Within the framework of marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, this course explores the natural environment and the dynamic biological, physical and chemical interactions that characterize it. The role of humans in altering the natural biogeochemical cycles will be explored through focused discussions of topics such as natural resource exploitation (forestry, agriculture, mining, oil & gas, alternative energies), pollution (waste management, soil and water contamination, atmospheric pollution and climate change), and land use changes (e.g., urbanization). Emphasis will be placed on the local and regional environment. Field trips may be required.
Lecture topics may include:
- Introduction to the environment (definitions, scientific method, Earth spheres, etc.)
- Biosphere (properties and origins of life, evolution, taxonomy, etc.).
- Lithosphere (matter, minerals, rocks, rock cycle, soils, soil ecosystems and soil pollution/contamination, Earth structure, plate tectonics, geomorphology/glaciation, etc.).
- Hydrosphere (properties of water, distribution of water: surface water ecosystems, groundwater, water use and pollution/contamination, fisheries and conservation, etc.).
- Atmosphere (structure and properties, weather, pollution, climate and climate change, etc.).
- Environmental systems (cycling of energy and matter, biogeochemical cycles of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, etc.).
- Population (characteristics of populations, models of single species populations, human population and demographics, etc.).
- Biodiversity (benefits, measuring biodiversity, factors affecting biodiversity, extinction rates, biological invasions, conservation, etc.).
- Community (species interactions, niche, disturbance, succession, trophic levels and food webs, biomes, etc.).
- Forest resources (forest ecosystems, harvesting, effects of deforestation, forest management, etc.).
- Agriculture (food production, green revolution, pest management, biotechnology, GMOs, etc.).
- Energy resources (fossil fuels, nuclear, renewables, conventional vs. non-conventional, etc.).
- Mineral resources (mineral uses, mineral deposit types, mining methods, impacts and remediation measures, etc.).
- Urban environment (urban ecology, urban growth, livable cities, etc.).
- Health and toxicology (infectious diseases, environmental hazards, risk management, etc.).
- Waste (solid/liquid and toxic/hazardous waste and management, etc.).
- Governance (environmental law and policy, environmental ethics, economic models and tools applied to the environment and allocation of resources, etc.).
- Sustainability (definition, strategies, functioning, trends, etc.).
Lab topics may include:
- Organism identification (plants, animals). Introduction to the use of a dichotomous key.
- Rocks & mineral identification. Basic mineral identification skills and classification of rocks.
- Soil characteristics (soil type, permeability, water retention capacity, pH, etc.) and effects on plant growth (biomass production). Soil quality and contamination.
- Fresh water environments (aquatic ecosystems) and water properties (pH, turbidity, salinity, dissolved oxygen, temperature, total dissolved solids, etc.). Organism count and identification. Water quality and contamination.
- Marine/shoreline environments (shoreline ecosystems). Substrate characteristics (grain size, composition, etc.), energy level of environment, identification of biotic community.
- Mountain environments (forest ecosystems). Effects of climate, nature of substrate/geology, elevation and topography on forest community.
- Atmospheric pollution (air quality measurements).
- Groundwater flow and contamination.
Methods Of Instruction
2 hour weekly lectures, 2 hour weekly labs. Up to 4 labs may be replaced by field trips.
Means of Assessment
Labs/field trip reports
Lecture exams (term and final exams)
Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. Evaluation will be based on the table above.
After successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Identify the spheres that make up our planet, provide examples of natural systems and describe the cycling of energy and matter within these systems.
- Distinguish between major biotic and abiotic characteristics of marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems.
- Apply the scientific method to the study of environmental systems.
- Communicate scientific observations, data, analyses and interpretations.
- Perform scientific literature research on an environmental system or issue, formulate a thesis statement, evaluate the relevance and usefulness of the information researched, synthesize the information and communicate it both orally and in writing.
- Describe the relationship between human activity (natural resource exploitation, waste production, etc.) and the natural environment (biotic and abiotic). Discuss mitigation and remediation strategies to counteract these environmental impacts.
Students should consult the bookstore for the latest required course materials, including the textbook:
Withgott, J., Brennan, S. and Murck, B., Environment: The Science Behind the Stories, Pearson, latest Canadian edition. Or equivalent text.