Environmental Earth Sciences

David Singer, Geology
Kent State University-Main Campus


This course focuses on the fundamentals of earth processes with an emphasis on human interaction with their environment. We will explore natural processes and anthropogenic (human-impacted) effects on those processes in the context of natural hazards, natural resources and sustainability.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture only

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no pre-requisites. It serves as a required course for students in the Department of Geology, and School of Public Health. Typically, about 60% of the 75 students are non-science majors, and 25% of the students are science majors or minors. Students routinely provide positive feedback about the relevance of this course. They develop firm ideas about issues they have often heard about in the news or through social media, but had been left skeptical or unsure of certain topics (including climate change and other causes of pollution) and leave the class with more confidence in discussing scientific truths about these topics. This course may be used to satisfy a Kent Core requirement in science. The Kent Core as a whole is intended to broaden intellectual perspectives, foster ethical and humanitarian values, and prepare students for responsible citizenship and productive careers.

Course Content:

Through a series of lectures with integrated in-class activities, this class introduces the basis concepts of environmental earth science, with a focus on understanding how the natural environment works, and how humans can perturb natural processes.

Course Goals:

The primary learning outcomes for this class are: (1) Explain the dynamic behavior of the Earth as a complex system; (2) Discuss issues related to human population growth and its impact on the natural world; (3) Discuss evidence of global climate change and impacts of anthropogenic warming; (4) Describe appropriate locations for waste disposal; (5) Explain the causes of soil, air and water pollution; and (6) Explain the factors that go into determining our resource footprint.

Course Features:

Key themes for the semester are: (1) Unintended consequences of anthropogenic activities; (2) Cascading, inter-connected problems; and (3) the role of the "Tragedy of the Commons" in impact the environment. In-Class activities include listening to lecture, taking notes during lecture, participating in activities, and exams. Out-of-Class Activities include reading the textbook, completing in-class and out-of-class activities.

Course Philosophy:

This course was designed to introduce students to issues of environmental earth sciences at the local, regional, and global scales. Students are asked to think about environmental issues in their hometown on the first day of class, and then reflect again on these at the end of the semester. Students often have a very superficial awareness of these issues, or have heard conflicting reports on the news or social media. Through the lectures, and particularly the in-class activities, students are shown the the scientific facts behind a given topic and an introduction to the the methods by which they are determined. Importantly, students become aware that the social, political, and economic responses to an environmental issue must be based on scientific facts.


Assessment takes place through four exams, in-class activities, and an assessment survey administered by the University during the first and last week of the semester.


Syllabus for Environmental Earth Science (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 27kB May1 17)

Teaching Materials:

References and Notes:

Reichard, J., Environmental Geology