will investigate some of the many environmental problems that have resulted from human activities/land use and discuss potential solutions.

Although this is a geoscience course, it is interdisciplinary in many ways, and I encourage you to bring your knowledge of other subjects into our discussions of environmental issues. Some of the topics we will be dealing with are controversial, however; and I expect everyone to respect one another's opinions and help maintain a positive, friendly atmosphere in the classroom.

This course qualifies as a University Studies course satisfying the outcomes of the Science and Social Policy category. If you successfully complete the course, you will fulfill the Science and Social Policy requirement under the Unity and Diversity category of the University Studies Program.

 

University Studies Outcomes

The purpose of the Science and Social Policy requirement in the University Studies program is to promote students' understanding of the interrelated concerns of society and the sciences. These courses should integrate issues related to one of the sciences with the social and government policy decisions that stem from these issues. Issues might include the environment, genetic testing and mapping, applications of technology, etc. They should be treated from the perspective of the scientific foundations of the problem and address ethical, social, historical, and/or political implications of the issue.

These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...

a. understand the scientific foundation of the topic;

b. understand the social, ethical, historical, and/or political implications;

c. understand and articulate the need to integrate issues of science with social policy;

d. evaluate the various policy options relevant to the social dilemmas posed by the science; and

e. articulate, choose among, and defend various policy and/or scientific options to cope with the challenges created.

Course activities described throughout the remainder of this syllabus will be coded to the above list of outcomes by the corresponding letter.

Course Assignments

In addition to readings and lectures designed to enhance your understanding of basic geologic and atmospheric processes (outcome a), we will be doing a series of skill-building activities and discussions. You will be asked to research and write up six environmental case studies which we will then discuss in class (outcomes b, c, d, e). These and other assignments such a soil survey exercise and in-class activities are designed to help you acquire or enhance your ability to:

 

(1) read and interpret different types of scientific graphs, charts, and tables (outcome a),

(2) locate reliable sources of information about environmental issues on the web and in the library and to summarize and interpret your findings (outcomes c, d, e), and

(3) integrate your knowledge of science and other subjects to evaluate how people's perspectives (scientific, economic, political, etc.) affect the way they react to and handle environmental problems (outcome b).

The case studies will be on the following topics: the American Dust Bowl, Love Canal, the Ogallala (or High Plains) Aquifer, dam removal (choose a dam that interests you), city smog (choose a major city that interests you), acid rain (choose one of five locations). Due dates are listed in the attached schedule and a separate handout will explain the format of the write-ups.

 

Required Textbooks

SSS - Kohnke, H. and Franzmeier, D. P. (1995) Soil Science Simplified. 4th ed. Waveland Press.

WRC - Leopold, Luna B. (1997) Water, Rivers, and Creeks. University Science Books.

ACC - Graedel, T. E. and Crutzen, P. J. (1997) Atmosphere, Climate, and Change. Scientific American Library Paperback No. 55. W.H. Freeman & Co.

Some additional readings will be put on reserve in the library for you to check out and photocopy.

 

Attendance and Due Date Policies

Attending class is essential for doing well in this course. Every absence means that you missed out on an important learning experience. We will occasionally be doing graded exercises in class, and these will not always be announced in advance, so it behooves you to show up every day. There will not be any opportunities to make up these exercises if you are absent.

With regard to homework assignments and case studies, I do not accept late work. Assignments are due at the beginning of class. If you turn in your work to my mailbox in the Geoscience Dept. office by 5:00 p.m. on the due date, I will grade the assignment but take off 10 points for lateness. After that, you will receive a zero for the assignment.

If you have a verifiable illness or family emergency or know in advance that you will have to miss class, please contact me as soon as possible. I will work with you to make alternate arrangements for turning in assignments and/or excusing a missed in-class exercise. If you are sick, I will need to see a health center or doctor's note.

 

Grades

Case studies 20%

Exercises 10%

Exams (2) 40%

Final exam 30%

TOTAL 100%

Unless I inform you otherwise at some point during the term, final grades will be assigned based on the following scale: A = 90-100%, B = 80-89%, C = 70-79%, D = 60-69%, F = <60%.

 

 

Academic Dishonesty

The main reason to go to college is to learn (at least I think so). Because no one can learn for you, I expect you to do your own work. I will not tolerate dishonest behavior and will take appropriate measures to punish anyone caught cheating. At a minimum, all parties involved will receive a zero for the test or assignment on which cheating occurred. For more information, read WSU's policy on academic integrity found in the class schedule and on the web.

 

Disabilities

If you have a physical or cognitive disability, please come talk to me as soon as possible so that we can discuss how best to accommodate your needs.

 

Daily Schedule: (subject to change)

Date

Topic

Reading

8/28/00

Introduction to course

--

8/30/00

Humans and the environment

SSS - p. 144-149; WRC - p. 175;

ACC - p. 173-176

9/1/00

Soil - physical properties

SSS - Ch. 1-2

9/4/00

Labor Day - NO CLASSES

--

9/6/00

Soil - formation processes

SSS - Ch. 7

9/8/00

Soil - erosion and the Dust Bowl days; video

SSS - Ch. 11; *Case Study #1 due

9/11/00

Soil - morphology

SSS - Ch. 8

9/13/00

Soil - basic classification

SSS - Ch. 9

9/15/00

Soil - soil survey exercise

SSS - Ch. 10

9/18/00

Soil - water

SSS - Ch. 3; WRC - p. 13-15

9/20/00

Soil - chemical properties, organic matter

SSS - Ch. 4, 6

9/22/00

Soil - irrigation-related problems (salinization & sodification)

SSS - p. 129-141; WRC - p. 144-150

9/25/00

Soil - chemical pollution and Love Canal

SSS - p. 141-144; *Case Study #2 due

9/27/00

Soil - landfills

9/29/00

Review for exam

--

10/2/00

EXAM I - soils

--

10/4/00

Water - hydrologic cycle, precipitation

WRC - p. 3-15

10/6/00

Water - groundwater

WRC - p. 17-37

10/9/00

Fall Break - NO CLASSES

--

10/11/00

Water - more on groundwater

"

10/13/00

Water - water usage and the Ogallala aquifer

WRC - p. 129-150; *Case Study #3 due

10/16/00

Water - surface water and rivers

WRC - p. 39-44, 56-57, 64, 75-86

10/18/00

Water - river discharge and flood frequency

WRC - p.44-56, 92-102

10/20/00

Water - flood control; Cadillac Desert video

WRC - p. 155-165, 172-174

10/23/00

Water - dams: the good, the bad, and the ugly

" ; *Case Study #4 due

10/25/00

Water - sediment transport and channel patterns

WRC - p. 59-75

10/27/00

Water - streams, fish, and grazing in semi-arid grasslands (desert follows the cow)

WRC - p. 115-116; Grassland - p. 127-138

10/30/00

Water - chemistry, quality, and pollution

WRC - p. 122-125,151-154, 167-172; Living Downstream - p. 189-211

11/1/00

Review for exam

--

11/3/00

EXAM II - water

--

11/6/00

Air - basics about atmosphere

ACC - Ch. 1

11/8/00

Air - basics about climate

ACC - Ch. 2

11/10/00

Veterans Day observed - NO CLASSES

--

11/13/00

Air - atmospheric chemistry

ACC - p. 35-42

11/15/00

Air - atmospheric chemistry

"

11/17/00

Air - smog and urban air quality

ACC - p. 42-47, 99-103; *Case Study #5 due

11/20/00

Air - ozone depletion

ACC - p. 104-111, 155-160

11/22/00

Thanksgiving Break - NO CLASSES

--

11/24/00

Thanksgiving Break - NO CLASSES

--

11/27/00

Air - paleoclimate; video

ACC - Ch. 4

11/29/00

Air - global warming; video

"

12/1/00

Air - global warming; video

ACC - p. 89-98, 120-123, 141, 160-162

12/4/00

Air - global warming

ACC - p. 165-171

12/6/00

Air - acid rain

ACC - p. 49-57; *Case Study #6 due

12/8/00

Wrap-up and review for exam

--

12/11/00

FINAL EXAM - comprehensive

1:00-3:00 p.m.

--