BIO-138: Environmental Science Lecture

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
Biological Science
Academic Level
Course Subject
Course Number
Course Title
Environmental Science Lecture
Credit Hours
Instructor Contact Hours Per Semester
47.00 (for 15-week classes)
Student Contact Hours Per Semester
47.00 (for 15-week classes)
Grading Method
ENG-131 eligible
Catalog Course Description

Explores environmental science, an interdisciplinary study which combines ideas and information from the natural sciences (such as biology, chemistry, and geology) and the social sciences (such as economics, politics, and ethics) to present a general idea of how nature works and how everything in nature is interconnected. Emphasizes human modification of natural systems and strategies for promoting environmental health. Also discusses current environmental concerns.

Goals, Topics, and Objectives

Goal Statement

This course will present the fundamental concepts of environmental science. After completing this course students will be able to:

  1. Use scientific laws, principles, models, and concepts to understand environmental and resource problems and possible solutions.
  2. Understand how these concepts, problems and solutions are connected.
  3. Develop a list of principles, concepts, and rules to serve as guidelines in making decisions.
  4. Think logically and critically.
Core Course Topics
  1. Sustainability
    1. Describe the three principles that nature has used to sustain itself for at least 3.5 billion years and list how we can use these principles to live more sustainably.
    2. Explain how we can use these three principles to get us closer to the vision of a sustainable Earth.
    3. Evaluate how our human ecological footprint affects the Earth.
    4. Distinguish among the planetary management, stewardship and environmental wisdom worldviews.
  2. Ecosystems
    1. Describe the steps involved in the scientific process.
    2. Describe what happens when matter and energy undergo changes.
    3. List the major components of an ecosystem
    4. Describe what happens to matter and energy in an ecosystem.
    5. Describe the following cycles: water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and sulfur
  3. Biodiversity
    1. Explain what species diversity and biodiversity are and why they are important.
    2. Explain how speciation, extinction and human activities affect biodiversity.
    3. Distinguish among the following species interactions and give one example of each: competition, predation, and symbiosis.
    4. Describe what limits the growth of populations.
    5. Explain how living systems achieve some degree of stability or sustainability by undergoing constant change in response to changing environmental conditions.
  4. The human population
    1. List the factors that can affect the birth rate and fertility rate of a country.
    2. Explain how age structure affects population growth and economic growth.
  5. Climate & biodiversity
    1. Describe how differences in climate lead to formation of tropical, temperate and polar deserts, grasslands and forests.
    2. Describe how climate and vegetation vary with latitude and elevation.
    3. Describe how human activities have affected the world's biomes.
    4. Distinguish between a saltwater (marine) and a freshwater life zone and give examples of each
    5. List the major ecological and economic services that are provided by marine and freshwater systems.
    6. List the human activities that pose major threats to marine ecosystems and the human activities that threaten coral reefs.
  6. Sustaining biodiversity
    1. List three reasons why many extinction experts think that human activities are now causing a new mass extinction.
    2. Explain how the extinction of a species affects other species and ecosystem services.
    3. Describe the major effects of habitat loss and fragmentation.
    4. Explain how pesticides such as DDT can be biomagnified in food chains and food webs.
    5. Describe the precautionary principle and explain how we can use it to help protect wild species and overall biodiversity.
    6. Describe the major ecological and economic benefits that forests provide.
    7. List some of its major harmful environmental effects of deforestation.
    8. List the ways to protect tropical forests and use them more sustainably.
    9. List the ways to reduce overgrazing and use rangelands more sustainably.
    10. Explain how we should manage and sustain parks and nature reserves.
    11. Describe the major threats to aquatic biodiversity.
    12. Explain how we can protect and sustain marine and freshwater biodiversity.
    13. Describe how to manage and sustain marine and freshwater fisheries.
    14. Describe invasions of the U.S. Great Lakes by nonnative species.
  7. Food, soil and pest management
    1. Explain what food security is and why it is difficult to attain.
    2. Define organic agriculture and compare its main components with those of conventional industrialized agriculture.
    3. Define and distinguish among industrialized agriculture (high-input agriculture), plantation agriculture, hydroponics, traditional subsistence agriculture, traditional intensive agriculture, polyculture and slash-and-burn agriculture.
    4. Summarize the use of energy in industrialized food production.
    5. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of modern pesticides.
    6. Define integrated pest management (IPM) and discuss its advantages.
    7. Describe how we can produce food more sustainably.
  8. Risk, toxicology & human health
    1. Define risk and distinguish between risk assessment and risk management.
    2. Define toxicology, toxicity, dose and response.
    3. Describe the major health hazards that we face.
    4. Describe the biological and chemical hazards that we face.
    5. Describe how we perceive risks and how can we avoid the worst of them.
  9. Water pollution
    1. Discuss the causes and effects of water pollution.
    2. Describe the major water pollution problems in streams and lakes.
    3. List the major pollution problems affecting groundwater and other drinking water sources.
    4. List the major water pollution problems affecting oceans.
    5. Explain why preventing water pollution is the best way to deal with it.
  10. Air pollution
    1. Describe the layers of the atmosphere.
    2. List the major outdoor and indoor air pollutants and their harmful effects.
    3. Define acid deposition and explain why it is a problem.
    4. Describe the health effects of air pollution.
    5. Explain why preventing air pollution is more important than controlling it.
  11. Geology
    1. Describe the earth's major geological processes and hazards.
    2. Define and explain the importance of the rock cycle.
    3. Define mineral resources and describe the environmental effects of using them.
    4. Describe how we can apply the three scientific principles of sustainability in order to obtain and use nonrenewable mineral resources in a more sustainable way.
  12. Energy
    1. Define net energy and explain why is it important
    2. List the advantages and disadvantages of using oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy.
    3. Explain why improving energy efficiency is an important energy goal
    4. List the technologies we can use to cut energy waste.
    5. List the advantages and disadvantages of using solar energy, hydropower, wind power, biomass, geothermal energy and hydrogen as energy resources.
    6. Discuss how we can make the transition to a more sustainable energy future.
  13. Climate change & ozone depletion
    1. Explain why weather and climate are not the same and explain the differences between them.
    2. Describe the greenhouse effect and why is it so important to life on earth.
    3. Describe how the earth's temperature and climate might change in the future.
    4. List possible effects of a warmer atmosphere.
    5. List thing that we can do to slow projected climate change.
    6. Explain how we have depleted ozone in the stratosphere and what can we do about it.
    7. Discuss how the problems of atmospheric warming and ozone depletion are connected.
  14. Sustainable cities
    1. Describe the major population trends in urban areas.
    2. List the major urban resources and environmental problems.
    3. List the advantages and disadvantages of urbanization.
    4. Describe the importance of urban land-use planning.
    5. Discuss how cities can become more sustainable and livable.
  15. Solid & hazardous waste
    1. Define solid waste and hazardous waste and explain why they are problems.
    2. Describe a sustainable approach to dealing with solid and hazardous waste.
    3. Discuss why reusing and recycling materials is so important.
    4. List the advantages and disadvantages of burning or burying solid waste.
    5. Discuss how we can make the transition to a more sustainable low-waste society.
  16. Economics, environment & sustainability
    1. Explain how economic systems are related to the biosphere.
    2. Discuss how we can place values on natural capital and control pollution and resource use.
    3. Describe how we can use economic tools to deal with environmental problems.
    4. Describe how reducing poverty can help us deal with environmental problems.
    5. List the methods we can use to shift to more environmentally sustainable economies.
  17. Politics, environment & sustainability
    1. Describe the role of government in making the transition to a more sustainable society.
    2. Describe the process by which environmental policy is made.
    3. Discuss the role of environmental law in dealing with environmental problems.
    4. List the major roles of environmental groups.
    5. Describe how we can improve global environmental security.
    6. Describe how we can implement more sustainable and just environmental policies.
  18. Environmental worldviews, ethics & sustainability
    1. List the major environmental worldviews.
    2. Describe the role of education in living more sustainably.
    3. List the major shifts involved in achieving more sustainable societies.

Assessment and Requirements

Assessment of Academic Achievement

Assessment of academic achievement may include participation (discussion and critiques), readings, assignment and formal papers.


Living in the Environment. 19th ed. by G. Tyler Miller and Scott E. Spoolman


General Education Categories
  • Natural Sciences
Institutional Outcomes
  • Scientific Reasoning
MTA Categories
  • Category 6: Natural Sciences (Lecture Only)
Satisfies Wellness Requirement

Credit for Prior College-Level Learning

Options for Credit for Prior College-Level Learning
Other Exam
Other Exam Details

Score of 4 or 5 on AP Environmental Science Exam.

Effective Term
Winter 2023