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 12 if seats remain. The capstone course will count toward the theme requirement for environmental studies certificate students.

Fall 2017 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
Wednesdays, 7:30-9:30 a.m. and 2:15-5:15 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 Wednesday morning from 7:30-9:30am, 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 2:15-5:15pm, 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

Healthy soils play an important role in urban "green infrastructure," helping infiltrate storm water, supporting open space for aesthetics and recreation, providing opportunities for local food production and other ecosystem services. Careful management of soil is critical to sustaining these services, including biophysical, social, and economic management tools. This class will engage in observations and analyses of urban soil characteristics and functions, and provide recommendations for improving the long term stewardship of this valuable resource.

Section 004: Systems Thinking
Professor Molly Jahn (and Cathy Middlecamp)
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-10:45 a.m.
Meets-with Agronomy 375

Complex systems are at the root of our world's most pressing problems and largest opportunities. This junior/senior capstone seminar will pilot a new systems thinking course to be offered. The course will focus on concepts and practices used to define and analyze systems, providing opportunities for students to build competencies with systems thinking to describe, assess, understand and manage complex systems from local to global scales. The course will consider a range of topics including systems science, complexity and behavior of complex adaptive systems, networks, and patterns of organization. Seminar participants will gain direct experience applying a systems lens as both students and teachers by preparing and presenting a course project on one topic of their choice and working together to develop a syllabus for a large introductory course pilot on systems thinking.