Capstone Courses

The environmental studies capstone course (Envir St 600) is a required component for students completing our major. Priority is given to students declared in the environmental studies major. If you are an environmental studies certificate student, you may enroll on April 13 if seats remain. The capstone course will count toward the theme requirement for environmental studies certificate students.

Summer 2016 Capstone Course

Seasons of the Anishinaabe: Ethnobiology and Ethnohistory of the Bad River Watershed
See the course webpage for more information.

Fall 2016 Capstone Courses

Section 001: Water in a Changing World
Professor Mutlu Ozdogan
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:00-2:15 p.m.

Renewable fresh water comprises only a small fraction of global water resources, and the mismatch between the demand and supply is increasing due to climate change and growing human populations. What will the Earth's freshwater resources look like in the next century? This course will examine the hydrologic cycle, its natural and human-induced variability, the hydrologic impacts of human activities, and predicted short- and long-term hydrologic changes and impacts under a changing climate. It will also explore social factors including population pressure on water resources, economic development and water quality/quantity, access to water, and poverty and water. The class will combine lectures and participation by students in collaborative research, classroom presentations, software simulations and visualizations, and extended discussions. Students will be exposed to physical principles of the global water cycle and understand the relationship between humans, climate and water systems, and gain an understanding of the disparate distribution of fresh water resources from a changing climate and socioeconomics.

Section 002: Last Child in the Park: How Kids and Birds Can Save the Planet
Anke Keuser
Mondays, 2:30-4:30 p.m. and Wednesdays, 2:00-5:00 p.m.
To enroll, please contact Anke Keuser (

We will be working hand in hand with staff at Madison's Sherman Middle School to provide a nature study program to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. A high percentage of Sherman ethnically diverse students live in poverty. The school is making herculean efforts to meet student needs by providing after-school programming. Our class helps the school meet those needs by pairing UW students as after-school mentors with a Sherman student.

Every Monday afternoon from 2:30-4:30pm, our UW class meets for an introduction to basic field ornithology in the Lakeshore Preserve. No experience is necessary. Bird identification is a satisfying skill to acquire and birds are a beautiful portal to better understanding and appreciation of the biophysical world. You will learn how to identify Wisconsin's most common birds by sight and sound, then you will teach that skill to your middle school student "co-explorer." Every Wednesday afternoon from 2:00-5:00pm, we meet as a class at Sherman Middle School on Madison's Northside (free transportation provided by the university). Together with Sherman's Nature Explorers Club, we walk as a group to Warner Park. We spend the afternoon exploring to learn what the park and its landscape and wild creatures have to teach us, and what we all have to teach each other. We do some group activities like planting prairie seeds, birdwatching and fort-building. At the same time you will be paired with a Sherman middleschooler as "co-explorers"; in a nature-mentoring relationship. You will help your Sherman co-explorer develop academic and social skills while building an awareness of and appreciation for the natural resources of Warner Park. And your co-explorer will teach you what he or she already knows about their wonderful park and its furred, finned and feathered residents. For a press account of this work, see this article in the Capital Times.

Here is an opportunity to be the change you want to see in the world.

It is critical that you are able to attend both sessions consistently. Establishing a solid relationship with the Sherman students is extremely important, and you must be there for that relationship to develop. Attendance is 50% of your grade.

Section 003: Capstone in Soil and Water Management
Professors Nick Balster and Steve Ventura
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 12:05-12:55 p.m.
Meets-with Soil Sci 499

Our campus natural areas are an important buffer between highly developed and intensively used parts of the campus and the beautiful lake that frames it. Careful management of the soil resources and storm water moving through this edge are critical to sustaining its ecological services, aesthetics, and educational value. This class will work with Lakeshore Nature Preserve staff to identify a management issue, conduct relevant research, and provide recommendations for the long term stewardship of the campus natural areas.

Section 004: Building Food Justice Capacity in South Madison
Dadit Hidayat and Alfonso Morales
Mondays, 2:25-5:25 p.m.

Join the "Building Food Justice Capacity in South Madison" course and become part of an impactful project that addresses the interconnection of food sovereignty, urban agriculture and racial disparities. Designed as a community organizing course, this course is a unique interpretation of interdisciplinary learning by applying academic knowledge that follows community's vision.

This course is the third in a series of four service learning capstone courses funded by the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment; the project also received support from a two-year Plan4Health grant from the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission. As we selected an emerging new farmer(s), and initiated an urban farming learning process through the preceding semesters, the fall 2016 capstone course will focus on the following objectives:

Students will be involved in both planning and execution processes, and will work closely with community partners. The course will rely heavily on student participation and motivation to support this community-led initiative. Flexible schedules are expected as likely we will have project tasks that require students to go to meetings outside of regular class times. Students may be expected to be on a farm for some community engagement activities.

Selected resources:

Agronomy 375 Section 001: Special Topics: Designing a New Course in Systems Thinking for a Sustainable Future
Professor Molly Jahn (and Cathy Middlecamp)
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-10:45 a.m.

This seminar offers a novel lens through which to view and more completely understand and manage the complex global issues that we now face: Systems Thinking. Together we will read A Systems View of Life, an interdisciplinary book written primarily for college undergraduates. The authors explain: “Over the past 30 years, a new systemic conception of life has emerged at the forefront of science. New emphasis has been given to complexity, networks, and patterns of organization, leading to a novel kind of “systemic” thinking.”

Seminar participants will work with each other, with the professors, and with the author of this book & his colleagues at UC Berkeley to create a new sustainability course at UW-Madison. We will write class learning goals, design activities to meet these learning goals, and class test our products. Look for lively discussions and a chance to shape a new undergraduate course to be offered in Fall Semester 2017.