Like any other organism, humans rely on their environment — most prominently the living part of that environment — in order to survive. But unlike any other species, humans have the ability to re-shape the diverse environments they inhabit in profound, fundamental, and potentially destructive ways. This course explores how living ecosystems function and how that functioning provides the resources required by both individual humans and the societies we form. It also considers how we have transformed our environment in ways that can threaten both our own health and the health of the ecosystems upon which human civilization depends. Many scientists suggest that we have entered a new geologic epoch, the anthropocene; this course explores ways in which the “age of humanity” can become a sustainable — rather than apocalyptic — episode in evolutionary history.
This course fulfills the General Education requirements for a CORE Math & Science course as well as for a WRITING-INTENSIVE course. It also fulfills the ecology/environmental science requirement of the Minor in Sustainability Studies.
Who Might Be Interested In This Course?
This course is primarily designed for students who wish to complete the Minor in Sustainability Studies. As a required course in this minor, Ecology, Environment, & the Anthropocene will prepare you to tackle the many challenges we face as we try to move towards a sustainable society, providing scientific context for your later studies in sustainability. It is a rigorous, writing-intensive course that requires students to complete a semester-long creative Term Project grounded by research and expository writing. Consistent work in this course will be rewarded by abundant learning. If you want to understand how ecosystems function, how humans benefit from those functions, how our current actions threaten ecosystems, and what we might do to mitigate those threats, you will value this course. If you want to improve your ability to ground your art or design work in solid scientific research, this course provides the platform to develop these skills.
What Background Should I Have Before I Take This Course?
This course requires no formal background in the biological sciences. It is nice if you have some memory of your high school biology class, but even that is not required.
Important Course Materials:
MSWI-270C (Ecology, Environment, & the Anthropocene) Course-at-a-Glance
MSWI-270C (Ecology, Environment, & the Anthropocene) Course Syllabus
MSWI-270C (Ecology, Environment, & the Anthropocene) Term Project Guidelines
MSWI-270C (Ecology, Environment, & the Anthropocene) American Museum of Natural History Field Trip Assignment (extra credit)
You can check out exemplary Term Project Proposals and Term Project & Summaries on the Ecology, Environment, & the Anthropocene student work page.
Blog posts related to this course can be found here.
This course maintains an Open Information Environment.