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.


Section 001: The “Badger Lands”: A multi-ownership conservation project
Jenny Prahl, Paul Zedler, and Cooper Rosin
Thursdays, 2:25-4:55 p.m.

This class will explore the complex of ecological, social, and economic factors involved in the management of large properties dedicated to meeting important societal environmental needs. The focus will be on the “Badger Lands Project,” comprising three main adjacent properties that occupy the site of the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant which was decommissioned in 1997. The current ownerships are the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center, and the Ho Chunk Nation. The Badger Re-Use Plan, produced by a citizen-led effort, was signed by multiple government, tribal, and private citizens in 2001. It highlights “the need to manage the Badger property collaboratively, and as a single unit.” Because the last transfer of ownership (to the Ho Chunk) occurred in 2014, the progress to this goal is on-going. This capstone class will: a) learn about the past and present management and restoration of the Badger Lands, b) identify one or more “clients” with an interest in the Badger Lands Project to assist in identifying specific projects and to whom the class products will be communicated, and c) contribute to furthering the goal of collaboration among units and provide useful feedback to the client organizations. The class will require a combined written report to which all contribute, and one or more formal presentations of the results of the class to the “client” organizations. On-site visits to the Badger Lands sites will be required involving some hiking, and depending on the project selected, may require additional visits by students on their own. Students wishing further background may find it on the web by searching “Sauk Prairie Recreation Area”, “USDA Dairy Forage Research Center”, and “Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance” among others.

Class activities may require a Saturday field trip. As this cannot be known at the time of registration, attendance on this trip will be voluntary.

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 sustainable resources management, helping infiltrate storm water, supporting open space for aesthetics and recreation, providing opportunities for local food production, providing media for waste management, and other ecosystem services. Careful management of soil is critical to sustaining these services. This class will engage with the UW-Madison UniverCity Alliance in support of their efforts in Pepin County. Students will engage with local stakeholders to identify an issue related to soil and water management, research potential solutions, and develop recommendations.

Pop Hlth/Envir St 560: Health Impact Assessment of Global Environmental Change
Professor Jonathan Patz
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-10:45 a.m.

Covers contemporary methods of impact assessment in a framework to address global environmental health threats (e.g., global climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss, and urban sprawl). Issues dovetail well (but do not overlap) with Introduction to Environmental Health.