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 November 21 if seats remain. The capstone course will count toward the theme requirement for environmental studies certificate students.

Spring 2018 Capstone Courses

Section 001: 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 002: Environmental Conservation with the Menominee Nation
Jessie Conaway
Mondays and Wednesdays, 1:00 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
To enroll, please contact Jessie Conaway ( with a few sentences describing your interest in the class. Include your major(s) and year in school.
Course fee required.

The Menominee Nation is a sovereign Tribal Nation residing on a portion of their ancestral lands in what is now known as northeastern Wisconsin. The Menominee Origin Story begins at the mouth of the Menominee River, where the five clans of the Nation came into being. Today, their reservation lands share coterminous boundaries with Menominee County, which is a remnant of the impact from federal assimilation policies. The Tribe is world-renowned for their sustainable forestry practices, which is guided by Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and western science. The Menominee Reservation is also home to one of the two Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU’s) in Wisconsin.

Threats to the Menominee's environmental resources include dams, climate change, and mineral mining. Menominee resource management is exemplary in their incorporation of both TEK and western science to tackle these environmental issues. Students in this capstone will visit the Menominee reservation to learn first-hand about indigenous environmental philosophy and practice. Integrating ecology, natural resource management, environmental health, mapping, and education, we will work directly with Tribal professionals and leaders on projects that will be useful to the Nation as they shape environmental policies that protect their culture and their homeland.

There will be two field trips (Friday-Sunday), one in February and one in April.

Section 003: Urban Food Systems and the Environment
Professor Monica White
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

This course will examine the relationship between food systems and the environment and allow students to identify a project of interest that they will develop from a research question to data collection and analysis. We will pay particular attention to the social, political and environmental impacts of local food movements. In an effort to examine community responses to food insecurity, students will explore the food landscape from production (i.e. agriculture) to distribution and participate in community service activities, like work at a community gardening project. Students will also meet with and interview local residents and stakeholders in the urban agricultural movement in Madison.

Envir St/Soil Sci 575: Assessment of Environmental Impact
Professor Stephen Ventura
Lecture: Mondays and Wednesdays, 8:50-9:40 a.m.
Discussion: Wednesdays, 12:05-2:10 p.m.
This course can fulfill the capstone requirement OR count toward the theme requirement of the environmental studies major.

Overview of methods for collecting and analyzing information about environmental impacts on agricultural and natural resources, including monitoring the physical environment and relating impacts to people and society.