Principles of Natural Resources and Environmental Science

Julie Stoughton, Natural Resources and Environmental Science, University of Nevada Reno


NRES 100 provides a general introduction to issues and topics related to natural resources, hydrology, conservation biology and environmental sciences. Students attend a one day fieldtrip to a nearby Sierra Nevada field station for a basic introduction to wildlife, forestry and hydrology field techniques, GPS and map interpretation. Course assignments include database manipulation, graphing, citations and references and scientific report writing.

Course Type: Intro Level:Environmental Geology
Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture only

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

NRES 100 is designed for first year undergraduates in ecohydrology, environmental science, forest management and ecology and wildlife ecology and conservation. There are no prerequisites – students arrive with a range of math and English skills. The course includes one full day fieldtrip to a nearby Sierra Nevada field station.

Course Content:

NRES 100 touches briefly on resource management, watersheds, Sierra Nevada and Great Basin ecosystems, the nature of science, energy and matter, biogeochemical cycles, ecosystem services, food webs, biomes, river restoration, forest management, and wildlife management. The fieldtrip includes use of GPS and topographic maps, field notes, wildlife observation, skin and skull identification, mark and recapture, tree and shrub identification, tree diameter at breast height (using dbh tapes), tree height (using clinometers), stream flow, and water quality. Homework/skill assignments include coordinate systems, topographic map interpretation, topographic profiles, watershed delineation, database management, using formulas in MS Excel, creating graphs in MS Excel, citations and references, and writing scientific reports.

Course Goals:

Students will be able to collect basic wildlife, forestry and hydrology data, set up a basic Excel spreadsheet for data entry, enter formulas, create a graph, read and summarize key findings of a peer-reviewed science article, list references following a particular format, and write a scientific report with appropriate materials in the introduction, methods, results, and discussion.

Course Features:

This course begins with a one day fieldtrip to a nearby Sierra Nevada field station where students are introduced to basic field data collection for several natural resources fields. Students use their data throughout the semester as they learn basic database management, graphing, reference and report writing skills.

Course Philosophy:

This course has evolved from it's initial format (before I started teaching) of introduction to college resources, study skills, and guest speakers, to a mixture of geoscience content and varied fieldtrips and assignments, to the current format of hands-on field work that is linked to science-based numerical and writing skills. I intersperse basic natural resource topics, and a few guest speakers to introduce students to basic concepts they will explore in future courses, and to opportunities within our department and in future careers.


This course includes several types of assessment. Students are assessed on specific skills assignments (field notes and data, mapping, databases, graphing, report writing etc.). They take one skills-based exam and two content-based exams. I also use the SALG (Student Assessment of Learning Gains) for pre- and post-course assessment. The SALG helps identify self-assessed skill levels for each of our course skills and topics both before and after students complete the course.


NRES 100 Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 64kB May9 12)

Teaching Materials:

NRES 100 Schedule (Acrobat (PDF) 63kB May9 12)

References and Notes:

Essential Environment, Withgott and Laposata
When I reworked the course to include more fieldwork, data and writing skills, my TA Susan Mortensen and I developed a field guide, field exercises and skill-based assignments for the course. Susan did the majority of the writing for the field exercises and skill assignments and I have continued to edit and update these documents with input from recent TAs and department faculty. I also have students read a few of the Issues in Ecology series published by the Ecological Society of America.