10/31/12: Landscape Change and Environmental Degradation

· In This Issue, October 2012

By Professor Jim Haw, Director of USC Dornsife Environmental Studies Program

This is the first issue of Dornsife Environment, an online publication of the Environmental Studies Program in USC Dornsife College. One of several very distinctive characteristics of our program is writing throughout the curriculum. In the summer of 2010 a group of our students on the first Guam and Palau expedition used a blog to report back to campus on their scientific diving and cultural exploration of Micronesia. (One of those pioneering student science divers, Bridget McDonald, is a contributor to this issue). By the next year blogging was formalized as part of the academic content of the Guam and Palau program, and it was introduced to our Belize course, which otherwise predated Guam and Palau by two years. Blogging as a component of both experiential field-based and conventional classroom education has been embraced by much of our faculty. 2012 has seen blogs from three field courses including the new Catalina Island based “320a in the Field”, and this semester alone six on-campus sections ranging from Natural Resource Economics through Energy and Air Sustainability are collecting student writing projects along with midterms and other graded activities.

We have been running these blogs as separately organized threads using either WordPress or Scientific American. This organization requires our readers to look at various locations for content from different courses or experiences, and we want to experiment with instead a single, unified content scheme. Hence Dornsife Environment, a sort of online magazine organizing student-driven and student-focused content. Student-driven content will most commonly be short articles by the students themselves, and the majority of the content of in typical issues of Dornsife Environment will be student-driven. Most issues will also contain a narrative by one of the faculty that introduces the content of the issues or updates students on the Environmental Studies Program – e.g., student-focused content.

Professor David Ginsburg has been growing our Progressive MA program, a 4+1 route to an MA in Environmental Studies in addition to either a BA or BS degree. This semester some of the students in the Progressive program are taking both ENST 500 “Intro” and ENST 530 “Environmental Risk Analysis”. These courses have been attracting MA and Ph.D. students from other disciplines as well. This issue prototypes Dornsife Environment with contributions from our MA student, Bridget, as well as graduate students in Human and Evolutionary Biology and Landscape Architecture. These three students, from very different backgrounds, have found a common focus here on landscape change and environmental degradation.

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