Biology 493


Fall 2009                       General Course Information


Course Objectives:

1)   Review and learn some techniques of quantitative environmental analysis.

2)   Perform an environmental assessment of the water quality of Salmon Lake/McGrath Pond and some of the prominent factors affecting it such as shore land and other land use patterns. The goal will be to use this information to suggest actions to the lake association that will help preserve the water quality of the lake.

3)   Learn about local environmental concerns and techniques for environmental monitoring. This aspect of the course will include lectures by and discussions with environmental professionals.

4)   Continue to develop scientific writing, oral presentation, and collaborative working skills through class projects, presentations, and reports.

5)   Participate in a research project to gain experience as a practicing scientist.


Course Design: The goal of this course is to learn and practice some techniques used by environmental scientists to investigate environmental problems. This course is designed to focus on concepts learned as you progressed through the environmental science curriculum. You will be working as a group to investigate particular aspects of an environmental issue. The class will be treated as though it is an environmental consulting firm that has been hired to conduct studies focusing on these issues. The class will be expected to take the initiative in developing a work plan, conducting necessary field and laboratory work, and writing a final report for the project. The professors (contractors) will help you by reviewing the progress of the project and by making suggestions that will enable you to complete the project in an efficient and proper manner. They will also help, where necessary to teach appropriate field and laboratory techniques as well as computer software use.


Project: The class will work as a consulting firm to assess the water quality of Salmon Lake/McGrath and report on those issues, which do or may in the near future affect said quality. Consideration must be given to nutrient inputs and outputs, including information about land use and its effects. After assessing the state of each of these environmental concerns through library and field work, your firm will present a formal report (oral and written) describing the major sources of trouble and recommending environmentally sound suggestions for remediation. The report will be sent to the Department of Environmental Protection, the local lake association, and other interested parties. Each class member will participate in data gathering in the field or laboratory, and in writing the report. Peer editors will critically review each piece of writing and guide the class in assembling the final project report.


Group meetings: It will be your responsibility to assemble working groups for discussion and completion of tasks. Group meetings in addition to those during class time will be necessary to meet the deadlines outlined in the syllabus. Coordination within and among groups is extremely important to the success of the project. Email is an excellent way to communicate with class members, particularly when time constraints exist. Every participant in this course is expected to check their messages frequently and respond to these messages on a timely basis.


Guest Speakers: Three times during the semester we will invite guest speakers to campus to discuss specific environmental issues. These environmental experts will discuss topics directly related to the major projects or other topics of regional concern.


Grades: Grades will be based on the following criteria.

       Oral presentation of background                               

         and annotated bibliographya                               10.0%

         Oral presentation of field researcha                      10.0%

         Oral presentation of final reportb, c                    10.0%   


         Report (graded in two parts)b                               45.0%

                   a) Report draft (25%)

                   b) Final report (20%)

        Field Job Evaluationc                                             10.0%

       Report Job Evaluationc                                          10.0%

         General Participationc                                             5.0%   




a. These presentations will be evaluated by class members as well as instructors.

b. Your relative contributions to the final product will be an important factor in your grade (i.e., everyone will not automatically receive the same grade on the report or final presentation). For example, the chief editors of the report or the students presenting the final report to the public may receive a higher grade than other editors or non-presenters.

c. Part of this grade will be based on evaluations completed by persons in your group describing your willingness to take on responsibilities and the quality of your work performance during the field, report, or presentation components of the course.