About this Project

The connections among our socio-economic systems and our ecosystems have become fundamentally cross-scale in both space and time, and our need to understand the connections is urgent. Yet campus-based environmental science education and research remains generally either scale independent or focuses on a narrow range of scales. The Integrative Spatial Modeling Initiative emerges out of several Carleton College faculty development and curriculum projects including, in 2006, both a computational modeling faculty development project and a spatial modeling pilot project conducted as part of a road ecology course. Faculty increasingly recognize that spatial modeling provides an exciting, though largely untapped, integrative framework for teaching about, researching, and responding to complex, multidimensional environmental problems. The project also emerges from student and faculty recognition, most notably in their work involving post-Katrina New Orleans, that interdisciplinary teaching is most successful when it involves students in team-based research addressing complex real-world problems. The Integrative Spatial Modeling Initiative will provide faculty and students with a framework and with interdisciplinary, participatory skills to address these kinds of problems and to propose solutions.

Project PI

Tsegaya Nega (Department of Environmental and Technology Studies-ENTS)

Henry Luce Foundation

The Integrative Spatial Modeling Program is funded by the Henry Luce Foundation in line with its goal of improving environmental education in liberal arts colleges and research universities in the United States. The foundation has been particularly interested in: "interdisciplinary programs; international exchanges; participatory and empirical teaching; and training in environmental management" (see the Luce Foundation website for more details).

Additional Information

The Carleton College program in Environmental and Technology Studies (ENTS) is developing a project featuring participatory and empirical environmental teaching and learning. This program aims to deliver tangible results, make science relevant, require team-work, and create a feeling of accomplishment (Luce theme #3, "Participatory and Empirical Teaching"). Funded by LUCE and in collaboration with government, non-government organizations (NGOs), and industry partners, the project employs integrative spatial modeling as a framework for involving faculty and students in analyzing real-world environmental problems. The project builds upon recent faculty modeling workshops and upon recent College hiring in support of ENTS in general and of integrative spatial modeling in particular.

As an interdisciplinary non-major "concentration," ENTS is one of the College's most popular programs, enrolling twenty-four senior concentrators and involving twenty-nine faculty from fourteen departments across the College. While ENTS has a history dating back to 1974, recent initiatives are traceable to ENTS planning facilitated in 2000 by Dale Jamieson, Carleton's Luce Professor of the Human Dimensions of Global Change. As a result of that planning, ENTS faculty have insisted that the concentration, and a future ENTS major, be a truly interdisciplinary and integrative endeavor rather than the multidisciplinary approach that is common in most environmental science majors. By "integrative," ENTS faculty mean, following Mansilla (Change, March 2004), the thinking and results that happen when several disciplinary perspectives combine to produce something new—an understanding, insight, or solution to a problem—that would be unlikely from the mere sum of disciplinary perspectives. The challenge for ENTS faculty has been to develop an integrative interdisciplinarity that provides evaluative skills; features a signature participatory and empirical learning and teaching pedagogy; provides cohesion among core courses and electives; and provides ongoing opportunities for professional development and shared research among ENTS faculty.

The project recognizes that the connections among our socio-economic systems and our ecosystems have become fundamentally cross-scale in both space and time, and our need to understand the connections is urgent. Yet campus-based environmental science education and research remains generally either scale independent or focuses on a narrow range of scales. The Integrative Spatial Modeling Initiative emerges out of several Carleton College faculty development and curriculum projects including, in 2006, both a computational modeling faculty development project and a spatial modeling pilot project conducted as part of a road ecology course. Faculty increasingly recognize that spatial modeling provides an exciting, though largely untapped, integrative framework for teaching about, researching, and responding to complex, multidimensional environmental problems. The project also emerges from student and faculty recognition, most notably in their work involving post-Katrina New Orleans, that interdisciplinary teaching is most successful when it involves students in team-based research addressing complex real-world problems. The Integrative Spatial Modeling Initiative will provide faculty and students with a framework and with interdisciplinary, participatory skills to address these kinds of problems and to propose solutions.

Project outcomes include:

Visual representation of LUCE Project outcomes.

  1. faculty development in integrative spatial modeling (e.g., GIS, remote sensing);
  2. faculty-student research using these spatial modeling technologies on real-world problems and in collaboration with external partners;
  3. incorporation of integrative spatial modeling into existing ENTS core courses, new upper-level ENTS courses, and cross-listed courses, including domestic and international off-campus studies courses; and
  4. assessment of student learning attributable to the integrative spatial modeling initiative.

LUCE has provided three years of funding for this project (beginning in 2007). The initial focus of ENTS faculty-student research is on problems arising from the interaction of transportation networks, urban growth, and land use in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan region. The initiative will develop new models for incorporating cross-divisional content and methodology into courses and create of a signature participatory and empirical pedagogy in the ENTS curriculum.



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