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View all course descriptions here.

Course # Course Title Fall Winter Spring
201 Earth: A Habitable Planet Bush
202 The Health of the Biosphere Walsh
203 Humans and the Environment Beddows
390 Topics: Instrumentation and Field Methods Beddows
390 Topics: Urban Ecology Anderson Anderson
390 Topics: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Level 1 Anderson Anderson
390 Topics: R Data Science Anderson Anderson
390 Data Analysis and Visualization for Scientists CaraDonna 


2023-2024 Course Descriptions 

201 – Earth: A Habitable Planet

This course provides an overview of the physical processes governing environmental systems, from the Earth's lithosphere to hydrosphere to atmosphere. We will cover internal and external sources of energy to the Earth system; the processes from tectonic to atmospheric that are driven by that energy; and some human impacts on the resulting environmental systems. Students will gain physical science perspectives on current debates about environmental issues, such as those over water resources, energy, and climate change.

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202 – Health of the Biosphere

This course studies the growth of populations and their interactions in ecological communities. Topics include: the ecological niche; projections of population growth, including the history of human growth, harvesting populations, and population viability analysis of endangered species; interactions among species, including competition, predation, and disease transmission; measuring the diversity of ecological communities; the effects of diversity on energy flow. More advanced topics will also be addressed, including the biodiversity-stability relationship, the economic values of biodiversity and ecosystem function, and the biology and management of metapopulations in fragmented habitats.

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203 – Humans and the Environment

Environmental science is the interdisciplinary study of how humans interact with the living and nonliving parts of their environment. In this course, we will examine current environmental challenges, such as climate change, the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable production of energy, and the implications of human population growth. A case study approach will be used bringing in dimensions of ethics, justice, law, economics, policy, culture, and more, in compliment to the understanding of the geosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere functions and condition. 

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390 – Topics: Instrumentation & Field Methods

Theory and practicum on electronic instrumentation for monitoring and measurement in earth sciences, including data loggers, conceptual design and construction of electronic sensors, signal processing, data management, and network design. 

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390 – Topics: Urban Ecology

Lecture: In this course, we will evaluate different aspects of the urban environment through the lens of a social-ecological system. Students will explore the foundations of urban systems and their intertwining with social processes and environmental justice. We will examine principles of urbanization and examine how these changes influence hydrology, biogeochemistry, climate, and ecology. We will engage with local environmental groups and sustainability initiatives, discussing ways in which urban science helps solve the pressing challenges of today to improve life in the future. Lab: In this laboratory section, students will learn experimental design, field methods, and in urban ecology which they will use to conduct a research project in their community. Furthermore, students will participate in urban ecology field trips across Chicago that highlight themes of climate, hydrology, and environmental justice in local communities. 

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390 – Topics: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Level 1

Introduction to concepts underlying geographic information systems (GIS) and methods of managing and processing geographic information. Designed for students who have little background but want to learn the fundamentals and applications of GIS. Students will be exposed to both theoretical knowledge and technical skills in this course. Lab assignments and a project will promote students’ application of concepts and skills in solving real-world problems.

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390 – Topics: R Data Science

As we are in the era of ‘big data', the quantity and quality of data available for environmental, ecological and earth science research has exploded over the past few decades. The free and open-source R programming language has become a powerful tool in data analysis in scientific research. This course offers an introduction to the fundamentals of data science using the programming language, R. The course contents span from basic R programming skills to advanced skills including data management, visualization and analysis of spatial data such as weather and satellite imagery data. By conducting hands-on exercises and an extensive project, students will develop dynamic and reproducible outputs based on their own fields of interests. This course does not require prior coding experience. 

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390 – Data Analysis and Visualization for Scientists 

This class is designed to be a practical guide to quantitative analysis and data visualization, particularly for the scientific fields of ecology, evolution, and conservation. We will learn about, put to use, and practice a wide range of data science methods that are commonly used in these fields. The class is designed to be a hands-on learning experience using the open source programming language, R. No experience in R is required. We will begin with data manipulation and wrangling, and then move on to common quantitative analyses, their variations, and how best to visualize data. By the end of the class, students will have the skills and confidence to address a wide variety of questions with quantitative methods. 

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