NATS101 Introduction to Global Change
Section 17H

last updated December 14, 2007.

Be sure to check back frequently for updates as the semester approaches, and be sure to RELOAD this page to get the latest version.

Course Goals
Class Logistics Rules/Policies Advice/Resources Syllabus/Schedule Feedback Links Grades

Course Goals

The objective of this course is to ground current and compelling environmental issues firmly in their fundamental underlying scientific principles.  To do so we will study selected linked components of a complex and dynamic earth system.  Rather than attempt a survey of the entire global change research effort, we will investigate a few topics -- climate change, biodiversity, fresh water resources, and population dynamics -- in some detail.  Class time will be divided between lecture, hands-on activities and discussion, to ensure the essential scientific concepts behind these topics are well understood.  Along the way we will meet the Tier I Natural Sciences General Education requirements.  Note: You don't have to be in the Honors College to take this section, but you do have to commit to Honors-level expectations.

By the conclusion of this course, students will be able to perform the following tasks, via demonstration of proficiency in related assignments:

Overarching Goals
Skills Goals Assignments
Form and defend opinions on current controversies in global change science. Make a clear and concise argument, based on carefully-referenced facts and logic, within a 2 page essay. Homeworks, Readings, In-class Discussions.
Apply a small set of  scientific concepts to solve problems in unfamiliar contexts. Approximate solutions to quantitative problems using "order-of-magnitude" estimation techniques. Demonstration Assessments, Take-Home Quizzes, In-class Exams, Final Exam
Make inferences based on scientific observations.
Interpret data presented in graphs and figures.
Demonstrations, Take-Home Quizzes, Final Exams


Class Logistics

Time and Place: TU/TH, 11:00-12:15pm, Integrated Learning Center 145.
Instructor: Michael Evans, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, 214 W. Stadium (up stairs to 2nd floor at Gate 15; look for my name on the blue door).  ph 626-2897; email:  More about the instructor is here.
Office hours: Tu/Th, 3-4pm, in OSCR Underground, Office 1, in the ILC. (Information Commons), or by appointment.  I hope this location is more convenient for you than the Stadium.  I may be unavailable for some scheduled office hours but will try to pre-announce these.  I will also try to answer emailed questions and requests within 24 hours.
Adding this class: That's fine (assuming there's space).  But do tell me that you're joining; find out about missed assignments ahead of time so we can integrate you into the class; get caught up quickly.

Reading and Course Materials:

There is no required textbook for the course.  Readings from selected topical, authoritative and timely sources are linked in the Schedule/Syllabus below as password-protected Portable Document Format (pdf) files.  Lecture notes (may/may not include work and exercises performed in class) will be linked as html files and also as downloadable Microsoft PowerPoint-compatible files.  They will often but not guaranteeably be available prior to class meetings, and are subject to change.  We will make use of copyrighted materials under academic Fair Use Policy of applicable copyright law (see UA and U Texas notes on this, and what it means for you and me.)


This course is not about memorization.  Rather, it is about the goals described above.  I will ask you to think about the material we discuss in class and to use it to solve problems.  In-class exams will each cover their respective course topics, and will test whether you can apply concepts learned from lectures, homeworks, quizzes, demonstrations and readings.  Homeworks are short essay assignments in which you'll think about course topics in a real-world, problem-solving context. Take-home quizzes will be based on lecture concepts and reading, and will give you practice in the problem solving skills needed for in-class exams and the final exam.  Demonstration assignments will ask you to summarize and apply concepts illustrated by the in-class demonstrations.  In-Class Exams will primarily test your ability to use basic scientific concepts to solve problems in unfamiliar contexts.  The Final Exam will be similar to the hourly exams, but will be cumulative over the semester.


I would like to schedule a mid-semester focus group evaluation (why wait until the end of the semester, when we can fix things now?) for the week of Oct 16th.  I may also request occasional 1-minute anonymous evaluations at the end of class, in which you'll quickly note the main point you brought away from class, as well as the main question left unresolved for you.  I'll also welcome constructive feedback during office hours, by email, or after class.  This will help me resolve outstanding questions and adjust the pace of the course accordingly.  We will also have end-of-course evaluations.



Class attendance:

This is your education, so class attendance is not mandatory.  It's up to you to make the most of your time and education dollar.  However, be aware that: (0) We will discuss material that may or may not be in the readings or lecture notes; (1) we will have in-class exercises for credit which in most cases cannot be made up; (2) If you don't show up at all, I may administratively drop you from the course; (3) class will be fun.   Do you have occasional but known upcoming schedule conflicts?   Don't wait until afterward; please talk to me well beforehand so we can make sure you keep up with the class.

Course requirements:

Please note: You cannot pass the course without completing all homework assignments, taking all three in-class exams, and taking the final exam.  Demonstration assignments, when possible, may be substituted with Internet-based simulations I will provide.  No late assignments will be accepted without prior arrangements.

Classroom etiquette:

To make the most out of our class time, and to keep the ILC a nice clean place to learn, please observe the following rules in the classroom:

  1. Refrain from talking with classmates, unless we're having a class discussion.
  2. Turn off pagers and cell phones for the duration of class.
  3. Don't bring food to class (but water in closed containers is okay).
  4. No smoking in the ILC or ILC courtyard.
Student responsibilities: I expect you to:
  1. Obey the University Code of Academic Integrity.
  2. Be punctual.
  3. Treat students and teachers with respect.
  4. Ask questions when concepts are not clear.
  5. Turn in assignments on time.
  6. Actively participate in class discussions and activities.
  7. Take responsibility for managing your time (a.k.a. plan ahead).
Teacher responsibilities: You can expect your instructor to:
  1. Make course and assignment goals and expectations clear.
  2. Be punctual.
  3. Answer questions clearly.
  4. Treat students with respect.
  5. Provide constructive and timely feedback on student work.
  6. Challenge you to think about the course material.
  7. Grade objectively, based on clear expectations.
  8. Make it all fun!



See the Grading Rubric for grading standards for each of these types of classwork.  Assignments are due on the dates noted in the Schedule/Syllabus.  Late work will not be accepted unless arrangements have been agreed upon in advance of the due date with the instructor. 

Take-Home Quizzes
Demonstration Assessments
Hourly Exams
Final Exam

Final exam is on Thursday Dec 13th, 11am-1pm, ILC 145.

Current Grades:



Academic Rules and Academic Integrity:

See the University Academic Integrity Policy. You are responsible for knowing these rules, which ultimately ensure the quality of your education.  Please take note: Plagiarism and cheating are serious academic offenses.  I must report and respond to all such offenses per official university guidelines.

How to study:  

I want you to understand the ideas we'll discuss, enjoy the course, and get good grades.  Study habits which will help you master this course with ease are:

Come to office hours for more information, and talk to your classmates, who are a great resource.

Academic resources: The University and the Internet offer many sources of help (Or talk with me and I'll help you find what you need): 

Disability resources: 

Do you have a physical or learning disability?   Please speak with me right away about accommodations.  You will only need to show me a faculty letter from the Disability Resource Center, and we can make arrangements from there.


Schedule/Syllabus (subject to change)
Note: scanned readings are password protected to meet copyright fair use guidelines.  If you need the userid and password, email the instructor.

Jump to: Fresh water resources Biodiversity Climate Change Population Dynamics

When Topic Reading Homework
Aug 21/23 General Introduction; Demo 1
lecture notes: Tues / Thurs
Elmo slides: Tues / Thurs
Course Home Page

  1. Homework 0 due before 11:00am Thursday Aug 23rd via email.
  2. Reading for next week.
Aug. 28/30 Where does Tucson's drinking water come from?  Demo 2
lecture notes: Tues / Thurs

Gelt et al., Water in the Tucson Area: Seeking Sustainability , Chapters 1,3,5.
  1. Homework 1 assigned.
  2. Readings.
Sept. 4/6
Optional geology/ecology field trip to Catalina Mtns: Sept. 8th (Sat): 8am-1pm; sign up via email (deadline: Sept. 4th)
Water Scarcity: A Growing Problem; Demo3
lecture notes: Tues / Thurs
Elmo slides: Tues / Thurs

an optional set of lecture notes with additional water case studies is here.
Postel, Last Oasis, Ch.2 (3.4 Mb pdf ) 
Pechenik's "Ten Questions to Ask Yourself"
Vonnegut's "How to Write with Style"
  1. Homework 1 due 11am Thursday Sept 6th in class.  An exemplary HW1 is here.
  2. Quiz 1 assigned.
Sept. 11/13
Review; Exam 1
Elmo notes (Tues)
Review and condense your notes to essential concepts and examples; Q&A.
Exam 1 solutions are here.

  1. Quiz 1 due Tues. Sept. 11th, 11am in class.  Quiz 1 solutions are here.
  2. Study for Exam 1.
  3. Reading for next week.
Sept. 18/20 What is Biodiversity and is there a Crisis? Demo 4
lecture notes: Tues / Thurs
Elmo slides: Tues / Thurs

Wilson, BioDiversity, Ch. 1 (10Mb pdf or read online here).  Questions to think about while you're reading are here.
  1. Reading for next week.
Sept. 25/27 Origins of Biodiversity
lecture notes: Tues / Thurs
Elmo slides: Thurs
Tyson and Goldsmith, Origins, Ch. 15 (1 Mb pdf); NOVA (WGBH-Boston) online reading on events in the history of life.  Reading questions are here.

  1. Homework 2 assigned
  2. Readings for next week.
Oct. 2/4
Optional field trip to Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Oct 6th
What Controls Biodiversity?; Biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert Demo 5; Demo 6
lecture notes: Tues / Thurs
Elmo slides: Tues / Thurs
Quammen, Was Darwin Wrong? (5.5 Mb pdf);  Gould, The Panda's Thumb, Ch. 8 (4Mb pdf ); Gould, The Panda's Thumb, Ch. 17 (3Mb pdf ).  Reading questions are here.
An exemplary HW2 is here.
  1. Homework 2 due 11am Thursday Oct 4th in class.
  2. Exam 2 preparation.
  3. Quiz 2 assigned.

Oct. 9/11
Review; Exam 2
Elmo slides: Tues / Thurs
Quiz 2 solutions are here; condense your notes; Q&A.
Exam 2 solutions are here.
  1. Quiz 2 due 11am Tuesday Oct 9th in class.

Oct. 16/18
Mid-semester focus group evaluations, Oct 18th (confirmed)
Is the Climate Warming?;
Radiation Balance and the Greenhouse Effect; Demo 7
lecture notes: Tues / Thurs
Elmo slides: Tues / Thurs
IPCC AR4 Working Group I Summary for Policymakers (3.8Mb pdf); optional background reading: Kump et al., Ch 3 (7.5Mb pdf) with focus questions here.
  1. Reading for next week
Oct. 23/25 Motion in the Atmosphere and Ocean; Demo 8, Demo 9
See animations shown in class (courtesy John Marshall, MIT; WW2010 Project, UIUC): vertical convection, merry-go-roundgeostrophic balancetropical general circulation,  and  eddies.
lecture notes: Tues / Thurs
Elmo slides: Thurs
Online tutorial on forces and winds from the WW2010 server at UI Urbana-Champaign: Pressure, Pressure Gradient Force, Coriolis Force, Geostrophic Wind)
optional background reading:
Kump et al., The Earth System, Ch. 4 (8 Mb pdf) with focus questions here.
  1. Homework 3 assigned; supplementary reading: IPCC, 2007a, 2007b; both available online here.
Oct. 30/Nov. 1

Water in the Climate System;
Systems and Feedbacks; Demo 10

lecture notes: Tues / Thurs
Elmo slides: Tues / Thurs
Kump et al., The Earth System, Ch. 2 (4Mb pdf), Ch. 4 (8 Mb pdf), with focus questions here.

  1. Homework 3 due Thursday Nov. 1st 11am in class
  2. Quiz 3 assigned.

Nov. 6/8
optional field trip to my paleoclimatology laboratory, Nov. 10th
Review; Exam 3
Elmo slides: Tues / Thurs
My Quiz 3 solutions are here.
An exemplary HW3 is here.
Exam 3 solutions are here.

  1. Quiz 3 due Tuesday Nov. 6th 11am in class
  2. Exam 3 preparation.
Nov. 13/15 How many people can the Earth support?  Exponential growth Demo 11
lecture notes: Tues / Thurs
Elmo slides: Tues / Thurs
Cohen (2005) (672Kb pdf)
Reading questions are here.
  1. Readings.
Nov. 20 (22 - no class)

Logistic growth; Demo 12
lecture notes: Tues
Elmo slides: Tues
Excerpts from Ryan and Durning (1997)  (1.6Mb pdf)
Reading questions are here.
  1. Homework 4 assigned.  WRI Data Tables on population/education overview;  demographic indicators; education and literacy; health; gender; mortality and life expectancy;  economics; energy and resources; poverty;  water resources; fisheries; Cohen (2005) reading.
  2. Find out and write down your atmospheric pollution emissions for Nov. 2007 using the Airhead Calculator here (click on Emissions Calculator): for use in class demo 13 on Nov. 27th.
  3. Have a nice Thanksgiving break
Nov. 27/Nov. 29
optional field trip to Biosphere 2, Dec 1, 8:30a-1p
course evaluations
A Taste of Chaos; Why Bangladesh matters; Demo 13
lecture notes: Tues / Thurs
Elmo slides: Tues

Gleick (1987), Ch. 1 (3.6Mb pdf)
Reading questions are here.
An exemplary HW4 is here.
  1. Homework 4 due Thursday Nov. 29 11am in class.
  2. Quiz 4 assigned.
Dec 4 (6th - no class)
Final Exam: Thurs. Dec 13th, 11am-1pm, ILC 145.
Semester Summary and Review
Elmo slides: Tues
Quiz 4 solutions are here.
Review and Q&A Session is scheduled for Tues, Dec 11, 2:30-4pm, ILC 145. Elmo notes drawn in review are here.

Final exam solutions are here.
  1. Quiz 4 due 11am Tuesday Dec 4th in class.
  2. Final exam preparation; bring questions to semester review and to pre-exam review.


Instructor's schedule: With full responsibilty for this course, and partial responsibility for a 150 seat section right afterward, we will all have to be especially organized.  On the bright side, I've cancelled or postponed most of my usual traveling.  If you can't make regular office hours, I may hold office hours by appointment; please email in advance.  I may go to San Francisco for a meeting for a few days during finals week; I'll keep you posted as my schedule develops.


Links you might enjoy:

NY Science Times (Tuesdays) NASA Earth Observatory Current US Weather (National Weather Service) National Hurricane Center  (FAQs are here)
University of Arizona