Global Environmental Systems [CRN 31356]

Discipline: Natural Resources
Instructor: Wenig
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1700
End: 1820
Field Work: Day 1 | January 31, 2019 | China
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

The environment we live in, the Earth’s ecosystem consists of four natural subsystems, the atmosphere, the biosphere, the hydrosphere and the geosphere. All those systems interact with one another forming a careful balance of energy and matter exchange. The current balance among these complex interactions makes it possible for life to flourish on Earth. Human activities have influenced the biosphere significantly over the past 150 years. Since all spheres are part of the same interconnected system, changes in any sphere will ultimately affect the other spheres as well.

This course examines the human influence on global environmental systems with an emphasis on understanding the major biogeochemical cycles. It investigates how human activities (e.g. deforestation, changes in biodiversity, air pollution, desertification) can disrupt environmental processes and the ability of our global environment to support and sustain life. Important feedback mechanisms between biological and physical processes and the atmosphere are also considered in detail. The course explores how natural and managed ecosystems respond to a changing climate and altered resource availabilities while taking prospects for the future into consideration. Traveling through various countries and climate zones will allow us to observe the changing characteristics of each sphere in different environments.

Field Work

Country: China
Day: 1
Date: January 31, 2019

We will meet with local scientists at Fudan Univeristy, which is one of the most prestigious and selective universities in China. We will learn about the air quality monitoring research at the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering and will get a tour of the labs and the monitoring station at the top of the building. As a contrast to the busy city we will visit the Wuson Paotaiwan Wetland Forest Park which is a popular retreat to nature among locals in the area.

Learning Objectives:

  1. learn about the measurement techniques used to monitor air quality in China
  2. meet environmental researchers and gain experience in pollution detection and data collection.
  3. understand the influence of atmospheric pollution on daily life in China, especially in a megacity like Shanghai
  4. learn about China’s efforts to improve air quality