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 2022 Capstone Courses

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Envir St 600 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 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. A high percentage of Sherman’s 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-Madison students as after-school mentors with a Sherman student.

Every Wednesday morning from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., our UW-Madison 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 to 5:15 p.m., we meet as a class at Sherman Middle School on Madison’s north side (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 middle schooler 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.

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 percent of your grade.

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.

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 firsthand 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.

To enroll, please contact Jessie Conaway ( 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.

Envir St 600 Section 004: Air Quality and Equity in an African City

Dorothy Lsoto and Aleia McCord
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30–10:45 a.m.

We cannot escape the air we breathe. Air pollution kills over seven million people each year. What causes this pollution? How and who does it kill? How do cities create and enforce air quality standards? How can civil servants, political leaders, business owners, and civil society advocates work together to protect both the health of their communities and the vibrancy of local economies?

No single person or discipline can address such complex questions. In this capstone, you will be asked to apply the entirety of your transdisciplinary environmental studies education to understanding the air quality challenges facing one of Africa’s fastest growing and most dynamic cities: Kampala, Uganda. We will work with Ugandan civil servants, researchers, scientists, and attorneys from both Uganda and the East African Community to explore ongoing efforts to regulate air pollution in the region.

Using case studies from around the world, we will explore the science of air quality and the ways in which air pollution impacts vulnerable communities. Students will work in small interdisciplinary teams with experts from Uganda to study the development of air quality standards, emissions sources and pollution monitoring, and ongoing efforts to design a clean city.

This course is appropriate for students of all disciplinary backgrounds. Please be prepared to contribute your unique knowledge and disciplinary expertise to our learning community.

Envir St 600 Section 005: "This Must Be the Place": Environmental Writing and Place-Focused Justice

Amanda Pratt
Wednesdays, 1:20–3:15 p.m.

Communicating effectively about the environment has significant stakes. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening can effect change: both through the self-transformation that takes place in the process of learning and communicating, and in the ways that real audiences are compelled to act when the rhetorical artifacts we compose move into the world.

In this capstone, students will be asked to read and write across a variety of genres that engage with the environment, from creative to technical. Students will be encouraged to interrogate their own relationships with the environment through personal narratives before identifying community partners that they are (or want to be) accountable to and working to collaboratively address challenges facing their communities. For a final project, students will use these real exigencies to “write for change.”

Course meetings will be structured primarily around reading discussions and writing workshops. Class will include field excursions to practice site-specific writing exercises on campus and to engage with the community surrounding Madison.

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.