CCOG for ESR 200 Summer 2024

Course Number:
ESR 200
Course Title:
Introduction to Environmental Systems
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Introduces the structure and function of terrestrial, aquatic and atmospheric systems and the connections with human systems. Provides a foundation for using scientific literature, scientific writing, fieldwork and lab methods for collection and analysis of environmental data. Prerequisites: (WR 115 and RD 115) or IRW 115 or equivalent placement, and (LAT 236 or MTH 65 or equivalent placement score). Prerequisites/concurrent: ESR 150. 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.

  1. Science is a fundamentally non-dogmatic 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.
  2. 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 in opposing the inclusion of pseudo-sciences in our science curricula.

Intended Outcomes for the course

After completion of this course students should be able to:

  1. Describe concepts related to basic properties and functions of matter, energy and change in environmental systems, biogeochemical cycles, global climate, ecosystem services, and human impacts and dependence on these systems.
  2. Explain factors influencing environmental quality, biodiversity, community ecology, and population ecology.
  3. Evaluate environmental problems and propose solutions on topics including climate change, water quality, and biodiversity loss.
  4. Identify, summarize, synthesize, evaluate, and appropriately cite information from the peer-reviewed scientific literature.
  5. Apply the scientific method to environmental investigations including: gathering data in the laboratory and through fieldwork, analyzing data using descriptive statistics and graphical representations, formulating conclusions based on data, and writing lab reports to communicate findings.

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

Introduction to Environmental Systems introduces concepts, skills and scientific approaches used to study environmental systems, including the interactions between humans and other components of the biological, chemical, and physical world. Students deepen their understanding of themselves and their natural environment and develop their ability to reason quantitatively by performing data collection and analysis. Students analyze the environmental and societal impacts of individual, local, and global actions and propose solutions. Students use conceptual system models to organize and describe their understanding of natural phenomena. This course lays the foundation for further study of environmental science and studies, but also provides a valuable perspective for students who chose different areas of study.

Course Activities and Design

  1. Lectures

  2. Active learning approaches including discussion of relevant case studies, modeling of environmental systems, and use of computer-based spreadsheet programs for data organization, analysis and graphing.

  3. Laboratory sections will include fieldwork and laboratory analysis of environmental data using a variety of approaches and skills including: proper use of equipment, sampling techniques, experimental design, data analysis, microclimate data collection in the field, use of dichotomous keys to identify common native and invasive plant species, water chemistry, water quality testing in the field, collection and analysis of benthic invertebrates as bioindicators, calculating and using a variety of common metrics to describe diversity, reading and creating maps, physical, chemical and biological analysis of soils.

  4. Written lab reports will be used to communicate results of lab investigations.

  5. Written papers will be used to develop skills in identifying, comprehending, and analyzing scientific papers.

  6. Midterm and final exams will be given to test understanding and mastery of concepts and skills.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

  1. Midterm and final exams including a variety of types of questions including: matching, true/false, multiple choice, interpreting and creating diagrams and graphs, short answer and essay.

  2. Typed lab reports describing laboratory and field exercises using a scientific writing style and including an introduction, methods, results and discussion section.

  3. Written assignments that ask students to search, read, summarize, synthesize and cite the peer-reviewed scientific literature on a relevant environmental topic.  

  4. In class assignments that ask students to interpret scientific data, use critical thinking  and draw conclusions based on evidence (e.g., case studies).

  5. Written papers and/or oral presentations that describe a research project and/or environmental problem and demonstrate critical thinking based on scientific evidence.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

Themes, Concepts and Issues:

  1. Scientific practices and experimental design

  2. Quantitative reasoning

  3. Environmental systems: matter, energy, and change

  4. Biogeochemical cycles

  5. Ecosystem ecology

  6. Global climates and biomes

  7. Evolution and diversity

  8. Population and community ecology

  9. Soil and water quality and availability/use

  10. Global change including climate change

  11. Human impacts and interactions


  1. Effective teamwork and collaboration in the lab, field, and classroom

  2. Accurate measurement and data collection in the field and laboratory (e.g. perform water quality and soil testing analyses, use taxonomic keys for identification, use microclimate kits to measure environmental variables).

  3. Data analysis including calculation of descriptive statistics

  4. Quantitative analysis and problem solving using math

  5. Interpretation and creation of accurate graphs to display data

  6. Use of critical thinking and evidence to describe environmental problems and solutions.

  7. Identify, summarize, synthesize, and cite the peer-reviewed scientific literature

  8. Communicate results using lab reports written in the scientific style.

  9. Environmental awareness and proper disposal of hazardous waste