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.

Spring 2023 Capstone Courses

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Envir St 600 Section 002: Environmental Justice and Indigenous Communities

Professor Grace Bulltail
Tuesdays, 2:25–4:55 p.m.

Indigenous communities often contain vast natural resources and members have little authority to act as effective land stewards. As a result of resource extraction, these communities experience environmental degradation and are disproportionately impacted by climate change, environmental injustice, and health disparities.

This environmental capstone course will center on the interactions of land use and natural resource management impacting tribal communities. We will consider regulatory and policy considerations governing environmental management regimes in tribal communities. We will also explore interventions to address environmental impacts and inequities.

Students will focus on areas of interest as possible interventions that may include food sovereignty, improved tribal natural resource authority, data sovereignty, capacity building and equity.

Envir St 600 Section 003: Ecology and Conservation with Native Nations in Wisconsin

Jessie Conaway
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1–2:15 p.m.

To enroll, please contact Jessie Conaway ( and Tara Mohan ( with a few sentences describing your interest in cross-cultural experiences, and commitment to community-based and project-based learning. Include your major(s) and year in school.

Weekend field trip(s) and course fee ($125) required.

Be the change! Work with Native Nations in Wisconsin on issues such as water conservation, climate change adaptation, cultural landscape preservation, and environmental health. Learn about how conservation and stewardship in Tribal communities are guided by Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and western science.

Students in this capstone will learn first-hand about indigenous environmental philosophy and practice. Integrating ecology, water resource management, environmental health, mapping, and science communications. We will work directly with Tribal members on projects that will be useful to them as they shape environmental policies that protect their cultures and their homelands. Student commitment to this partnership and process is central to this course.

Envir St 600 Section 004: Nature in the Neighborhood: Exploring Wildlife Conservation in Urban Landscapes

Madeline Carr
Mondays, 1:20–3:15 p.m.

This capstone course is a student led exploration of wildlife habitat conservation on private land in urban landscapes. The class will begin with examination and discussion of case studies, current sociological and ecological research, and local land use controls to provide background on urban wildlife habitat conservation.

With this background students will design and implement a group project with applications to the planning and/or practice of urban wildlife habitat conservation in the Madison area. Class meetings will be used for group discussion and work with partners to plan and implement project.

Envir St 600 Section 005: Public Environmental Writing

Addie Hopes
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30–10:45 a.m.

Now more than ever, we need environmental writing that grabs public attention. In this course, we will experiment with diverse textual and multimedia “eco-writing” genres—from personal narratives and op-eds to photo essays, counter-mapping projects, podcast episodes, short documentary videos, and zines—that aim to tell stories of environmental crisis and environmental justice in accessible ways that matter to people’s everyday lives.

In our reading and writing we’ll think through these questions:

  • What kinds of environmental stories tend to gain traction in public discourse?
  • How does the way that these stories are told reinforce and/or resist structures of colonialism, racial capitalism, ableism, and heteropatriarchy?
  • When we aim to communicate to “public audiences,” what do we mean? Who do we have in mind, and why? How might different approaches, genres, and forms reach different audiences?
  • What urgent environmental stories do you need to tell?

Students will complete two public writing projects—one individual and one collaborative project—on environmental concerns of their own choosing. Course meetings will be structured around seminar discussions, field trips to campus locations, writing labs, and workshops focused on giving and receiving supportive feedback on student work.

Envir St 600 Section 006: Scaling Back Food Excess: Local to Global Solutions in Food recovery, Redistribution, and Recycling

Delaney Gobster
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

From farm to fork, about 40 percent of all food grown for human consumption in the United States is wasted. Barriers to waste reduction vary across food production scales from a local to global context, with bottlenecks to resource use and distribution occurring throughout the food supply chain. At the same time, climate change and environmental disasters pose increasing threats to food security for a growing global population.

In this course we will be reframing the food “waste” narrative to focus on prevention by looking at areas of excess resource accumulation along critical pathways and strategies for optimizing use throughout the product’s lifecycle. The course will begin with an overview of how food resources become wasted across the globe, investigating the root causes of waste behaviors and methods of sustainable resource disposal.

Over the course of the semester, students will engage with Madison-area community organizations to take a deeper look at local food recovery, redistribution, and recycling efforts. Through team projects, students will then work with community partners to develop resource guides and communication tools to support local resource matching and collaboration efforts. While gaining experience in Madison’s food recovery network, students will apply their knowledge of local waste reduction solutions to the broader context of global food systems sustainability.

Envir St 600 Section 007: The "Last Child in the Park" Problem

Anke Hawker – Keuser
Wednesdays, 2–5 p.m.

The book “The Last Child in the Woods” discussed a systemic problem: kids growing up today seem to be spending less and less time outside. Environmental education and outdoor experiences offer many more benefits than simply learning about processes of the physical world. In recent years, getting kids into nature has been a big part the environmental education discussion here in Madison. This effort, however, faces significant challenges.

In this capstone we will explore informal environmental teaching techniques, and research about why this form is education is so important. As part of the class, students will apply principles of environmental education by volunteering for at least 6h at nature outings for children or other nature outreach activities (we will work with you to find appropriate volunteer opportunities). We will also embark on an important journey to learn about the issues and obstacles that environmental programs are currently facing through literature and community engaged research.

Note: while we will usually meet for about 2½ hours of in-class work, some of our time will be spent outside or on brief field trips. The three-hour time slot allows us to accommodate this variety of class activities.

Soil Sci/Envir St 575: Assessment of Environmental Impact

Professor Emeritus Steve 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.