Thoughts in response to intro environmental
- learn about environmental geology.
- to create an informed populace, a necessity
for a healthy democracy. Should the U.S. pursue nuclear energy as an option, and if so where should we put the radioactive wastes? What type of development should be allowed on coasts prone to hurricanes? What levels of contaminants should be permitted in our waters? These are questions related to environmental geology that must be addressed by our democracy, and there are many others.
- develop environmental specialists.
- provide knowledge useful in personal endeavors.
- learn new sets of problem solving skills
applicable across the board.
- to increase aesthetic awareness of the world around you.
- to enjoy mental exploration.
a scientific community?
- Thomas Kuhn, a philosopher of science who developed the idea of scientific paradigms and scientific revolutions, suggested 4 components of a scientific community:
- language: e.g. statistics.
- metaphysics: fundamental assumptions such as the historical continuity of basic physical laws.
- values: rationality, objectivity, transparency, honesty are three that are generally highly valued.
- exemplars = data and explanations for that
- What might examples of some of these for environmental
geology in specific?
Basic questions related to environmental geology that one must grapple with?
- What do we want our world to be like?
- How do we balance individual rights versus
- To what degree can we control nature?
- What will be the long term consequences of
this or that action on the environment and the people living
How do we understand
complex natural systems?
- conceptual models of linkages between
system components. These models are
often known as cycles, the best known of which may be the hydrologic
cycle. Other examples are given below. This approach has recently
been given the name of earth system science.
- computer modeling.
Putting the above conceptual models and relevant data into computers
and then observing this model system in virtual operation we
can learn what patterns of behavior might be. This approach always
needs a very good reality check, which tells us how good our
conceptual model is.
- new perspectives of chaos, fractals and
fuzzy logic. The relatively new science
of chaos and the mathematics of fractals shows how very rich
and complex behavior and patterns can sometimes be captured in
very simple equations. Fuzzy logic allows us to work with incomplete
knowledge more consistently and precisely, and incomplete knowledge
often characterizes complex systems.
- collaborative efforts and team work. An important realization is that one individual
does not have the mental capacity to understand these systems
in their totality - they are just to big and complex. A team
approach crossing disciplinary boundaries is required. Team work
is critical to environmental science.
This includes hunches, inspirations, eureka moments and more.
It comes from immersion in and intense familiarity with a system
and subconscious analytic capacity we don't fully understand. Intuition is based on experience.
What are major
earth systems need to understand?
- atmosphere: meteorology.
- hydrosphere: oceanography,
limnology, many other scientific disciplines.
- biosphere: biology.
- cryosphere: glaciology, and snow pack and sea ice dynamics.
- lithosphere: geology.
- earth system science is a combination
of all of these. Need to abandon the academic
- will focus on lithosphere in this course,
but we will need to go wandering through these other disciplines.
How is scientific literature read differently than other literature?
- primary attention is often paid to the visuals - the diagrams, maps, graphs and other such components.
- read more slowly and multiple times, before understanding established by the reader.
- often reread in a non-linear manner (jumping to pertinent points).
- partial understanding is often still useful.
How to be effective, efficient in your learning in this course? The answer is simple in some sense - be as active and engaged as possible when you are in lecture or are studying. Just listening or viewing the material is relatively ineffective.
- take copious notes. Research shows that the actual act of writing the material and drawing diagrams helps you learn. Interestingly, research shows that learning is enhanced when notes are taken by hand instead of typed.
- identify the more important concepts and information presented by using underlining, high lighting.
- organize and structure your notes. Colored pencils can help with this.
- ask questions, even simple ones, during lecture. I especially appreciate such engagement, and experience indicates others likely have the same question.
- use recall to fill in gaps in notes and identify questions right after the lecture.
- use study groups, especially just before exams.
- try to predict the questions that will be asked on exams.
- use web resources to fill in simple gaps or answer simple questions, but for more complex gaps/questions come see me.
I will be happy to look at your notes to give you feedback. Just ask.
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