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Earth System Science Course Design Matrix Emphasizing Human Interactions Over Time

rock art from central India

Understanding the imprint of past human behavior on the landscape provides powerful analogies for understanding the implications of human impact on the Earth system in the future. Archaeology, historical documents, and palaeoenvironmental data provide a glimpse of how human behavior has radically changed the face of the Earth in prehistory.

mapping geoarcheology St. Croix MN
An approach emphasizing human interactions with the Earth system over time makes students aware of the significant role that human behavior has had in shaping what we term, "natural landscapes". Students have heard about impending global warming, but are often unaware of the significant social and economic consequences of late Holocene climatic shifts, such as the Little Ice Age. In this course design matrix, past, present, and future interactions of human behaviors and the environment are featured, enabling students to begin to understand the relevancy of current global climate research.

How to Use this Table

The following table shows a matrix for designing an Earth System Course focusing on the impact of humans. Matrices are a good way to think about designing an Earth System course in that it illuminates the relationships between typical topics in Earth science and the parts of the Earth system. This matrix is particularly helpful in looking at interactions between two subsystems. For more information on using course matrices, see Course Design Matrix

Earth System Course Focusing on Human Interactions Over Time
Primary causal mechanism located in
Acting on lithosphere Acting on atmosphere Acting on hydrosphere Acting on biosphere Acting on anthroposphere Acting on exosphere
Soils and wind erosion Storm frequency and global change Lake, ocean and ice climate archives Air pollution Roman Climatic Optimum/Medieval Warm Period
Soils and water erosion Desertification Primate Evolution More information on Human Genetic Diversity Little Ice Age
Archaeology, taphonomy Methane production and intensive wet agriculture Genetically engineered crops Plagues, famine, bioterrorism
Origins of agriculture Non-renewable resources Global Warming teaching with data Global Warming Activity Aquifer depletion teaching with data Water Quality Activity Biodiversity Pleistocene extinctions Human Population growth integrating mathematicsHuman Population Activity [end td]