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ENVR 105-01, Introduction to Environmental Science

Team taught every semester by Professors Arabas, Pike and Bowersox

Course Description

The course is a multidisciplinary introduction to the scientific study of the earth’s physical and biological systems, with a focus on understanding the effects of human actions and social systems on the natural world. We will emphasize science-based approaches to understanding environmental problems and evaluating possible solutions to them. We will begin by examining basic concepts regarding human and natural systems. These concepts will be applied as we evaluate and understand issues of environmental quality and stresses on natural resources. The course will end with an in-depth study of Willamette's approach to a number of environmental issues through its sustainability efforts. Throughout the course we will pay close attention to how human social, political, economic, and ethical institutions influence our interactions with natural systems. This course is intended to introduce Environmental Science majors and prospective majors to the field of environmental science as well as educate students from other disciplines. This is a required course for Environmental Science majors. There is a required 6 hour service-learning component that will be completed outside of class time, most likely on weekends.


At the completion of this course, students will be able to

1. recognize many of the interactions between human social, political, economic and ethical institutions and natural systems
2. elucidate the natural transfer of energy and matter throughout the spheres of the earth’s systems and the impact of human actions to those systems.
3. evaluate environmental conditions and risks and the social and political policies that address them.

At the completion of this course, students will have improved their skills in

1. oral and written communication
2. accessing, reading, and critically evaluating on-line and traditional information resources
3. evaluating data Student outcomes will be by measured through standard assessment instruments including weekly quizzes and unit exams that incorporate targeted questions that address the learning objectives.


Exams. There are three exams during the semester and a cumulative final exam during finals period.

Weekly Quizzes. To encourage you to keep up with class assignments and check your comprehension of course materials, you will be given 11 weekly quizzes, 10 of which will count toward your grade. I

Service Learning Project. Many of the broad-based concepts and issues that we will be addressing in this course are on a global or regional scale. Yet your actions on the community level can have a tremendous impact on the local environment. To encourage your participation within our local community and to show that you can make a difference, each student will participate in a 6-hour service-learning project related to the course themes. Examples of service learning projects from semesters past include: stream clean-up and restoration, invasive species removal, plant sales, and plant and animal monitoring. We will maintain a list of volunteer opportunities on WISE. You MUST spend your 6 hours working with a community group in the Salem area. Projects that take place on the Willamette campus (including Zena Forest) are not considered appropriate for this assignment, as part of the point is for you to escape the bubble for a day.

Innovation Poster. A central theme of this class as well as of both of our texts is the pursuit of more sustainable means of living within the world: reducing our consumption of natural resources, limiting our waste and pollution, and restoring already damaged ecosystems. The class discusses many of these strategies and technologies for enhancing or developing the resilience of human and natural systems, but many are not explored in sufficient detail for us to evaluate their effectiveness, or understand how they might be utilized in our own—and Willamette’s—pursuit of sustainability. To that end, each of you will select a strategy or technology that addresses one of the environmental problems we examine in class (e.g. waste disposal, soil erosion, or loss of biodiversity) and develop an 11” by 17” color poster explaining the potential for that innovative strategy or technology on the Willamette campus.

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Last Updated 01/13/2011