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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Thomas M Leschine
SMA 514
Seattle Campus

Marine Pollution Management Issues

Management and policy aspects of marine environmental protection, emphasizing the two-way interaction between environmental managers and environmental and policy scientists which shapes policy.

Class description

2011 Theme: A Case Study in Decision Making Under Uncertainty: The Environmental and Human Dimensions of Risk From Arctic Oil Development.

Retreat of Arctic sea ice is opening the continental margin to a rush of oil exploration in an area that could hold 10% of the world’s petroleum. The Federal sale of oil exploration leases in the Chukchi Sea in February 2008 brought in nearly $2.7 billion, including $2.1 billion from a subsidiary of Shell Oil. The permit to allow Shell to begin exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea was conditionally approved by the Dept. of Interior in August 2011, but continues to receive intense scrutiny. Conditions on this permit will provide the benchmark for oil extraction in Arctic waters in the U.S. and beyond. The course, offered in partnership with NOAA scientists engaged in this debate, will explore how these policy decisions are being made in the face of scientific, economic, political, and social uncertainty. This course will provide an understanding of theory and practice relevant to conducting environmental policy decision-making under uncertainty.

Two or more students will have the opportunity to accompany NOAA personnel to Alaska in Winter or Spring to meet with stakeholders in this important decision.

Student learning goals

Learn to recognize the social and environmental consequences of arctic oil exploration and the management and policy options for mitigating those consequences;

Learn to describe and compare the advantages and disadvantages of the legal and regulatory decision making framework for environmental impact assessment;

Learn how to work effectively within a group to produce a real-world product for environmental policy decision-making;

Learn how to display a leadership role in the classroom community through discussion, group learning, and class presentations.

General method of instruction

We expect students to be new to this specific topic and to have a variety of science and policy backgrounds. Course materials and lectures will consider the backgrounds, experience, and goals of enrolled students. The course will rely on lectures from the instructor and guest lecturers with first-hand experience to conveying general principles and key theory and practice. The course will also rely on student reading, evaluation, and discussion to develop a rich classroom exchange that explores the full implications of the course theme.

Class time will be devoted to discussion of assigned readings drawn from scientific literature, government policy and plans, the popular press, and social media. Throughout the course, students will be expected to engage in critical examination of lectures and readings through class discussions, individual assignments, and a final group project. The group project will allow students to apply knowledge and skills gained in the class to examine approaches to limiting the effects of oil development in the Arctic. The project will involve critical evaluation of risk management alternatives using a scenario analysis approach. The assignment will require that the group evaluate, synthesize, analyze, and apply course content. The goal of the course is produce a practical and useful contribution to conditions that will be imposed on oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea.

Recommended preparation

The course will require student participation, discussion, and peer collaboration. Differing points of view are encouraged and should be presented in a constructive context. Students can expect a high level of success if they attend lectures and complete the readings and course assignments.

This course has no prerequisites. Group as well as individual work is required and students are encouraged to collaborate with peers in discussing readings, brainstorming writing assignments, and most especially in the group project. Students should be prepared to engage in critical thinking and analysis appropriate to environmental decision-making in government.

Class assignments and grading

Every week – read and think about assignments and lectures so you can contribute in class. There will be time set aside most classes for discussion of reading and lecture topics.

Individual paper - 3-5 page paper that contributes to evaluating the social or environmental impact of Arctic oil development and how that evaluation can inform the decision-making process.

Group project – will provide an opportunity to apply course information. You team will report on and defend your choices in a class presentation. Individual group reports will be integrated into a single final class paper.

Attendance and general in-class participation – 10% Discussion and briefs on assigned readings – 20% Individual paper – 20% Group Project and final paper and presentation – 50%


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 Thomas M Leschine
Date: 08/31/2011