GCC 3032/5032

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Ecosystem Health: Leadership at the Intersection of Humans, Animals, and the Environment

What are the effects of climate change, disease emergence, food and water security, gender, conflict and poverty, and sustainability of ecosystem services on health? Unfortunately, these large-scale problems often become overwhelming, making single solution-based progress seem daunting and difficult to implement in policy. Fortunately, the emerging discipline of Ecosystem Health provides an approach to these problems grounded in transdisciplinary science. Ecosystem Health recognizes the interdependence of human, animal and environmental health, and merges theories and methods of ecological, health and political sciences. It poses that health threats can be prevented, monitored and controlled via a variety of approaches and technologies that guide management action as well as policy. Thus, balancing human and animal health with the management of our ecosystems.

In this class, we will focus on the emerging discipline of ecosystem health, and how these theories, methods and computational technologies set the stage for solutions to grand challenges of health at the interface of humans, animals, and the environment. We will focus not only on the creation and evaluation of solutions but on their feasibility and implementation in the real world through policy and real time decision-making.

This will be taught in the active learning style classroom, requiring pre-class readings to support the didactic theory and case-based learning in class. Participation and both individual and group projects (written and oral presentation) will comprise most of the student evaluation. These projects may reflect innovative solutions, discoveries about unknowns, or development of methods useful for ecosystem health challenges. We envision that some of them will lead to peer-review publications, technical reports or other forms of publication.

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Student Stories

Fast Fashion: The Negative Impacts on Society and the Environment

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[May 2019] Fast fashion is the second-most polluting industry in the world after oil drilling. Gillian Innes, Cristina Toapanta, and Sabrina Southwick are working to bring transparency to fashion supply chains and spread awareness to consumers about their impact on the environment.

Malaria Mortality Prevention in the East African Highlands

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To help mitigate the expanding global impact of malaria as result of climate change, with its associated increasing drug resistance, implementation of prompt and accurate diagnosis is needed to reduce mortality. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) have been recognized as an ideal method for diagnosing malaria in east African Highlands the project is aimed at reducing malaria mortality through the use RDTs especially among pregnant women and children under the age of 5.

Single-Use Plastics in the R&D Laboratory Space

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We propose solutions to combat the stigma of sustainability being too much of a hassle, by focusing in on the plastics seen to be the least recyclable. 

Wild Bison: Conservation of the American West

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The American bison population has rebounded from near-extinction and outgrown the resources of Yellowstone National Park.  Our proposal from this project is a three-pillared plan (engage, protect, and sustain) to address conflicts regarding bison populations between conservationists, cattle ranchers and landowners in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

Course Details

Meeting Time: Spring 2021, Thursdays from 3:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Location: This course is designed for online delivery but will meet in-person as much as possible. Minimum goal is to meet in-person three times throughout the semester (initial class, mid check in, and end film festival). Modality of classes will be decided as the semester progresses; the faculty will communicate how each class will be delivered ahead of time.

Liberal Education Theme: Environment

Topics: Climate change, disease, ecosystem, and sustainability

Credits: 3

Prerequsites: Must be a sophomore, junior, senior, or graduate student

Professors: Dominic TravisElizabeth SopdieShaun Kennedy, and Kaylee Myhre Errecaborde