InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Critical Zone Science > Student Materials
InTeGrate's Earth-focused Modules and Courses for the Undergraduate Classroom
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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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For the Instructor

These student materials complement the Critical Zone Science Instructor Materials. If you would like your students to have access to the student materials, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing InTeGrate teaching materials.

Student Materials

Welcome Students!

The introductory portion of this course will provide participants with the framework for considering Critical Zone (CZ) science. Here the CZ will be introduced, stressing the importance and overall state of the CZ, and the temporal and spatial scales at which the CZ may be studied. CZ science will be described as an interdisciplinary and international pursuit, stressing the observatory and environmental gradient approach, and outstanding questions in CZ science will be discussed. The introduction will address how to obtain basic existing information mostly from various federal agencies to help understand the CZ. These activities will culminate in an introduction to the basic concepts of system modeling.

The body of the course will focus on cross-disciplinary science in the CZ and will focus on the large quantity of interdisciplinary data available from the existing NSF-funded CZOs. The material will be organized topically in the following categories: Methods in CZ Science; Land-Atmosphere exchange; Water transfer through the CZ; Landform and landscape evolution; and, Geochemistry and Biogeochemistry. The final portion of the course, Humans in the Critical Zone, specifically looks at the impact and role of humans and societies within the CZ. This last module focuses on how interdisciplinary and collective CZ science is accomplished, with consideration of the state and management of the CZ. The course overall takes advantage of the scientific literature and hands-on learning activities that access CZO data.

  • Overarching objective:

    Describe and characterize how interactions among the atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and soil (combined = The Critical Zone) support and influence life.

  • Four primary objectives---By the end of this course, you should be able to:

    1. Identify grand challenges that face humanity and societies, ways in which humans depend upon and alter the Critical Zone, and the potential role for Critical Zone science to offer solutions for these challenges.
    2. Use and interpret multiple lines of data to explain Critical Zone processes.
    3. Evaluate how the structure of the Critical Zone influences Critical Zone processes/services.
    4. Analyze how water, carbon, nutrients, and energy flow through the Critical Zone and drive Critical Zone processes.

Unit 1: CZ Background

Unit 2: Methods of Critical Zone Science

Unit 3:Critical Zone Architecture and Evolution

Unit 4: Land-atmosphere Exchange

Unit 5: Water Transfer Through the CZ

Unit 6: Geochemistry and Biogeochemistry

Unit 7: Humans in the Critical Zone


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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »