Teaching

Description of Prof. Marín-Spiotta’s courses. Thanks to the Cartography Lab for the beautiful posters.

Geog 120

 

Geog/Env Studies 120: INTRODUCTION TO THE EARTH SYSTEM

(Fall and Spring annually)

Note: This course counts toward the Physical Science breadth requirement.
We live in a swiftly changing world, characterized by altered climatic patterns, shifting landscapes, and growing human populations. Now, more than ever, it is essential to understand how the Earth system works, how it affects our livelihoods, and how we are altering the physical environment of our planet. This course provides a critical foundation for careers in the environmental science and studies by providing an introductory description of how the Earth System works and what makes Earth livable. Through this course you will gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse processes that shape our local, regional and global landscapes. Co-taught with Prof. Jack Williams.

 

 

geog676

Geog/Soils 526: HUMAN TRANSFORMATIONS OF EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES

(Currently being taught Spring 2016)

Note: This course counts toward the Natural Science breadth requirement. The influence of human activities is now recognized to extend all over the globe, which has led some researchers to rename our current geologic epoch the Anthropocene, for the “Age of Humans.” This course will explore the role of human societies in shaping the surface of the Earth and the composition and functioning of our terrestrial ecosystems from global to local scales. This course will cover: major alterations to biogeochemical cycles and geomorphic processes, biophysical consequences of land cover change historically since the origins of agriculture, urban biogeochemistry, and emergence of novel environmental conditions. For each topic, we will cover the biophysical science behind each relevant process and discuss different approaches for characterizing and quantifying changes due to human activities. We will delve into the recent literature to evaluate how biogeochemical and earth system models incorporate human influences to better understand feedbacks between the earth surface, atmosphere and climate.

Check out this awesome website Elena Mederas, Mengyu Liang, Gabrielle Draxler and Genevieve Burgess created profiling campus research on a changing earth system for the methods toolbox final project in Spring 2016.

Check out this blog post from graduate students Eric Nost and Chloe Wardropper on using maps to measure the Anthropocene from Spring 2015.

 

Geog/Bot 338: ENVIRONMENTAL BIOGEOGRAPHY 

(Fall semesters annually and occasional Springs)Geog 338 Fall 2015

Note: This course fulfills the Biological Science breadth requirement.
This course takes an ecosystems approach to understand how physical (climate, geology, soils) and biological (competition, dispersal, evolution, extinction) factors affect the spatial and temporal distribution of terrestrial biomes, ecosystems and biodiversity. We will discuss the role of disturbance and especially anthropogenic factors (recent climate change, land-use change, invasions) on species distributions, including disease. The course goals are: (1) To learn patterns and mechanisms of local to global gene, species, ecosystem and biome distributions; (2) To learn how humans affect geographic patterns of biodiversity; (3) To learn how to apply concepts from biogeography to current environmental problems; (4) To learn important events and authors in the history of biogeographic study and (5) To learn how to read and interpret the primary literature, that is, scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals.

 

 

Geog 920: BIOTIC NOVELTY AND ECOSYSTEM FUNCTION (Spring 2016)

Two big questions in understanding ecosystems and their response to human alterations are the strength of the biodiversity-function relationship and the role of individual species in ecosystem processes. In this graduate seminar, we will explore the literature to examine interactions between species composition and ecosystem processes – such as productivity, decomposition and other trophic interactions that affect the storage and loss of energy, biomass/carbon, nutrients and water and discuss how “function” is defined and measured.

Geog 920: PROFESSIONAL CAREER PREPARATION GRADUATE SEMINAR (Spring 2014)

The goals of this seminar are to provide finishing graduate students with practical skills for making the transition to successful post-graduate careers (yes, there is life after the MS/PhD). The seminar will expose students to professionals in a diversity of environmental careers inside and outside of academia, including the wide range of academic institutions, jobs in policy, federal research labs, state agencies, NGOs, industry, and private enterprise. We will discuss the role of postdoctoral positions among disciplines, the importance of networking, managing your online presence, and differences between mentors and sponsors. Participants will learn interviewing and negotiating skills, gain experience writing and critiquing job applications, and practice time-management skills useful beyond the last push to finish and publish the thesis. We will identify funding opportunities for post-docs and beginning principal investigators and resources for entrepeneurs. All student participants will be expected to produce a working resume or CV and professional website by the end of the semester.

Geog 930: THE HUMAN ROLE IN CHANGING THE FACE OF THE EARTH (Spring 2013)

Humans are a dominant evolutionary, biogeochemical, geomorphic, and climatic force on Earth today. The influence of human activities is now recognized to extend all over the globe, which has led some researchers to rename our current geologic epoch the Anthropocene, for the “Age of Humans.” In this seminar we will discuss the role of human societies in shaping the surface of the Earth and the composition and functioning of our terrestrial ecosystems from global to local scales. Topics to be covered include: major alterations to biogeochemical cycles and geomorphic processes, emergence of novel ecosystems and biomes, economic drivers and biophysical consequences of land use and land cover change historically since the origins of agriculture, and human-influenced changes in geographic distribution of species. We will explore different academic perspectives on the spatial and historic extent of human transformations of the Earth’s surface. Within the context of global change, we will highlight local case studies where understanding the role of human legacies have transformed our knowledge of ecological and physical landscapes.

Geog 920: SOIL ORGANIC MATTER DYNAMICS: STABILIZATION & DESTABILIZATION (Fall 2012)

Globally, soils store two to three times more carbon than all plant biomass or the atmosphere and are an important source of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Changes in land use, land cover, hydrology, climate, fire regimes and other disturbances affect how much carbon is retained in soils and for how long. This special topics graduate seminar will dig into the primary literature for methods to measure organic matter dynamics in soil, including stabilization and destabilization. Topics to discuss include soil aggregate stability, physical fractionation, microbial accessibility and activity, and using incubations and tracers to measure residence time of carbon in soils.

Geog 920: CHARACTERIZING ORGANIC MATTER ON LAND AND WATER (Spring 2011)

This graduate-level discussion seminar will address how advances in methods to characterize the chemical composition of organic matter have changed our understanding of what types of compounds accumulate in soils, sediments, and water. We will focus on techniques that help us determine sources of organic matter and transformation mechanisms to gain insight into ecological, biogeochemical and geographical processes in past and modern environments. Methods discussed will include: analyses of lignin derivatives, proteins, amino sugars, stable and radioisotopes, NMR spectroscopy, pyrolysis GC/MS, fluorescence, and chromatography. We will explore the basic theory behind each method, traditional and novel applications, analytical protocols, and identify resources on and off campus to access the more specialized instruments. We welcome students from different disciplines who want to learn how to apply these methods to their own research. A basic knowledge of chemistry will be assumed.

Check out the publication that came out of this interdisciplinary seminar.

Geog 920: GLOBAL BIOGEOCHEMICAL CYCLES (Fall 2010)

This student-led discussion-based seminar will provide a general overview of the fluxes and transformations of major elements important for life on Earth (CHONSPSiFe), through the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere. We will study interactions between multiple cycles and highlight isotopic and geochemical methods used to identify sources and measure stocks and flows. Discussions will be centered on how recent human activities have altered biogeochemical cycles and the implications for climate change and ecosystem resilience. We will focus in detail on the terrestrial belowground C, N, and P cycles, and explore linkages between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The instructor will provide a general overview and references to classic and current literature, and then students will be expected to lead discussions on particular topics of research interest within the scope of the seminar topic. A basic background in chemistry, soils, and ecology will be assumed.

RESEARCH MENTOR TRAINING SEMINAR FOR FACULTY (Summer 2013, Spring 2012, Fall 2010)

The success of undergraduate and graduate research experiences depends largely on a positive relationship between the student and the research mentor. Therefore, it is vital that current and future faculty be effective mentors. This Delta Program seminar is designed to help current faculty members become more effective research mentors. Seminar discussions focus on different mentoring styles and strategies for developing confidence, independence, creativity, and communication skills in your mentees. Rather than adding to the time you will spend mentoring, this seminar is designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your mentoring. The mentor training seminar consists of weekly one-hour sessions in which you will address issues in mentoring through facilitated discussions based on collaboration and collective problem solving.

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