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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Lindsay Whitlow
ENVIR 450
Seattle Campus

Special Topics in Environmental Studies

Format may range from seminar/discussion to formal lectures to laboratory or modeling work.

Class description

PREVENTING DISASTER: Relationships between Natural Hazards & Environmental Issues in the Pacific Northwest

People living in the Pacific Northwest accept the presence of well-known natural hazards in their daily lives, and recent global events have emphasized the need to understand how to best prevent these hazards from causing a major disaster in the future. This field course will investigate the relationship between these natural hazards and environmental issues in the region through a highly interdisciplinary lens, with the goal of gaining an understanding of what separates acknowledged hazards from preventable disaster. In particular, what we have witnessed from the events in Banda Aceh, New Orleans, and Pakistan over the past year illustrates the clear relevance of resource access and population distribution on vulnerability to cataclysmic events. Hence, we will approach the Pacific Northwest Region (or perhaps more accurately, the region where the North American and Pacific continental plates collide) that will examine how spatial dynamics of people, resources, and development could affect the resilience of the community should dramatic tectonic events occur.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

This field course will investigate the relationships between natural hazards and environmental issues in the region by:

Analyzing vulnerability of regional communities in collaborative research with local experts using the latest geographic tools & techniques.

Visiting multiple field sites to assess vulnerabilities and past lessons, such as Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Snoqualmie Pass, Bainbridge Island, Alaskan Way Viaduct, and coastal towns.

Exploring hazards & disasters from initial settlement to present day.

Investigating linkages among scientific, political, and social perspectives in accommodating hazards, preparing for disasters, and mitigating potential impacts.

Examining questions on regional planning, urban (and suburban) development, and dissemination of accurate information on risks.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Designed primarily for students to gain an introduction to the general topic and to build their capacity for interdisciplinary research. The coursework will involve travel to local and regional field sites, a variety of student team projects where individual team members will both be responsible for research on focal topics, and working with colleagues to synthesize information from multiple perspectives and sources.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Trina M. Sterry
Date: 04/05/2006