B CUSP 119
Evaluates progress at the conclusion of the first year through the construction of a portfolio and offers an experiential learning opportunity, either on- or off-campus. Prerequisite: either B CUSP 115, B CUSP 116, or B CUSP 117; may not be repeated. Offered: Sp.
When debates rage in political and news circles about environmental issues, are the questions being asked in a scientific way? How are new discoveries made about how the earth works, and about what human impacts are on the environment? When new discoveries about these human impacts are challenged, are the challenges about science or public policy? We will read case studies of major discoveries in environmental science in the last century, including the recognition of the impacts of hazardous chemicals on wildlife, the need for municipal waste water treatment, and the discovery of the southern hemisphere ozone hole. We will examine the original research, discussing what initial questions led to these discoveries, what scientific and non-scientific questions and criticisms changed the research along the way, how these questions strengthened or weakened the original research, and how it eventually reached acceptance. Using these case studies from the past, we will also analyze current environmental debates, including climate change skepticism, to identify and examine good, scientific questions and critiques and separate these from emotional or politically driven critiques.
The overall goal of this course is to engage in thinking critically about science, especially science related to environmental management, and to see scientific research as a multi-stage, multi-faceted process. This requires an individual scientist, and the public at large, to recognize the nature of a problem, question its elements, actively investigate those elements, reason through the results to possible answers, accept and refine the results of that reasoning, and finally, act on that acceptance.
Student learning goals
Students will learn to identify and write scientific hypotheses.
Students will practice quantitative writing.
Students will use quantitative information to help form and support an argument.
Students will understand, describe, and discuss the way that science influences politics and policy.
General method of instruction
Lecture, small-group discussion, class website on Canvas.
Class assignments and grading
Grades will be based on a variety of assessments including in-class group work, homework based on reading case studies, discussion and presentation, exams.