Teaching about the Critical Zone and the Changing Biosphere

Wednesday, November 30th

10:00 am PT | 11:00 am MT | 12:00 pm CT | 1:00 pm ET

Presenters: Camille Holmgren (SUNY Buffalo State) and Tim White (Penn State University)

This webinar is part of a series supporting teaching with InTeGrate principles, using InTeGrate-developed and curated materials as tools.


The interconnections between the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere are fundamental to understanding the Earth System. Studying the connections within the critical zone Zone from vegetation at Earth's surface down to the base of fresh groundwater, as well as how the biosphere has changed through geologic time, helps clarify the Earth System and provides a context for assessing threats to biodiversity today. These topics also guide students to see the connections between Earth Science and their lives. This webinar will highlight teaching strategies and examples ranging from in-class activities to capstone projects that show students the importance of the critical zone and the role humans play in changing the biosphere. Tim White, coauthor of the course "Critical Zone Science", and Camille Holmgren, coauthor of the module "Changing Biosphere", will discuss their approaches to teaching these topics. The webinar will include 30 minutes of presentations and 25 minutes of discussion. Participants are encouraged to both ask questions of the presenters and discuss their own experiences teaching about the critical zone and the biosphere.


At the end of this webinar, participants will have:

  • an understanding of the critical zone and its importance in connecting geosciences, biology, and ecology
  • examples that show the interconnection of organisms and the environment
  • strategies for evaluating recent human influences on the biosphere in the context of the geologic record
  • greater familiarity with InTeGrate principles and materials
  • new colleagues engaged in this work


Time - 10:00 am PT | 11:00 am MT | 12:00 pm CT | 1:00 pm ET
- 1 hour
Format - Online web presentation via Adobe Connect web conference software with questions and discussion.
Go to the webinar technology page for information on using Adobe Connect.
Detailed instructions for joining the webinar will be emailed to registered participants one day prior to the webinar.

Registration is now closed

Preparation - There is no advance preparation required for this webinar.

Please email Rory McFadden (rmcfadden@carleton.edu) if you have any questions about this event.


Camille Holmgren, Geography and Planning, SUNY Buffalo State

Tim White, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Penn State University


ITG webinar Teaching About the Critical Zone and the Changing Biosphere (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 16.7MB Nov30 16)

1) Welcome and introductory remarks – Rory McFadden, SERC staff

2) Critical Zone Science course coauthor – Tim White

  • Introduction to the critical zone as a complex system that requires interdisciplinary study
  • Discussion of the systems science that is applied to the critical zone that includes the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, and the lithosphere

3) Changing Biosphere module coauthor – Camille Holmgren

  • Brief overview of units within the module
  • Using a case study of horses to address ecological changes and adaptive radiations
  • Capstone project on the role of humans in affecting biodiversity and comparing and contrasting past mass extinctions with the current "Sixth Extinction"

4) Reflections by participants

  • Prompt: What strategies do you use, or plan to use, to get students to see the interconnected nature of the critical zone and the biosphere, and the impact of humans?

5) Synthetic remarks - final remarks by presenters

The conveners will reflect on the chat and each provide a synthetic remark. The chat and final remarks will be discussed further in the InTeGrate discussion thread. This online interest group is aimed at providing you with a platform for continuing discussion and exchanging ideas with your new colleagues about the critical zone and the biosphere, as well as broader InTeGrate principles that will continue to be discussed throughout the webinar series.

6) Opportunities for further interaction – Rory McFadden

7) Webinar Evaluation


Click to watch the webinar screencast (MP4 Video 618.8MB Nov30 16).