Rendezvous 2015 > Program > Oral Sessions > Sustainability and the Environment

Sustainability and the Environment

Friday 1:30pm-3:30pm REC Center Medium Ice Overlook Room
Oral Session

Session Chairs

Cailin Orr, Carleton College
Barbra Sobhani, Red Rocks Community College
1:30pm
America's Future: Environmental Research and Education for a Thriving Century: A Decadal Vision for Environmental Research and Education at NSF
David Blockstein, Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education (ACERE) is drafting a 10 year vision for ERE at NSF. The Vision document will update previous ERE reports over the past decade. The working title of this document expected in fall 2015 is America's Future: Environmental Research and Education for a Thriving Century The report will include: -Understanding the challenges and opportunities of complex environmental systems. -Designing the future: science, engineering, humans and control. -Securing the future with sustaining the future with a sound environment. -Enabling the future: big/small data; education, infrastructure. Science is at an exciting point of convergence where despite the continuing rapidly deteriorating condition of the global environment, we have powerful new tools, including observational systems and new approaches to data and have also had a major increase in the human capacity for interdisciplinary environmental and sustainability research and education. We also have new digital and other technologies that are transforming education. Education research is providing important insights into how people learn and what methods are effective in teaching and learning, including integration of new technologies. These provide opportunities for improved student learning about the Earth. The Rendevous will be one of the first public presentations of the draft report. All participants will have an opportunity to participate in discussion of the ERE portfolio at NSF. What do Rendevous participants consider to be the most important environmental education challenges to be addressed in the context of NSF's mission? What innovative programs and approaches should NSF and the scientific community be made aware of? How does environmental education provide opportunities to increase diversity, serve society and expand broader impacts of our work? What improvements in NSF's approach would help increase its effectiveness in supporting interdisciplinary environmental research and education?
2:00pm
Building Interdisciplinary Sustainability Programs
Cailin Orr, Carleton College
John McDaris, Carleton College
Dave Gosselin, University of Nebraska at Lincoln

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Understanding issues related to environmental problem-solving and sustainability requires background in natural systems and social systems as well as integrating information from diverse sources. Many students are motivated by the sustainability challenges we face, as a society, and are looking for opportunities to take them on. This is a major growth opportunity for sustainability programs, as students who historically may not have considered a natural science field, now enter environmental science programs where they are engaged in problems they find meaningful. Students trained with interdisciplinary backgrounds take their skills and knowledge to interesting places in the workforce, and they frequently come back later to build academically on those experiences. Sustainability can enter the undergraduate curriculum in a number of ways. Interdisciplinary concepts and teaching methods can be infused into existing courses to emphasize the interaction between disciplinary content and sustainability. This approach can provide new skill sets that are not the focus of traditional degree programs including both specific skills and process oriented skills. This will translate well into a modern work environment where employers have a solution-oriented focus and want people who can use their existing skills toward novel applications and adapt to a changing future. An alternative to the infusion strategy, entire programs can be created or modified to emphasize sustainability. Programs engaging with sustainability are inherently interdisciplinary and thus challenge the administrative structure of many institutions. Solutions need to be aligned with institutional structure and goals. This talk with focus on lessons learned through the InTeGrate STEP center workshop program on benefits of implementing interdisciplinary sustainability programs and overcoming challenges to doing so. We will discuss examples of different approaches across institution types, and strategies developed by the NAGT sponsored "Building Stronger Departments" program.
2:15pm
Living on the Edge: Engaging students in evaluating hazards and societal risks at active plate boundaries
Rachel Teasdale, California State University-Chico
Laurel Goodell, Princeton University
Peter Selkin, University of Washington-Tacoma Campus
Susan Riggins, California State University-Chico

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The InTeGrate module, "Living on the Edge: Building Resilient Societies on Active Plate Margins" (LOE) consists of six units in which students use qualitative and quantitative information to assess risk due to earthquakes and volcanoes along active plate boundaries. Student learning from LOE is based on pre- and post- module surveys (n =180) that measure content knowledge and student attitudes towards the value of monitoring active plate margins and their self- efficacy in using geologic data to assess associated hazards and develop strategies to mitigate risk. LOE activities are adaptable for use in a wide variety of classroom settings and student populations. Current use includes lab classes (10-25 students), large lecture lower division classes (80-140 students) and medium sized upper division non-majors classes (50 students). Data suggest that the activities have positive effects on student learning across these different class settings and student populations. 74% of students indicated they "agree" or "strongly agree" that monitoring geologic activity had value to them personally and 94% indicated that such monitoring is valuable to society. Student scores also indicate increased knowledge of the types and limits of the use of data in forecasting geological hazards and their effects. Results are independent of classroom-type and of major (e.g. STEM vs. non-STEM). Learning data and instructor feedback suggest that interactive classroom activities that use real-world data to address societally relevant issues, increases student learning and enhances students' ability to synthesize scientific information.
2:30pm
Break
2:45pm
Earth Science, Major Storms and Community Resilience
Lisa Doner, Plymouth State University
Lorraine Motola, Metropolitan College of New York
Patricia Stapleton, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Extreme major storms (hurricanes, winter storms) have large impacts on the communities that lay in their path. Recent examples include Hurricane and Tropical Storms Katrina (2005), Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012), and the additive effects of winter storms in 2015, 2011, 2010 and 2005. Introductory geology classes may cover classic geologic hazards like earthquakes, volcanoes, river floods and landslides but are unlikely to cover earth surface responses to atmospheric hazards like severe storms. Transient physical earth variables, such as season, tidal conditions and surface temperature, often enhance the severity of impact from storms. These short-duration conditions may have combined impacts that leave geologic deposits, affect geomorphology and alter community perceptions of natural hazard. 20th Century climate change, driven by large-scale forcing of earth surface processes, is predicted to increase the global frequency of heavy rains and icing events, freak storms, and severe weather. Risk factors generated by historical trend analyses are longer accurate for large-scale, extreme, economically destructive events. These facts point to increased need for geoscience training in interdisciplinary aspects of hazard science and policy. Through InTeGrate's 5-year, NSF-funded STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP) Center grant, we're developing a Major Storms and Community Resilience Module. The intent of this team effort is to prepare students from many different disciplines to be well informed about potential risks, effective mitigation, and response strategies to major storms. This portion of the module relates to the integration of these concepts into an Introductory Geology course. In the module, students use high-profile events as case studies to illustrate these storm-related risk and resilience measures. The case studies require them to explore storm preparedness in their own region, to conduct research on storm events and local impacts and to use a Town Hall Meeting approach to assess emergency-preparedness and potential resilience for their own communities.
3:00pm
Stakeholder Input for Storm Risk Assessment
Patricia Stapleton, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Extreme storms have major impacts on the communities that lay in their path. Many climate models predict increased frequency of heavy rains and icing events, freak storms, and severe weather within the continental US as a result of ongoing climate changes. In many locales, risk factors for such economically-damaging events are no longer accurately predicted by historical trend analyses. A community's ability to respond to a major storm, and to exhibit resilience afterwards, depends on its capabilities in risk assessment, management, and preparedness. Because of the rapid pace of changes within the global climate system, preparedness for future risks now also depends on understanding that old paradigms about risk may no longer apply. Community resilience, therefore, increasingly depends on adapting to an uncertain level of risk from weather extremes. This presentation will focus on teaching materials being developed by an interdisciplinary team about the hazards associated with major storms and the risk assessment and management tools employed to mitigate those hazards. The materials require that students apply and evaluate concepts in the context of their local community, culminating in the formulation and evaluation of hazard mitigation plan recommendations. These plans are then presented and assessed during a town-hall style meeting. In this role-playing activity, students work in the context of assigned stakeholder positions from their local community. These assignments demonstrate students' ability to develop strategies and recommendations to mitigate local community vulnerabilities to storms with specific emphasis on different sectors and/or stakeholders in that community. Learning objectives for these materials include: developing students' higher order geoscientific skills, from data analysis to critical thinking to effective communication. In addition, the interdisciplinarity of the team piloting the materials will increase the number and diversity of students who learn about Earth in a society context.
3:15pm
Integrating Natural Disaster Activities into the College Curriculum: Two Role-Play Case Study Examples
Adelle Monteblanco, University of Colorado at Boulder

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Natural disasters are increasing in frequency and severity. Local and international events such as flooding, storms, and earthquakes often catch students' attention and therefore these events offer valuable "teaching moments" to improve undergraduate earth education. Furthermore, activities on the topic of natural disasters can easily support earth education learning goals including geoscientific skills, critical thinking, and effective communication. Within this presentation I will discuss two separate role-play case study activities that are designed to prepare students for an increasingly unstable world. The first is a floodwater management case study (recently accepted for publication by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science) that requires students to explore how healthy river systems can continue to serve a wide variety of functions while accounting for economic, cultural, and ecosystem tradeoffs. The second case study imitates a community meeting organized in response to a local oil spill. Through the simulation of real-world events, the case studies require students to represent diverse stakeholders, synthesize social and natural science data, and argue analytically. I will present lessons learned from these classroom applications as well as offer resources to implement the case studies within a diversity of courses. These case studies were created in response to student requests for teaching methods that focus on relevant real-world crises and emphasize the complexity of environmental issues. Let's meet students' feelings of urgency and alarm with teaching efforts that prepare them to positively contribute to community resilience. (Footnote: please note that the floodplain case study was created by a team of natural and social scientists (including Sandra Laurine Cooke, Alicia Claire Lloyd, and Silvia Secchi) and with the financial support offered through previous SESYNC workshop participation.)
3:30pm
Discussion