CCOG for ESR 173 archive revision 202104

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Effective Term:
Fall 2021 through Spring 2024

Course Number:
ESR 173
Course Title:
Environmental Science: Geological Perspectives
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Covers environmental topics that relate to the intersection of geological processes and materials with society, including fundamental principles of geosciences, soil resources, hydrogeology, nonrenewable and renewable energy resources, and global climate change. Laboratory exercises illustrate these topics and may include fieldwork. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

Fieldwork Statement:

Fieldwork is a professional competence in many areas of Environmental Studies. Standard field practices include measurements of abiotic and biotic components in a variety of environmental conditions and habitat types. Fieldwork includes use of all the senses to make observations in natural and built environments. Field training may include developing skills in site characterization, application of key terms and concepts, species identification, identification of earth materials such as rock/minerals/soils, and measurement and data collection using appropriate equipment. Fieldwork may include inherent risks (uneven terrain, off-trail work with map & compass, variable weather, insects, environmental irritants, travel, stress, etc.). Fieldwork requirements may be adaptable to meet student needs.

Evolution Statement:

To clarify the teaching of evolution and its place in the classroom, the Portland Community College Science Departments stand by the following statements about what is science and how the theory of evolution is the major organizing theory in the discipline of the biological sciences.

• Science is a fundamentally nondogmatic and self-correcting investigatory process. In science, a theory is neither a guess, dogma, nor myth. The theories developed through scientific investigation are not decided in advance, but can be and often are modified and revised through observation and experimentation.

• The theory of evolution meets the criteria of a scientific theory. In contrast, creation "science" is neither self-examining nor investigatory. Creation "science" is not considered a legitimate science, but a form of religious advocacy. This position is established by legal precedence (Webster v. New Lenox School District #122, 917 F. 2d 1004).

Science (ESR) instructors of Portland Community College will teach the theory of evolution not as absolute truth but as the most widely accepted scientific theory on the diversity of life. We, the ESR Subject Area Curriculum Committee at Portland Community College, therefore stand with such organizations as the National Association of Biology Teachers, and the Geological Society of America in opposing the inclusion of pseudoscience in our science curricula.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course students should be able to:

  • Express graphically, orally or in writing, basic elements of environmental geoscience.

  • Identify and express geological interactions of humans and the environment.

  • Utilize field and laboratory methods and technologies to measure and describe environmental factors.

  • Use the geologic timescale to provide context for the rates of Earth processes and environmental change.

  • Interpret geological and environmental data presented in maps or geospatial software.  

Quantitative Reasoning

Students completing an associate degree at Portland Community College will be able to analyze questions or problems that impact the community and/or environment using quantitative information.

General education philosophy statement

ESR 173, Environmental Science: Geological Perspectives, prepares students for life as members of an informed society, with the ability to understand and to continue learning about issues related to our natural environment. Inquiries about geological processes, geologic hazards, soils, renewable and non-renewable energy resources, and global climate change are the basis of this course, and are used as a platform for practicing both qualitative and quantitative reasoning. Laboratory and field investigations allow students to develop skills in scientific information-gathering, developing hypotheses, and discerning the meaning of facts and data.

Relevance to our everyday lives- personal, professional, and as members of a community, is revealed as we anchor environmental topics to the theme of sustainability. By identifying ways in which our decisions and actions affect the living world, this course promotes an understanding of community and environmental implications, so that students may make informed decisions about how to use and manage natural resources in ways that preserve natural capital, support biodiversity, and reduce exposure to natural hazards.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Assessment tasks may include:

  • Written assessments
  • Essay, short answer, and multiple choice exams
  • Write-ups of field and laboratory experiences
  • Research paper on environmental topic
  • Journal: self-assessment and exploration of topics
  • Oral presentations with accompanying visual/graphical representations
  • Concept maps
  • Graphs
  • Maps

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

Concepts and Themes:

Geologic processes (rock cycle, plate tectonics, fluvial processes, and soil development)

Geologic hazards (earthquakes, tsunamis, mass moments, volcanoes, flooding)

Geologic resources (mineral, soil, water, and energy)

Climate change


  • Relate scientific concepts to local and regional geologic resources and hazards.
  • Identify the sources of scientific uncertainty.
  • Locate and access information from a variety of sources.
  • Think critically and evaluate sources.
  • Collaborate with peers.
  • Practice communicating results of scientific work.