Critical Zone Science
This course introduces and examines the Critical Zone (CZ), Earth's permeable layer that extends from the top of vegetation to the bottom of the fresh groundwater zone. It is a constantly evolving boundary layer where rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms interact to regulate the landscape and natural habitats, and determine the availability of life-sustaining resources, including our food production and water quality. CZ science is a highly interdisciplinary and international pursuit that depends upon effective and informed trans-disciplinary science. This course focuses on the large quantity of interdisciplinary data available from the existing National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded CZ Observatories (CZO) and utilizes readings, discussions, presentations, and cutting-edge learning activities.
Strengths of the Course
This course supports the following central InTeGrate goals in the following ways:
- Uses geoscience-related grand challenges facing society (eutrophication, erosion, environmental stability, climate change, water and food production, radiative forcing, water and carbon cycling).
- Develops students' ability to address interdisciplinary problems (sustainable agriculture, conservation, resource management, energy, carbon) by using data visualization and analysis skills applied to authentic data.
- Improves student understanding of the nature and methods of geoscience and developing scientific and geoscientific habits of mind by investigating natural and anthropogenic influences on the Critical Zone and by using journal articles as background reading, visualizing data with student-made graphs and using simple conceptual models to help explain their differences.
- Makes use of authentic and credible geoscience data such as CZO data, Ameriflux network data, and data from the geochemical and biogeochemical literature base.
- Incorporates systems thinking by incorporating examples and activities that demonstrate the connection between water, air, soil, and organisms in biogeochemical processes within the CZ including the application of conceptual system models to the analysis of field data.
- Dere A. et al. (2019) Implementing and Assessing InTeGrate Critical Zone Science Materials in an Undergraduate Geoscience Program. In: Gosselin D., Egger A., Taber J. (eds) Interdisciplinary Teaching About Earth and the Environment for a Sustainable Future. AESS Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies and Sciences Series. Springer, Cham
Instructor Stories: How this course was adapted
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Table of Contents
- Instructor Materials: Overview of the Critical Zone Science Course
Module 1CZ Background Module 2Methods of Critical Zone Science Module 3Critical Zone Architecture and Evolution Module 4Land-atmosphere exchange Module 5Water transfer through the CZ Module 6Geochemistry and Biogeochemistry Module 7Humans in the Critical Zone
- Student Materials
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