Case Studies: Environmental and other issues

Friday 3:00pm-4:15pm REC Center Large Ice Overlook Room
Oral Session

Session Chairs

Russanne Low, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
Emily Geosling, Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc
Implementing Authentic Science Learning Through Multi-tiered Collaboration
Sandra Swenson, CUNY John Jay College Criminal Justice
Yi He, CUNY John Jay College Criminal Justice

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An authentic science learning model through collaborative learning suitable for large urban public colleges with limited resources was proposed and implemented in the course of Instrumental Analysis (science major), Environmental Science (non-science major), and Undergraduate Research at John Jay College, the City University of New York. The goal of this project is to enhance student learning of science concepts and skills by introducing them to real world problems and solutions. Using sustainability-chemistry as an example, this project allowed students at different academic levels to work collaboratively on field-based environmental projects to investigate pollutants in Hudson River and other EPA Superfund sites in New York City, establish close communication among participants and mentors, and develop positive attitudes towards science learning, and cultivate social awareness. This research is a result of National Science Foundation funding: NSF TUES DUE_1245314
Enhancing student understanding of socio-environmental problems through interdisciplinary synthesis and case studies
Cynthia Wei, SESYNC
Judy P. Che-Castaldo, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)
William R. Burnside, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)

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Socio-environmental synthesis (S-E synthesis) is a research approach aimed at advancing understanding of socio-environmental systems in which environmental problems are embedded. It is also a problem-solving approach that recognizes the integrated nature of social and environmental problems and emphasizes that interdisciplinary (and transdisciplinary) research across the natural and social sciences is required to address such issues. As such, S-E synthesis is a topic that fits well in a broad range of courses. Reflecting the complex nature of the S-E systems being studied, S-E synthesis requires an understanding of concepts related to systems dynamics and requires the practice of several broadly applicable competencies. These include the ability to integrate knowledge, data, and approaches across disciplines, the ability to communicate across disciplines, and the ability to work collaboratively with diverse team members. This presentation will focus on teaching about S-E synthesis and related concepts and competencies using the case study method, an evidence-based teaching practice commonly used in medical, law, business, and science. This method is particularly relevant for teaching about socio-environmental issues because it engages students with relevant real-world problems, incorporates the complexity and disciplinary diversity of authentic environmental issues, and challenges students to question and problem-solve as researchers do. In this presentation, we will discuss efforts at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) to adapt this approach for teaching about S-E synthesis, and will describe an example case study focused on endangered species management. An overview of promising practices, challenges, and resources for using and writing case studies will also be provided.
Tell them we don't want to leave... A Case Study of the Marshall Islands and the Rising Sea
Zola Moon, University of Arkansas Main Campus
Donna Davis

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This case study is the result of participation in a workshop sponsored by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). Socio-environmental synthesis involves recognizing the interconnected nature of the complex systems involved and using approaches which include a broad range of concepts and skills. The case study presented here focuses on the peoples of the Marshall Islands, a collection of islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean. The Marshallese are faced with increasing population pressures, a struggling economy, droughts and rising sea levels as well as repercussions from atomic testing conducted earlier by the US military. This case study exposes students to the ways in which social-environmental systems operate and connect across different scales. Using a combination of a directed case study and a decision case, students review videos, documents, environmental and social data, along with other qualitative data. Students synthesize the data to begin to understand sea-level rise and current and potential impacts on the Marshallese still in the islands and those who have migrated. Students are also introduced to systems thinking, including use of software to create an S-E system for the Marshall Islands. In the decision case portion of the study, students identify issues of social and environmental justice and work together in small groups to identify a suite of possible actions to be taken by groups in the US and/or in the Marshall Islands for adaptation to climate change impacts.