Biogeochemistry and Global Change: Material from 2014

Welcome to the Biol 510 webpage for Winter 2014

This ecology course will examine the underlying causes of global change issues at levels ranging from biogeochemical processes through to human behaviour. The aim of the course is to develop students' perspectives on the relationship between ecology and the sustainability of our current civilisation. Students will lead informal seminar discussions on some component of this theme that is of particular interest to them.

Initial sessions will provide an overview of the history of human impacts on the structure and functioning of the Earth's ecosystems. The principal question that this course will address is: Why does it take so long for environmental science to become environmental practice?
This course is for final year undergraduates and is specifically aimed at enhancing their capacities for critical thinking, intelligent open discussion, group work, and independent learning. By the end of the course, students should be able to apply fundamental science-based perspectives toward understanding the constraints on society’s responses to global change issues.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course, the student should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of major global change issues that integrates ecological, economic and social perspectives
  2. Search and critically assess primary and secondary literature in the natural and social sciences
  3. Work in a group to initiate social action on a chosen global change issue that is locally relevant
  4. Develop and present cohesive, original syntheses on society’s response to a chosen global change issue
  5. Critically assess the constraints (ecological, economic, social, behavioural and political) that underlie society’s responses to global change issues
  6. Discuss the role of ecology in influencing and predicting the future of our civilisation

Professor: Paul Grogan

Seminar times: Mondays 11.30; Thursdays 13.00
Location: Room 3110, Biosciences building

Links: 

Calendar: Sessions are 1.5 hours

Assessment:

  • 15% Active participation in discussions (questions, comments, suggestions)
  • 10% Seminar written questions
  • 45% Group projects (30% Seminars on constraints; 15% Environmental action project)
  • 30% Essay or debate paper
Week beginning Day and time Convenor Topic Reading
6th January Monday 11.30
Paul Grogan
Introduction  
  Thursday 13.00
Paul
Group discussion Schumacher E.F. 1973. Small is Beautiful - A study of economics as if people mattered.
13th January Monday 11.30
Paul
Group discussion Grogan, P. 2013. Our Anthropocene Future - What can biology tell us? Free Inquiry. Vol. 32 (2):16-19.
  Thursday 13.00
Paul
Group discussion, and group project initiation

 

20th January Monday 11.30
Paul
Group discussion Fischer, J et al. 2012. Human Behaviour and Sustainability. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 10(3):153-160.
  Thursday 13.00   Group projects on histories of global change issues - Preparation  
27th January Monday 11.30   Group projects on histories of global change issues - Preparation  
  Thursday 13.00   Group projects on histories of global change issues - Preparation  
1st February Saturday   Field trip to Kingston Area Recycling Centre  
3rd February Monday 11.30

Natasha, Lauren, Ben and Mitch

Global change issue: Depleting fossil fuel energy reserves - the potential for replacement with nuclear fuels

Seminar question: What are the implications of following the status quo of current energy use versus using nuclear energy as a sustainable resource?

Han, C. 2014. Demarketing fear: Bring the nuclear issue back to rational discourse Energy Policy 64:183-192.
  Thursday 13.00

Ashley, Andrew and David

Global change issue:  The negative impacts of our civilisation’s increasing use of fossil fuels

Seminar question: Is biofuel a realistic alternative energy source to sustain our current way of living?

Ciolkosz, D. 2009. What’s So Different about Biodiesel Fuel? Penn State Biomass Energy Center. Accessed from energy.extension.psu.edu
10th February Monday 11.30

Simone, Robyn and Nick

Global change issue: Humanity’s overexploitation of food resources

Seminar question: Can we prevent the entire depletion of our oceanic resources by harvesting aquatic products in a more conscientious way?

Hilborn, R and Branch, T. 2013. Does Catch Reflect Abundance? Nature (494):303-306
  Thursday 13.00

Kelsey, Sarah O, and Sara M.

Global change issue: The continuing accumulation of  municipal solid waste

Seminar question: Are consumer-based societies able to alter their wasteful behaviours to help sustainably manage and reduce the amount of municipal solid waste?

Rozenberg, A. 2013. Muncipal solid waste: Is it garbage or gold? United Nations Environmental Program - Global Environment Alert Service. Accessed from www.unep.org/geas
17th February Monday 11.30   READING WEEK - no class  
  Thursday 13.00   READING WEEK - no class  
24th February Monday 11.30 Nikita, Jerika and Jessica

Global change issue: Global human population size
Seminar question: Should we restrict access to medicine and limit medical advances to counterbalance the issue of overpopulation?

Razis D.V. 1994. A New Role for Medicine. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (87):190-192.
  Thursday 13.00

Leslie, Brittany and Branaavan

Global change issue:  Atmospherically derived industrial pollution of freshwater ecosystems
Seminar question: What are the implications of acidification by industrial smoke on freshwater ecosystems, and how do we ensure that developing nations do not follow the same path?

Sasanow, S. 1985. Acid rain: a review of current controversy. Soil Use and Management 1(1):34-36
3rd March Monday 11.30   Environmental action projects discussion  
    Guest speakers - Colin Robinson and Leah Wolley (Queen's AMS Sustainability Office Commissioners)  
10th March Monday 11.30   Environmental action projects preparation  
  Thursday 13.00   Environmental action projects - Plan presentations  
17th March Monday 11.30   Environmental action - Walking the walk! - No formal class  
  Thursday 13.00   Environmental action - Walking the walk! - No formal class  
24th March Monday 11.30   Environmental action - Walking the walk! - No formal class  
  Thursday 13.00  

Environmental action projects - Report presentations from the groups testing the following hypotheses:

Increasing education on waste will reduce student household waste production

Increasing environmental awareness amongst the student body on campus will enhance use of the Earth Centre and Tea Rooms

Improved information signs for appropriate waste treatment of the components of ‘CO-GRO’ compostable cups, and improved bin accessibility, will lead to more efficient disposal

Financial incentives provided by ‘CO-GRO’ will increase use of ‘bring your own cup’  

 
31st March Monday 11.30  

Environmental action projects - Report presentations from the group testing the following hypothesis:

Removing portion cups from consumer food waste baskets at Queen’s Pub will substantially reduce waste production, and increase compostable waste

Class debate: Inadequate education is the main block to increasing our civilization’s use of nuclear power

 
  Thursday 13.00 Paul Synthesis  

Last Updated: 18 May 2016