CCOG for ESR 171 Summer 2024

Course Number:
ESR 171
Course Title:
Environmental Science: Biological Perspectives
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Covers environmental topics that are primarily biological in nature, including ecosystem functions, biodiversity, human population issues, agricultural practices, and environmental ethics. Laboratory exercises illustrate these topics and may include fieldwork. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. 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, 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.).

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 Environmental Studies Subject Area Curriculum Committee at Portland Community College, therefore stand with such organizations as the National Association of Biology Teachers in opposing the inclusion of pseudo-sciences in our science curricula.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course students should be able to:

  • Describe fundamental components and functions of populations, communities, and ecosystems graphically, orally, and/or in writing.
  • Evaluate human interactions with and impacts on species, communities, and ecosystems.
  • Make informed decisions about how to promote sustainable use of natural capital and to support biodiversity using resources such as scientific data, research, and/or case studies.
  • Utilize basic field and laboratory methods and technologies to measure and describe ecosystems.

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 171, Environmental Science: Biological 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 populations (human and other species), species interactions, land use, environmental ethics, agriculture, and ecosystems 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 and support biodiversity.

Course Activities and Design

Course activities may include:

  1. Lectures
  2. Field trips
  3. Active learning approaches such as relevant case studies
  4. Laboratory sections may include fieldwork and laboratory skills such as: proper use of equipment, sampling techniques, data collection in the field and data analysis
  5. Written lab reports
  6. Written papers
  7. Oral presentations

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Assessment tasks may include:

  • Essay, short answer, and multiple choice questions in quizzes, exams, and/or homework

  • Field and/or laboratory reports or journals

  • Research papers

  • Self-assessment and reflection assignments

  • Oral presentations 

  • Poster presentations 

  • Concept maps

  • Creation and/or interpretation of graphs

  • Analysis and/or creation of maps

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

Concepts and Themes:

  • Ecosystem functions

  • Biodiversity and conservation practices

  • Environmental justice and ethics 

  • Human population issues

  • Agricultural practices

  • Biogeochemical cycles

  • Human impacts on biological systems


  • Relate scientific concepts to local and regional biological resources.

  • Identify sources of scientific uncertainty.

  • Locate and access reliable information from a variety of sources.

  • Represent and interpret quantitative data.

  • Draw conclusions based on evidence and discuss impacts on the community and/or environment.

  • Collaborate with peers.

  • Practice communicating results of scientific work.