Environmental Biology: Ecosystems of Southwest Florida

David Green, Instructor II,
Florida Gulf Coast University
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences

A 2013 SENCER Model

SENCER Model Course Logo

Environmental Biology, BSC 1051C, is a 3 credit hour non-science majors course that
examines environmental science and the role humans play in global sustainability, both locally and regionally.

The environment of southwest Florida is used as an example to investigate environmental concepts within their ecological, cultural, economic, and historical contexts. This course is inquiry based and fully integrated with both laboratory and field experiences which emphasize active learning strategies. We will be engaged in active-learning techniques designed to make student learning fresh, exciting, and hands-on (based on the SENCER method – www.sencer.net).

Students will acquire baseline scientific knowledge of crucial conservation and management issues relating to regional and global sustainability by developing the critical thinking skills necessary to understand, communicate, and make evidence-based decisions regarding human use and impacts of coastal watersheds and ecosystems.

Linking Science and Social Issues

The links between science content and unsolved civic problems are outlined in the syllabus, and in the attached chart.

Science and Civic Questions: Course Objectives

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They are also reinforced through “Guiding Questions.”

“Guiding Question” for the course:

How can tomorrow’s generations of all southwest Florida inhabitants continue to benefit from the natural goods and services a healthy coastal watershed provides, by better understanding our role as citizens today?
“Guiding Questions” for specific classes:

  • Class 1: What is an ecological footprint and what role do we each play in sustaining natural resources and ecosystem services so that future generations can enjoy the same wilderness experiences we get to enjoy today?
  • Class 2: What geologic and climatic events that have shaped the Florida peninsula over geologic time?
  • Class 3: Why does one male Florida Panther need 110 square miles of continuous habitat to survive?
  • Class 4: Understanding that adaptations to changing environmental conditions may take millions of years to occur via natural selection, in your mind, what does this mean for the fate of global biodiversity in this age of climate change, knowing that many human-induced changes occur in 50 years or less?
  • Class 6: There is only one “River of Grass” … Do we have a duty to protect these places of value? Are these places worth saving? What Florida do you want to be responsible for leaving behind?
  • Class 7: “A Journey Down the Corkscrew Watershed”: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Field Excursion
  • Class 8: What factors limit the size of the human population and are humans bound by similar factors that limit wild organisms?
  • Class 11: Is freshwater supply our next oil? (Cynthia Barnett: Mirage)
  • Class 13: Can humans realistically live with charismatic magafauna, like Florida Panthers and Roseate Spoonbills that we have learned about in this course? What must humans do differently so that organisms like these have a chance to recover and not go extinct?

The Course

Syllabus Environmental Biology

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Evaluating Learning

Student performance is evaluated through journals, field trip and lab exercises, projects, presentations, and two exams. Pre and post-assessments are administered using the SENCER Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG).

Field Excursions:

Campus Nature Walk

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CREW Field Excursion

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Corkscrew Sanctuary Field Trip

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BNP Field Excursion

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Barefoot Beach Field Excursion

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Naturalist Journal Template

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Nature Journal I Task List

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Nature Journal II Task List

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Project Proposal

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Project Details

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Group Projects

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Flier for Student Presentations

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Background and Context

This poster describes the design of the course and situates it within the general education curriculum of Florida Gulf Coast University:

Implementing Hierarchical Civic Engagement Strategies Into Two Environmental Sustainability-focused General Education Course Redesigns

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Related Resources

Straw Hat Brigade

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