ENVIRON 89S. First-Year Seminar – Nicholas School Undergraduate Programs

ENVIRON 89S. First-Year Seminar

Climate Change: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions (NS, STS)
Climate change is one of the defining challenges facing humanity today. The goal of this first-year seminar is to develop a comprehensive and integrated view of contemporary climate change. The first half of the course will examine our current understanding of the science of climate change, and explore the potential societal consequences of a changing climate. The second half of the course will focus on potential solutions, with a focus on technological, political, and social challenges that will have to be overcome to mitigate and adapt to climate change. More broadly, the course seeks to develop intellectual, academic, and learning skills by engaging students in active inquiry, critical analysis, and discussion of competing ideas.
Instructor: Prasad S. Kasibhatla
Prasad Kasibhatla, Ph.D. (University of Kentucky) is Professor of Environmental Chemistry.  The overarching theme of his research is to develop a fundamental and quantitative understanding of the factors that determine the chemical composition of the atmosphere. He is particularly interested in delineating natural and anthropogenic impacts on the chemical composition of the atmosphere, and in exploring the potential for these impacts to affect natural ecosystems. His research involves the use of numerical models in conjunction with remote and in situ measurements of atmospheric composition.

US Food Production: What Are We Really Eating? (NS, STS)

As the human population grows and migrates to urban centers, we increasingly want to know the provenance and quality of what we eat.  Is the produce grown sustainably? Or does it carry a large environmental cost? Is genetically modified (GM) food part of our diet? And what does GM food mean anyway? Consumers are increasingly aware of the impacts current agricultural methods have on our environment and the demand for sustainable agriculture increases. To understand the nature of current US food production, we will explore agriculture practices with a sustainability lens. We will examine issues such as pre and post ‘green revolution’ agriculture and associated pollution, sustainable agriculture, decoupling of food production and consumption, food waste. Future production forecast in a changing environment will be explored using current and projected scenarios of climate change. We will investigate these issues through the popular writings of ecologist Ruth DeFries, environmental journalist Michael Pollan, and writer Paul Greenberg, among others. The popular writings will be reviewed against data in scientific journals. Through discussions, debates, and hands-on field experience, both problems and potential solutions will be addressed at the biological, environmental, and societal level. We take advantage of the Duke Campus Farm for field trips.
Instructor: Chantal Reid
Chantal Reid, Ph.D. (Duke University) is an Assistant Professor of the Practice and Director of Undergraduate Studies for Environmental Sciences and Policy. Her research and teaching interests include physiological ecology and global change in the context of plant production and sustainable agriculture.  She previously worked at the USDA researching the impact of greenhouse gases on soybean and rice production.

Gulf Disasters and Recovery
The Gulf of Mexico is bounded by five coastal states with economic interests in tourism, sport and commercial fishing, and recreation. Explores negative impacts of Deep Horizon oil spill (DHOS) on water resources, migratory fishes and marine mammals; habitats and fauna of coastal states. Examines restoration efforts initiated in 2013. Compares ecosystem recovery efforts related to DHOS and impact of hurricane Harvey. Questions addressed through governance (federal and state) and state of coastal ecosystems prior to event. Using discussions, debates, and focused literature reviews, determine if effective monitoring is in place to provide critical baseline data prior to future events.
Instructor: David Hinton
David Hinton, Ph.D. (University of Mississippi), is Nicholas Professor of Environmental Quality in the Nicholas School of the Environment. His research and teaching interests include mechanistic toxicity in all life stages of small, aquarium model fish and in selected species with particular environmental relevance (freshwater and marine).

Environmental Change in the Big-Data Era
A revolution in how we understand environmental change is underway, from the type and amount of data that are available to the ways in which it is synthesized and interpreted. The training needed for the next generation of scientists, engineers, and decision makers includes a blend of modeling, computation, and the capacity to exploit large data streams, often accessed through the internet. Students will be introduced to sources of data, their strengths and limitations, and interpretation through readings and discussions of scientific literature and data exploration. Examples will introduce basic concepts in R software applied to climate change, human impacts, and biodiversity loss.
Instructor: James S. Clark
James S. Clark, Ph.D. (University of Minnesota), is Nicholas Professor of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Professor of Statistical Science.  His research focuses on how global change affects populations, communities, and ecosystems.  Current projects explore consequences of climate, CO2, and disturbance on dynamics of forests.  His lab is using long-term experiments and monitoring studies to determine disturbance and climate controls on the dynamics of 20th century forests in combination with extensive modeling to forecast ecosystem change.

Topics vary each semester offered. Instructor: Staff. 1 unit.