BIO 497 Environmental Biology                                         Spring Semester 2010


Syllabus also available at


2:00 - 2:50PM, Wednesdays, Room 302 Hope Hall tutorial meeting


Instructor:  Lawrence Blumer, 302 Hope Hall, Telephone:  (404) 653-7873 or (404) 658-1142




Annual Editions:  Environment 2009/2010.  29th edition.  Z. Sharp (ed.),  Dushkin/McGraw-Hill.  2010.  (AE)

New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers.  R.S. Desowitz, Norton 1981. (JG)

Plan B 3.0.  Mobilizing to Save Civilization. L.R. Brown,  Norton 2008 (PB)

Dire Predictions.  Understanding Global Warming.  M.E. Mann and L.R. Kump, DK Publishing, 2009 (DP)

(selected readings also will be assigned from newspaper and scientific journal articles)



Meeting days in bold type







Global Problems, Resources and Sustainability

AE 1-4




(What are our most urgent problems?)

PB 1, 6





DP pp 6-15





dotearth-NYTimes 2009




MLK Holiday – No Classes





Population Trends

AE 5




(Is the United States overpopulated?)










(We will meet on Friday this week)





Human Population Limits

PB 7, 5




(Has the “Population Bomb” been defused?)










AE 19, 21, 22, 24




Food Insecurity and Population

Essay #1 due in class




Water Resource Management

PB 2, 4, 8




(Why is Atlanta spending $billions to separate sewage from

storm runoff?)









Ecology of Human Diseases

JG, PB 7




(Should DDT be used in the fight against malaria?)




(What is basic sanitation and how does it prevent disease?)










PB 11-12





AE 9-15




(What energy resources do not result in carbon dioxide releases?)




Blumer away on Friday, 19 February






Video: “Who killed the electric car”

PB 10, Science article





Essay #2 due in class




(How could urban planning reduce air pollution?)










AE 7, 25




Solid Waste Management

Smithsonian article




(Where does the garbage produced at Morehouse go?)





Spring Break – No Classes





Spring Break – No Classes





Spring Break – No Classes






Food Bank- Hunger Walk – Community Service – Extra Credit





(Why are the tropics important to us all?)





Deforestation and Biodiversity Loss

AE 16-18, 23



















Pollution (Acid Precipitation)





(Has “cap and trade” succeeded in controlling acid rain?)









(What is the Montreal Protocol and has it worked?)




Pollution (Ozone Depletion)

Essay #3 due in class




No Classes – Good Friday Holiday




(Begin work on Environmental Justice Case Study- link on website)









Video: An inconvenient truth

PB 3




Climate Change and Pollution

DP pp 18-104















AE 8




Climate Change and Pollution

DP pp 108-194




(Should slowing global warming be a priority in every country?)














Environmental Politics & Economics

AE 26-30




(What are the barriers to doing the right things?)  PB 13














Environmental Justice

Poster Presentations


Final Examination Seminar

Tuesday, May 4, 8:00-10:00 am,

Hope Hall 311


Course Objectives


            This course will address current environmental problems and the biological bases for these problems.  Our approach will be based in the science of Ecology but environmental problems have social, political, economic and ethical implications that we cannot ignore.  We will study the interactions between humans and the environment, and the significance of these interactions in human affairs.  Many environmental problems are of a global nature and different societies have environmental problems that may require different solutions, so we will take an international view of environmental issues.  The implications of environmental problems for local and international conflicts will also be addressed.  We will also address the issue of environmental justice as it concerns minority communities locally and globally.  This is the capstone course for students who seek a Minor in Environmental Studies.  The class will be taught as a tutorial with meetings in Dr. Blumer’s office once each week on Wednesdays.  Prior to each tutorial meeting, you should read the assigned readings for that week and be prepared to address the question posed for that week.


Course Evaluation


You will be evaluated in this course by preparing three research essays (see Essay Topics below),  a case-study poster presentation, and a Final Seminar Presentation. This class will involve discussions more than lectures, so your regular attendance, preparation and participation in class are essential.  Additional current events readings will be provided throughout the semester, as will opportunities for community service activities.


Course Grading


            Three research essays, 100 pts. each                                              300 points

            Case-study poster presentation                                                       100 points

            Final Seminar presentation                                                             100 points

                                                                                                                                                                        Total = 500 points                              

Letter grades will be assigned as described below:

            A         =          90        to         100%

            A-        =          88        to         89%

            B+       =          86        to         87%

            B         =          80        to         85%

            B-        =          78        to         79%

            C+       =          76        to         77%

            C         =          70        to         75%

            C-        =          68        to         69%

            D+       =          66        to         67%

            D         =          60        to         65%

            D-        =          58        to         59%

            F          =          57% and less

Attendance Policy

            Absences will not be excused unless permitted in writing by the Academic

Dean or the Dean of Students.  No exceptions.  More than three unexcused

absences will result in a failing grade.  Class will begin promptly on the hour.



Academic Honesty (Plagiarism)

            All the work that you complete in this course must be your own.  Copying the work of others and submitting it as your own is dishonest and will not be tolerated.   Attribution of the source of information is not sufficient, the words and phrases in your written work must be your own.



Essay Assignments

            You will write three research essays on assigned subjects (see Essay Topics) concerning environmental issues. You should view the essays as major research papers and excellent preparation for class discussions.  The point of view pursued in the essay must be supported by facts (and consequently, at least five literature references, other than textbooks, are necessary in each essay).  Please limit each essay to 10 typed pages.  References should be cited in the text of your essay using the (author, date) method (see below).  Do not use footnotes for references.  A list of Literature Cited should appear at the end of the essay (not part of the 10 typed pages).  Write for an audience of peers.  You may imagine, if you wish, that you are writing a letter to the editor of a major newspaper or an editorial for a news magazine.  Much like an editor, I will be happy to discuss your essay, and read and comment on a typed draft of an essay prior to the due date.  The due dates are all listed in the Syllabus.  Late essays will not be accepted.


            The author, date method of literature citation can be used in two ways.  Let's say you wish to cite a paper by A.J. Smith that was published in 1990.  This paper could be cited in the text of your essay as:  Smith (1990) found that energy conservation pays for itself. or Energy conservation pays for itself (Smith, 1990).  In either case, the full reference for the Smith paper must also be given in the Literature Cited at the end of your essay.  The Literature Cited is an alphabetical list (by the author's last name) giving the authors name, date of publication, title of article or book, and the publisher of the book or the volume and pages of the journal article.  Tables and figures may be used in your essay but each table or figure must appear on a separate sheet and be given a number, a title, and a brief description in prose.  Tables and figures are not part of the text of an essay and should be referred to in much the same manner as a literature citation.  Any table or figure reproduced from published materials must be prepared as described above and referenced using the author, date method.


            Essays should be organized like a laboratory report but not necessarily with laboratory report section headings.  Give your essay a descriptive title (Essay #1 is not sufficient).  Introduce the essay by providing context for the question you will address.  You create context for your reader by providing background information and citing the work of others.  The introduction must also have an explicit statement of purpose:  "In this essay I will..." or  "The purpose of this essay is..."  The introduction is followed by a presentation of evidence and then a discussion (interpretation) of the evidence.  The essay should end with a conclusion that follows from the purpose stated in the introduction.  Literature citations are necessary and appropriate in the presentation of evidence and discussion.  Assertions without evidence are unacceptable in these essays.  Furthermore, evidence or opinions cited from published literature should be considered critically.  Addressing the implications of evidence and opinions is necessary.  The best scientific essays are those that allow the reader to reach conclusions based on the evidence without excessive advocacy on the part of the writer.  The writers personal interpretations and opinions are best limited to the discussion and conclusion parts of an essay.  The rubric for my evaluation of your research essays is given below followed by the essay topics.


Essay Evaluation Form  (100 points)


Environmental Biology, BIO 497                   Name______________________________

Morehouse College, Spring 2010


Introduction (20 points)          _____


Evidence (40 points)   _____


Discussion (20 points)            _____


Format, References, Audience (20 points)      _____





Essay Topics


Essay #1  Environmental Impact and Carbon Footprint

            What is the carbon footprint of Morehouse College?  What does carbon footprint mean and can it be measured?  How would you estimate it?  What is the environmental impact of our carbon footprint, locally and globally?  What is the carbon footprint of Hope Hall?  What is the carbon footprint of your automobile?  What is the carbon footprint of your cell phone?   


Essay #2  Fossil Fuels and Environmental Sustainability

            The United States is addicted to fossil fuels, but we cannot simply stop using these energy resources, or can we?  Describe five energy requiring activities in a typical family that use fossil fuel and explore non-fossil fuel alternatives.  Can the United States realistically reduce its fossil fuel consumption?  What are the barriers to broad use of non-carbon fuel resources?


Essay #3  Personal Waste Production

            What do you throw away each week?  What are the types of materials that compose your trash?  What happens to the trash you produce?  Where does your trash go when the garbage truck hauls it away?  How could you reduce your personal trash production?  Each of you should keep a log of all the municipal solid waste you produce during a one-week period during the semester.  Tabulate the weight and volume of each category of waste you produce during that one-week period.

“Free Parking Essay”

            You may substitute an essay on a subject of your choosing (on an environmental issue) to replace any one of the above three essays.  Please discuss your proposed substitute essay to Dr. Blumer prior to writing it.


Case-Study Analysis and Poster Presentation


            Each of you will research a case-study on environmental justice and prepare a poster to be presented on the last day of class.  Written details on the case-study will be distributed in class. Each poster must have a descriptive title and your name should be given under the title.  There should be an Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion and Literature Cited. 

Each Research Poster should be organized as follows:


a.         Title (give your poster a descriptive title) and include your name after the title line.

b.              Introduction (statement of purpose and introduction to the phenomenon being investigated)

c.              Methods (a concise description of the treatments performed and the manner in which data were collected)

d.         Results  (prose description of data, and in tables or figures) 

e.         Discussion and Conclusions  (specific discussion-interpretation of the observed results)

f.          Literature Cited  (a minimum of five references must be cited)


Unlike a Research Essay or Report, the text in a poster is best kept to a minimum and may be presented as bulleted phrases.  Use graphs, tables and other illustrations to show your findings and make the poster visually interesting.  The evaluation rubric for the Research Poster is given below.  Dr. Blumer will provide you with a PowerPoint template for preparing a 2’ x 3’ poster for printing.


Research Poster Evaluation (100 points)


Environmental Biology, BIO 497                   Name______________________________

Morehouse College, Spring 2010                   Poster Title _________________________


Title (10) 

Descriptive title

What is missing?


Introduction (20)

            Provides relevant context and states purpose

            Citing appropriate prior research?

            Is there a clear statement of the current question(s)?

            Are alternative hypotheses clearly presented?


Methods (10)

            Summary of what was done

            Is the control clearly described?

            Is it clear how the study was conducted?


Results (20)

            Description of findings including statistical tests

            Are the findings clearly stated in prose?

            Are graphs or table used to support the stated findings


Discussion (20)

            Interpretation of the Results

            Are the interpretations supported by the Results?

            Is prior research used to interpret the conclusions?


Literature Cited (10)

            Lists the references actually cited in the poster

            Are the complete citations provided?

            Are there a minimum of five scientific citations?


Format (10)

            Is the poster readable?

            Are pictures and graphics used to improve communication?

Are the different parts (Introduction, Methods) clearly organized in relation to each other?



Final Seminar Presentation

            Each of you will prepare as a 15-minute seminar presentation addressing the following question:  How could Morehouse College significantly reduce its carbon footprint and minimize its environmental impact?   President Obama has proposed a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2025.  Assuming that the current greenhouse gas emissions caused by Morehouse College were the same as in 2005 (Is this a false assumption?), realistically what would need to be done to meet this goal and what might it cost?  Your seminar should address the question and provide evidence to support your premise.  Your presentation should review of the purpose, findings, and conclusions of your research addressing this question.  You will be required to prepare a PowerPoint presentation and present your seminar from a computer projector. You should be prepared to answer questions about the study you present. These seminars are meant to help us review the work we have done this semester and put it all into a larger context.


            Your seminar will be evaluated for clarity, organization, persuasiveness, and accuracy.  This presentation will count for 100 pts.  My final laboratory seminar evaluation form is attached.  I will be happy to discuss the format and content of your seminar in the weeks prior to your presentation.
Final Laboratory Seminar Evaluation
(100 points)


Environmental Biology, BIO 497                   Name______________________________

Morehouse College, Spring 2010



Introduction (20 points)                                  _____




Results (20 points)                                          _____




Discussion and Conclusions (20 points)         _____





Format, Audience, Clarity (20 points) _____





Quality of Visual Aids  (20 points)                 _____



Department of Biology Mission

1.     Provide students with a fundamental knowledge of Biology.

2.     Prepare students for and assist them in entering graduate and professional school, and the workforce.

3.     Strengthen students' reading, writing and quantitative skills.

4.     Develop students' analytical reasoning and creative thinking skills.

5.     Expose students to contemporary research techniques in Biology and enhance their understanding of the Scientific Method.

6.     Conduct meritorious research in the field of Biology.

7.     Acquaint students with the history of Biology, including the contributions of Black scientists.

8.     Engender an appreciation among students of the social and economic implications of discoveries in Biology.

9.     Build students' awareness of ethical and moral issues related to basic tenets in Biology.


Disability Accommodation


Morehouse College is committed to equal opportunity in education for all students, including those with documented disabilities. Students with disabilities or those who suspect they have a disability must register with the Office of Disability Services (“ODS”) in order to receive accommodations.  Students currently registered with the ODS are required to present their Disability Services Accommodation Letter to faculty immediately upon receiving the accommodation.  If you have any questions, contact the Office of Disability Services, 104 Sale Hall Annex, Morehouse College, 830 Westview Dr. S.W., Atlanta, GA 30314, (404) 215-2636, FAX: (404) 215-2749.




This syllabus is not a contract.  The instructor reserves the right to modify it at his discretion.