Course Description

This course provides a survey of research techniques along with some history and philosophy of environmental science. Students will bring in a varying background by having upper-division standing in the Environmental Science program. Goals include: (1) to provide students with a sense of how various scientific disciplines interact when studying the global environment, (2) to introduce the professional literature of environmental science, and (3) to understand the long histories and scientific underpinnings of modern environmental issues, both within and without their various areas of specialization. A major focus of the course will be scientific writing, satisfying the “second writing course” requirement for the degree.

Topics covered

Writing and the Scientific Literature. (4 weeks)

The peer-reviewed literature: how scientists communicate. Organization of a research report. Writing and revising clear prose. Technical items: references, figures, tables, and typography. The politicization and socialization of science. Scientific misconduct.

History of the environment and human understanding of the environment. (5 weeks)

Prehistoric development of biota, atmosphere, and humans capable of environmental modification. Historical development of thought about the environment and recognition of human activity as an agent of change. 19th century discovery of deep time and the fragmentation of science. 20th century re-integration of environmental science and the development of modern environmental philosophies. Attitudes about the environment.

A survey of the problems and where science is needed. (3 weeks)

This section will primarily consist of oral presentations by students of their projects.

Ensc 450 Proseminar in Environmental Science

Spring 2009

1:25–2:15 Monday, Wednesday, & Friday

Allison Hall 240

Office Hours

Tentative Schedule

Text: D. G. Payne  & R. S. Newman (eds.), 2005. The Palgrave Environmental Reader. Palgrave-Macmillian.

Reading list (PDF)

Projects: A term project in multiple stages, worth a total of 75% of the course grade. See the special syllabus for the term project to see how points are distributed across the stages.

Test: A midterm exam, in late April will cover the History of Environmental thought portion of the course. This will be worth 20% of the grade.

Oral presentations. Students will do two oral presentations, one of which is incorporated into the term project, and one of which is a brief readings presentation worth 5% of the course grade. Schedules.




Presentation PowerPoint file

Lecture Notes

Scientific publication

Environmental Science History


Ancient antecedents


Deep time

Modern thought