Course Description An introduction to the impact of human activity on ecological systems.

An introduction to the impact of human activity on ecological systems. Topics include ecosystem structure and function, human population change, resource management and pollution

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course students should be able to

  • demonstrate a knowledge of ecological systems and the impact of human activity on those systems
  • demonstrate an understanding of key environmental issues
  • demonstrate knowledge of courses of action which address environmental concerns.


The required text for the course is Raven et al., 2015, Environment (9th edition), Toronto: Harcourt [although the earlier edition text (8th, 2012) is acceptable; there will be some differences, identified in D2L Content].

Several required readings are indicated in the topic outline below. These readings, along with the labs, are available in the course manual. Students should purchase the course manual from the bookstore.


Research Paper (25% of course mark)

Students will choose one of the issues discussed in the Class Discussions and write a research paper. The paper will present a thesis, and support it with data and discussion. The paper provides the opportunity to apply and discuss concepts that we have studied in the course and are relevant to your chosen issue.

A map, hand drawn by the author, will accompany the paper, at an appropriate scale to provide spatial context to some aspect of the issue. The map will contain map elements of titlescale, and legendSpatial referencing (latitude and longitude) must be included in the map. It is a requirement that you refer to the map in your paper.

An important part of writing the paper is substantiating credibility of the material presented, by citing sources. Primary academic sources (i.e. peer reviewed) are most credible in this regard, and two primary sources are required. Students are required to cite a minimum of four sources. The paper will follow usual academic format of introduction, discussion and conclusion. A short paper is expected. Be precise and to-the-point in presenting the material. Use 1000 words as a guide but this is not a firm target. The research paper must be typed with DOUBLE SPACING. The hardcopy paper is due at the last class of the semester.

Research Papers are graded on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Quality of research (20%) – This criterion relates to breadth of information and relevance. Choose your sources carefully. Use two primary sources.
  • Substance (30%) – identify important concepts that we have discussed in the course and show that you understand the material; explain it accurately and clearly
  • Quality of thought and analysis (30%) – show that you can think intelligently and critically about the material; present some of your own ideas
  • Style (10%) – write your paper in standard academic English, with proper grammar, syntax and punctuation; cite all sources using an accepted bibliographic style. Primary research sources are strongly encouraged, i.e. sources that have been peer- reviewed (the course text is acceptable).
  • Map (10%) – A map, hand drawn by the author, will accompany the paper: Map will contain elements of titlescalespatial referencing and legend.

Week1                   The Environment: What is the problem?

Lab: Geography of pollution

Class discussion 1: Human impact on the environment.

What are the most important environmental problems facing us today?


Jan 13-                  Introducing environmental science and sustainability

Week 2                 Text: Chap 1

Class discussion 1: Recognizing ecological limits

Should Canadians recognize ecological limits and reduce their ecological footprint?

Class discussion 2: Scientific assessment, risk analysis and the precautionary principle: Examining risks associated with major projects such as oil development.

Is oil sands development in Alberta an acceptable risk?

Video: H2Oil

Lab: Environmental science: research and the scientific method; geography of environment; human impact on the environment; measuring ecological footprints

Jan 20-                  Addressing environmental problems: Policy, economics and

Week 3                 worldviews

Text: Chap 2

Lab:  Addressing environmental problems: Policy and economics;                                                                       worldviews.

Video: Subdue the Earth

Class discussion: Addressing environmental problems

How ‘green’ is the Camosun campus? What environmental problems exist on the Camosun campus? What solutions can you identify to these problems?


Jan 27-                  Ecosystems and Energy

Week 4                 Text: Chap 3

Lab: Ecosystems and Energy

Class discussion: Whaling.

Is whaling an unacceptable practice that should be stopped immediately?

Video: Whale Mission

Feb 3-                   Quiz 1

Week 5

Structure and function of ecosystems

Ecosystems and the Physical Environment

Text: Chap 4

                              Lab: Living and physical worlds

Class discussion: Agriculture and the use of chemical fertilizers.    

Should society use legislation to prohibit farmers using chemical fertilizers? Is there an alternative to chemical fertilizers?

Feb 10-                 Structure and function of ecosystems

Week 6                 Ecosystems and Living Organisms.

Text: Chap 5

                              Lab: Living and physical worlds

Class discussion: The nature of community.

Is community based mostly on competition or cooperation between                                                            members?

Feb 17-                 READING BREAK

Week 7

Feb 24-                 Ecosystems of the World

Week 8                 Text: Chap 6

Class discussion: Protecting BC’s temperate rainforest ecosystem

Should cutting of BC’s old growth temperate rainforest be stopped immediately?

Lab: Examining ecosystems: Examining Canada’s ecosystems using GIS

March 2-               Human population

Week 9                 Text: Chap 8

Class discussion: Overpopulation

The current human population crisis causes or exacerbates all environmental problems, including energy issues and climate change: What is the solution?

Lab: Human population dynamics

March 9-               Quiz 2

Week 10

Research paper: Getting started


March 16-             Wildlife and biodiversity

Week 11               Text: Chap 16

Lab: Valuing wildlife

Class discussion: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Should the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge be protected or developed as part of North America’s oil and gas reserves?

Video: Oil on ice

March 23-             Food

Week 12               Text: Chap 18

Class discussion: Agriculture

                              Should all food be produced organically?

Lab: Calculating your Ecological Footprint

March 30-             Climate change

Week 13               Text: Chap 20

Class discussion: Canada and climate change

What are we doing? Should we do more? What should we be doing?

Given historic emissions does Canada have the same or more responsibility than nations such as China and India?

We are the Best!


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