Course Spotlight: Biosphere

Students in this core environmental studies course are learning that if you want to save the world, you have to get your hands dirty.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

It’s one thing to write a landscape plan to mitigate the impacts of a development project on a healthy wetland—it’s quite another to wade into the mud and plant cord grass and pickerelweed.

Rollins students are digging deep into that distinction (and at times, the mud) thanks to an environmental studies course that explores the integration of human beings and the ecosystems we depend on. The work they’re undertaking will give them a taste of what it really takes to save the planet.

Course Title

Biosphere with Lab

Instructor

Emily Nodine, assistant professor of environmental studies

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Description

Biosphere is among the most rigorously science-focused courses in the environmental studies department. Like many Rollins courses, it also builds connections among other disciplines.

“We have this tendency to remove ourselves from nature and think of ourselves as separate,” Nodine says. “But just like any other living thing on Earth, we are intimately tied to the natural world. We need clean water, clean air, food resources—you know, the same things every other living thing does. So it’s really important to look at it from an integrated standpoint.”

Nodine hopes this integrated approach will help students understand how biology and ecology relate to the things they’re learning in their non-science classes.

“Biosphere stands out from other science classes in that way,” she says. “We’re thinking about how these biological concepts apply to things like management, to applied social sciences, even to history.”

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Snapshot

On April 18, Nodine and her class partnered on a wetland restoration project with Marissa Williams ’07, an environmental studies major who is now a natural resources manager for the City of Casselberry. Students helped plant several hundred native plants along North Lake Triplet, which had been impacted by the construction of a boat launch.

For some students, Nodine says, days in the field like this one will spark an interest in the nitty-gritty side of environmental work. For others? Not so much. Either way, Nodine says, the real-world experience is invaluable for whatever career path students choose.

“Firsthand experience just gives you a better understanding of how this kind of stuff gets done,” she says. “If they become an urban planner and are writing up a landscape plan, they now have some understanding of what goes into that. Like why should we choose certain species and how hard is it going to be and how many people are we going to need.”

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Student Perspective

“It was cool to connect what we learned in class about wetland plants and how they can filter out pollutants from the water to what we were doing in the lab,” says Katrina Kasemir ’18. “The plants we were planting were the same plants we learned about in class.”

For Kasemir, whose goal is to become a chief sustainability officer, the real-world application to her career is clear.

“In order to do what I want to do,” she says, “I’m going to have to have a broad understanding about these environmental issues.”

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Fast Fact

Wetlands were once viewed as wastelands that should be drained for farming and development. By the 1980s, more than half of wetlands in the United States had been lost. Today, the Army Corps of Engineers is charged with enforcing the current policy of no net loss of wetland area.