ENVS 202: Natural Sciences

Course Content and Philosophy:

This course will deal with the issues of how to acquire and analyze data for the purpose of transforming emotional debates on environmental problems into objective ones. This is a skill that is critically lacking and without this skill the public participation process becomes dysfunctional. The bulk of the course will focus on the development of data analysis and presentation tools. In other words, this course is about how you shape environmental debate/policy around real data and how ultimately, policy is limited by the reliability and availability of relevant data. We will follow this approach in the contexts of global warming, energy generation, salmon restoration, pollution and other real world environmental problems.

This is surely beyond the level of difficulty you expect of this course but ENVS 202 likely represents the only opportunity for exposure to this critical set of skills. Environmental Studies is a very broad interdisciplinary field that covers policy and management aspects, humanistic aspects, sociological aspects and of course, quantitative aspects. This course emphasizes the latter. We will discuss sampling, bias, measurement errors, statistics, and how to fit data. The necessary tools will be provided to you via simple programs that can be executed within a Web browser. For purposes to this course it is *not* necessary to understand very much of the theory behind measurements but rather to know what can be extracted from a date-set that is meaningful. We will then apply these data to real case studies of real environmental problems to look for real solutions and real characterizations of the problem.

No textbook is required for this course, since there is no one source that is applicable to the range of topics and methodology that we will encounter. Resources relevant to this course will be contained within the various Web pages.

This course will be fairly quantitative in nature. We will definitely be doing statistical analysis and working with numbers and learning about levels of significance. This is extremely valuable for Enviromental Studies majors, which is why its being taught in this class, but this approach may not be best for those students that are taking this class only to fulfill the Group III science distribution requirement. This is not an ideal class for that function.

Course Grading:

Grading of this course will consist of the following:

These homework assignments can and should be done collaboratively with other students (in groups up to 3 in size) and should be turned in via email (saves paper). These assignments are an integral part of this course and should be done well. Blowing them off will most definitely negatively impact your grade.