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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Thomas M Leschine
SMEA 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

Spring 2014 - SMEA 514 – Marine Pollution Management – Special Theme Oil in the Arctic - Decision Making Under Conflict and Uncertainty: Exploring the Environmental and Human Dimensions of Risk from Oil in a Changing Arctic.

The course will examine risks from marine transportation and oil development in the Arctic in the face of changing physical environments, ecosystems, and the human communities that depend upon them. Graduate students from programs across campus will study threats from oil in the context of conflicting values and human-induced changes in the Arctic, with a focus on decision-making affecting the future of the Arctic region and beyond. Understanding these problems in a global context will be enhanced by guest lectures from NGOs, industry, and academia. The course provides understanding of theory and practice for environmental policy decision-making under conditions of uncertainty, social, and political conflict, in the context of Arctic development. Continuing retreat of Arctic sea ice has opened the continental margin to increasing marine shipping and new oil exploration in an area that could hold 10% of the world’s remaining petroleum. Arctic shipping is increasing with commercial sea routes opening for both cargo and passenger traffic with associated pollution risks. Taught in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, students gain experience in addressing problems in the context of the real world requirements of an ocean management agency.

Offered by the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs through the Future of Ice initiative of the Colleges of the Environment and Arts and Sciences.

This course counts as an elective in the new JSIS Arctic Minor. Undergrad enrollees must obtain add codes from the course instructors. Contact tml@uw.edu or bobpavia@uw.edu for more information.

Student learning goals

Recognize the social and environmental consequences of Arctic energy development and transportation and the management and policy options for mitigating those consequences;

Describe, and compare the advantages and disadvantages of the legal and regulatory decision making framework for environmental impact assessment;

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

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 topic and to have a variety of science and policy backgrounds and experiences. Course materials and lectures will take into account the backgrounds, experience, and goals of enrolled students. The course will rely on lectures from the instructors and guest lecturers with first-hand experience to conveying general principles and key theory and practice, as well as on student reading, evaluation, and discussion to develop a rich classroom exchange that fully explores the course themes. Class time will be devoted to discussion of assigned readings drawn from scientific literature, government policy documents 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 projects will allow students to apply knowledge and skills gained in the class to examine approaches to manage the effects of oil development in the Arctic. The projects will involve identification and critical evaluation of risk management alternatives. The assignment will require that groups evaluate, synthesize, analyze, and apply course content. The goal of the course is produce a practical and useful contribution to discussion and debate about future Arctic development and exploitation activities.

Recommended preparation

No specific prior preparation or background required. We seek graduate students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds who wish to work in small peer groups to develop interdisciplinary perspectives on the the problems of Arctic oil development that will be the focus and prospective solutions. Creativity and openness to the ideas of others a plus. Be ready and even eager to be paired with someone very unlike yourself in group discussion and group work that will form part of your grade.

Class assignments and grading

Read and critique materials that range from academic articles to government and industry documents and materials. Distill from those, class lectures by the instructors, and talks by invited guests to inform your own written and oral communication, and both individual and group writing and presentation assignments. Be prepared to find articles on your own and to use them to illustrate aspects of the decision making frameworks we will present in this class.

Class assignments and grading

Attendance and general in-class participation – 10% Discussion and briefs on assigned readings– 25% Individual paper – 25% Group work and final paper– 40%

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 development.

Final 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


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: 02/19/2014