Spring 2018: Introduction to Mitigation and Adaptation Studies

Class Pages

NOTE: All students are asked to read the book by Rockström and Klum (2015) prior to the class. The book by Sodhi and Ehrlich (2010) will be used throughout the course to provide a theoretical background. It is available for free down-load at https://conbio.org/publications/free-textbook/ and also locally available as pdf.

Contents

  1. Class (01/08/2018): The Challenge we are Facing
  2. Class (01/10/2018): The Challenge we are Facing (continued)
  3. Class (01/17/2018): Snowday
  4. Class (01/22/2018): Degradation of the Earth's Life-Support System
  5. Class (01/24/2018): System Thinking
  6. Class (01/29/2018): Introduction to National Wildlife Refuges: The Example of Great Dismal Swamp
  7. Class (01/31/2018): Baseline
  8. Class (02/05/2018): Baseline (cont.) and Syndrome
  9. Class (02/07/2018): Syndrome (cont.) and Diagnosis
  10. Class (02/12/2018): Career development and ePortfolio
  11. Class (02/14/2018): Diagnosis (cont.) and Prognosis
  12. Class (02/19/2018): Research Project Hour
  13. Class (02/21/2018): Knowing the Hazards: Extinction
  14. Class (02/26/2018): Knowing the Hazards: Loss of ecosystem services
  15. Class (02/28/2018): Knowing the Hazards: Climate Hazards, Public Health, Food-Water-Energy Nexus
  16. Class (03/12/2018): Vulnerabilities (natural and human built environment; Economy, Inequality and Injustice)
  17. Class (03/14/2018): Developing Foresight
  18. Class (03/19/2018): Research Project Hour
  19. Class (03/21/2018): Decision-Making: Socio-Economic and Political Contexts
  20. Class (03/26/2018): Decision-Making: Human Nature and Facing Threats
  21. Class (03/28/2018): Research Project Hour
  22. Class (04/02/2018): Developing Options: Avoiding Adaptation or Changing Paradigms, Resilience and Anti-Fragility
  23. Class (04/04/2018): Developing Options: Global Therapy (Safe-guarding the Earth's Life-Support System: Economy and Governance and Mitigating the Degradation of the Life-Support System)
  24. Class (04/09/2018): Student Presentations
  25. Class (04/11/2018): Student Presentations
  26. Class (04/16/2018): Student Presentations
  27. Class (04/18/2018): Student Presentations

Class 1 (01/08/2018): The Challenge we are Facing

Class slides.

Summary

Humanity has pushed the planet outside of the Holocene, the last geological epoch, which started 11,700 years ago. The Holocene was a period of exceptionally stable climate, and with this, it provide a “safe operating space for humanity,” in which to make a transition from being hunterers and gatherers to agriculture and an initially slow development of civilization. The recent two centuries have seen rapid changes, mainly due to more energy available to humans, and in the last 70 years, humanity has developed into the most dominant species on the planet reengineering the surface and changing the major mass cycles. At the end of the Holocene, the rapid transition to a new epoch poses a challenge to humanity that might threaten the modern global society at its core. Timely adaptation to an uncertain future is at the core of a sustainable development for humanity through this transition.

The class will summarize the challenge and then introduce a number of terms used in the class. At the end, adapation science will be introduced.

Reading List

Rittel and Webber, 1973

Kates et al., 2001

Moss et al., 2013

Rockström, J., Klum, M, 2015

Steffen et al., 2015.

View:

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Class 2 (01/10/2018): The Challenge we are Facing (continued from class 1)

Class slides

Summary

See Class 1.

Reading List

Sustainable development:

Griggs et al., 2013

Anthropocene:

Syvitski, 2012

Steffen et al., 2016

Williams et al., 2016

Global boundaries:

Rockström et al., 2009

Steffen et al., 2015

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Class 3 (01/17/2018): Canceled because of snow day

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Class 4 (01/22/2018): Degradation of the Earth's Life-Support System

p>Class slides

Summary

Modified from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Over the past decades, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any previous period in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel. This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the biodiversity. The changes that have been made to ecosystems have contributed to substantial net gains in human well-being and economic development, but these gains have been achieved at growing costs in the form of the degradation of many ecosystem services, increased risks of nonlinear changes, and the exacerbation of poverty for some groups of people. These problems, unless addressed, will substantially diminish the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems. The degradation of ecosystem services could grow significantly worse during the first half of this century and is a barrier to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The challenge of reversing the degradation of ecosystem while meeting increasing demands for services will involve significant changes in policies, institutions and practices that are not currently under way. Many options exist to conserve or enhance specific ecosystem services in ways that reduce negative trade-offs or that provide positive synergies with other ecosystem services. Human actions are depleting Earth’s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. In order to reduce the degradation of many ecosystem services over the next decades, substantial changes in policy and practice are required but are currently not underway.

Reading List

Barnosky et al., 2012

Hassan et al., 2005

Rockström et al., 2009a

Rockström et al., 2009b

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Class 5 (01/24/2018): System Thinking

Class slides

Summary

The system is in a transition to a high-energy state, with potential severe changes in meteorological and hydrological hazards. The relationships found in the long-term baseline also indicate that the recent and projected rapid climate change has committed humanity to a large sea level rise during the next centuries unparalleled by all changes experienced by civilization. Over time, this change in sea level will lead to major shifts in the present-day coastline, with little options to protect large areas of the current coastal zone against inundation. Considering that in general coastal zones are highly productive and urban areas are growing much faster in coastal zones than in other regions, a rapid sea level rise would cause many local and regional disasters with globally devastating consequences.

How can we explore possible futures? A system of systems view on the Earth system and the embedded anthroposphere provides a theoretical framework to research the nature of feedback loops and their role for future developments in the earth system. Scenario-based simulations can be used to explore possible the future and provide guidance for the development of interventions that bring the system closer to desirable futures.

Reading List

Barnosky et al., 2012

Carpenter et al., 2005

Hansen et al., 2016

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Class 6 (01/29/2018): Introduction to National Wildlife Refuges: The Example of Great Dismal Swamp

Guest lecturer: Chris Lowie, Refuge Manager, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Summary

The Minor in Conservation Leadership concludes with an Internship preferably at a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Service Learning Course on Sustainability Leadership includes research projects related to challenges faced by NWRs. The guest lecture will introduce the students to the work environment at the NRWs and discuss the challenges the NWRs are facing, particularly those that relate to climate change and its impacts.

Reading List

n/a

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Class 7 (01/31/2018): Baseline

Class slides

Summary

Baseline: Based on the paleo-record over the last 800,000 years and more, we can construct a baseline “normal range” for long-term climate variability. Compared to this baseline, climate was exceptionally stable during the Holocene, the most recent geological epoch that began 11,700 years ago. With this stability, the Holocene provided a “safe operating space for humanity” (SOSH) and the development of civilization, as we know it. Sea level has been exceptionally stable during the last 6,000 years allowing humanity to build large permanent settlements in the coastal zone and to benefit from the many ecosystem services and logistical advantages the coastal zone has to offer. The experience of the past has created the paradigms that climate is relatively stable, that sea level does not change very much, and that the coastline is rather stable over time. The way we built infrastructure and coastal protections and how we utilize the coastal zone is based on these paradigms.

Reading List

See also the reading lists of Class 1 and Class 2.

World Watch Institute, 2013.

Ruddiman, 2005.

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Class 8 (02/05/2018): Baseline (continued) and Syndrome

Class slides

Summary

Syndrome: Changes in the earth system are accelerating over the last 200 years and particularly since the 1950ties. Propelled by the availability of easily accessible and seemingly infinite energy particularly in form of oil, humanity has reengineered the surface of the planet and modified major mass cycles by several orders of magnitude. Based on technological innovations, new constituents are introduced in the earth system with unforeseen consequences. The increased cycling of mass is leading to high levels of polution. As a result, biodiversity is rapidly reduced, extinction rates are accelerating, the dynamics of the coupled atmosphere-ocean-solid Earth system are transitioning to a high energy state, and climate is changing. Many positive feedback mechanisms are triggered and these are further accelearting the changes.

Reading List

Carpenter et al., 2005.

IPCC, 2013.

The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a extremely valuable source of information on climate change and adaptation. The "Synthesis Report" and the "Summaries for Policy Makers" are a good starting point to decide which chapters to look at. See the IPCC AR5 web page at http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/.

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Class 9 (02/07/2018): Syndrome (continued) and Diagnosis

Class slides

Summary

Syndrome: Changes in the earth system are accelerating over the last 200 years and particularly since the 1950ties. Propelled by the availability of easily accessible and seemingly infinite energy particularly in form of oil, humanity has reengineered the surface of the planet and modified major mass cycles by several orders of magnitude. Based on technological innovations, new constituents are introduced in the earth system with unforeseen consequences. The increased cycling of mass is leading to high levels of polution. As a result, biodiversity is rapidly reduced, extinction rates are accelerating, the dynamics of the coupled atmosphere-ocean-solid Earth system are transitioning to a high energy state, and climate is changing. Many positive feedback mechanisms are triggered and these are further accelearting the changes.

Diagnosis: Attempting a diagnosis of what is currently taking place, it becomes clear that climate change and sea level rise are symptoms of the underlying global change. The crossing of global boundaries of the safe operating space for humanity is putting the system on a rapid transition to a new state unknow to humanity. At the core of the changes is the economic model introduced in the 18th century, which has the sole purpose of creating human wealth without regard for the non-human wealth degraded or eliminate on the way to more human wealth.

Reading List

Griggs et al., 2013.

World Watch Institute, 2013.

Look at the Sustainable Development Goals: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs.

UNRISD, 2016.

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Class 10 (02/12/2018): Career Development and ePortfolio

CDS Presentation; ePortfolio Assignment

Summary

For both the 466W class and the Minor/graduate certificate in Conservation Leadership, it is important to develop a personell ePortfolio with the deliverables of the class/classes and the internship. Also important is a well-written resume and letters for applications. Jenna Rowlands from ODU's Career Development Center will introduce the students to writing a convincing resume and application letters. Eddie Hill from the Human Movement Sciences Department will talk about ePortfolio and provide information on available tools for the creation and maintenance of an ePortfolio.

Reading List

n/a

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Class 11 (02/14/2018): Diagnosis (continued), Prognosis and Therapy

Class slides

Summary

Prognosis: Scenario-based simulations and risk assessments are methodologies to explore possible futures in support of the development of mitigation and adaptation actions that facilitate system trajectories towards desirable futures. Climate simulations for a range of emission scenarios provided a basis for mitigation policy developments that were used in the discussion of global climate change mitigation agreements. Global risk assessments show that environmental risks are increasingly likely with severe impacts on social and economic risks.

Therapy: The flows between a human or non-human community between the Earth's life-support system (ELSS) and this community determine the wellbeing and sustainability of the community. In all communities, basic needs determine the flows, and power and hierarchical structures impact the distribution of benefits associated with the flows. If the flows reach a level that exceeds the capacity of the ELSS to sustain the flows or that have detrimental impacts on the ELSS, then the community is challenged and may suffer scarcity, reduction in size, or extinction.

Unlike other communities, in human communities, basic needs are not the only factor determining the amount of flows. Ethical and moral rules determine the flows and the distribution of benefits associated with the flows. In modern human communities, the economic model introduced by Adam Smith in 1776 has an major impact on the level of the flows as well as the distribution of the benefits. Modern economy requires constant grows and acceleration of the flows to function, which is inhernently unstainable and the main cause of the degradation of the ELSS.

The therapy therefore has to start with revising the economic model fundamentally to allow for prosperity without growth and to enable economy to be the key agent safeguarding the ELSS.

Reading List

Griggs et al., 2013.

">World Watch Institute, 2013.

Look at the Sustainable Development Goals: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs.

UNRISD, 2016.

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Class 12 (02/19/2018): Research Project Hour

Class slides

Summary

We will discuss technical details of the student project and methodology.

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Class 13 (02/21/2018): Knowing the Hazards: Extinction

Class slides

Summary

There have been at least five times in Earth's history when a large number of species, on the order of 70-96% of all species, were lost over a relatively short period ranging from several ten thousand to several hundred thousand of years. These mass extinction events are attributed to periods of prolonged volcanic eruptions, asteroid impacts and changes in the state and chemistry of the planet. The current extinction rate is extremely high and leading to an unparalleled rapid loss of biodiversity.

Reading List

To view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPq9YAg9mfc&feature=youtu.be

Pimm et al., 2014.

Doncaster et al., 2016.

Rothman, 2017. See also https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/160818212811.htm.

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Class 14 (02/26/2018): Loss of Ecosystem Services

Class slides

Summary

It is hard to describe all the complexity and value of ecosystem services. We will discuss current state of some major ecosystem services, such as those provided by soil, biodiversity (including health benefits), and mobile links.

Reading List

Barnosky et al., 2012.

Williams et al., 2015.

Plag and Jules-Plag, 2013.

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Class 15 (02/28/2018): Knowing the Hazards: Climate Hazards, Public Health, Food-Water-Energy Nexus

Class slides

Summary

Climate change is expected to increase extreme weather events including droughts, floods, heat waves, and in some regions cold spells. This will have severe impacts on both the natural and built environment. Sea level is expected to rise significantly with severe impacts on coastal ecosystems, resources, settlements, and the urban and working coast. Ocean warming and acidification will add hazards to the coastal zone. The disaster risk associated with extreme storms and storm surges is also expected to increase. Thus, land use planning has to consider a much larger range of possible environmental conditions than those experienced in the past.

Climate change, pollution, and global change present new and serious threats to human health. Food, water and energy needs are competing creating a complex nexus that is further complicated by population growth. Global and climate change have a significant impact on the distribution functions of many environmental variables including climate variables, ecosystem variables. We will talk about global systems connections and how anthropogenic changes in one part of the world have unexpected impact on biodiversity and human health in the other part. Particular aspects of hazards under climate change are related to changes in the hazard spectrum that are hard to predict with low uncertainty. Therefore, developing foresight is of increasing importance if the system is in rapid transition.

Reading List

Hansen et al., 2016.

IPCC, 2014.

Committee on Understanding and Monitoring Abrupt Climate Change and Its Impacts, 2013.

Lenton and Schellenhuber, 2007.

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Class 16 (03/12/2018): Vulnerabilities of natural and human built environment; Economy, Inequality and Injustice

Class slides

Summary

Risk, Vulnerability, Thresholds, Resilience, Panarchy are terms that are used in the discussion of adaptation challenges. These terms are introduced. The anthropogenic changes in the environment are slowly pushing the planetary life-support system to a state shift with potentially severe consequences for both human and non-human mammals and the rest of the biosphere. Understanding thresholds and detecting them prior to crossing them is of paramount importance. The built environment and public services such as power, water, food, health, transportation, communication, sewage systems are based on a design basis in terms of environmental conditions (particularly the weather extremes in terms of heat and cold extremes, flood levels, humidity, wind including hurricanes and tornadoes, snow loads) that have been experienced in the past. Increasingly, extremes are shifting, exposing built environment and the public services to conditions exceeding the design basis.

The changes in the natural environment caused by direct and indirect human activities, including extinction, global warming, and increased hazards lead to severe impacts on economy, increased inequality, and injustice due to impacts on populations that contributed least to the causes for the changes.

Reading List

Committee on Climate Change, 2016. In particular, read the Technical Chapters on Infrastructure and the Built Environment.

Hallegatte et al., 2013.

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Class 17 (03/14/2018): Developing Foresight

Class slides

Summary

The changes in the physical and chemical state of the climate and biological systems can be expected to lead to unpredicted changes with limited predictablility. Moreover, predictive capability developed throughout the 20th and 21st century may be strongly reduced due to changing patterns. An example is the potential breakdown of well-developed oscillatory patterns such as the quasi-biennial oscillation, the Southern Oscillation, and the North-Atlantic oscillation. Likewise, significant shifts in extremes and means can be expected and based on that foresight can be developed. However, model predictions will lose their value due to unrealistic uncertainties (too low) resulting from not accounting for the systemic changes.

Mitigation and Adaptation are important aspects of the transitions to a stustainable development. Evidence-based policy development for mitigation and adaptation is an important step towards the transition. Modeling and simulation can help to inform society to better understand the causes and potential impacts of global and climate change and help develop policy solutions.

Reading List

Glantz and Kelman, 2013.

Nature Climate Change, 2013.

Epstein, 2008.

Participatory Modeling Video.

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Class 18 (03/19/2018): Research Project Hour

Summary

We will provide feedback on the draft outlines and bibliography and work on the draft.

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Class 19 (03/21/2018): Decision-Making: Socio-Economic and Political Contexts

Class slides

Summary

Our mainstream model of a global economy is based on a number of assumptions about goals of economy, how it works, and how the planetary system is linked to it. These assumptions arose in a time when humanity was small and with much less access to energy, and at a time when wide-spread poverty was the main concern. The resulting economy is in conflict with many of nature's laws. However, there are high economic values connected with the causes of climate change, and those benefiting from these causes have high resistance to societal transitions that would mitigate climate change.

Reading List

Constanza et al., 2013.

Constanza et al., 2014.

Utting, 2016.

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Class 20 (03/26/2018): Decision-Making: Human Nature and Facing Threats

Class slides

Summary

Decisions made by humans are normally based on incomplete knowledge and impacted by assumptions, biases, and preferences. Cognitive biases are part of human nature and the degree to which these biases impact decisions from individual to global levels depend on the past experience of an individual, the community and cultural preferences, and the value systems accepted by individuals and communities. Being aware of the impact of biases on decisions is of fundamental importance for the discussion of threats, mitigation, and adaptation. Humans seldom make decisions based on rational considerations. In fact, most decisions are based on what Kahneman (2011) calls "fats thinking."

The way how threats are encountered and risks are managed, understood, ignored in different cultures and how natural laws are integrated in risk assessments depends on the cultural biases, the preception of reality, and the social, economic and ethical rules accepted by the community. It also depends on how these threads and risks are related and competeing with the core values of the community. Environmental risks resulting from the fact that we have crossed global boundaries, have changed land use and eliminated a large part of the wildlife are competing with the goals of material wellbeing that is central to modern civilization.

Reading List

Cognitive biases

Lee and Lebowitz, 2015.

Kahneman et al., 2011.

Rosenzweig, 2016.

Kahneman, 2011.

Stattford, 2016.

Kolbert, 2017.

View: “How Not to Be Ignorant About the World” by Hans and Ola Rosling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sm5xF-UYgdg

Threads

Kirchhoff et al., 2013.

Berger et al., 2011.

Casti, 2012.

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Class 21 (03/28/2018): Research Project Hour

Summary

We will continue to work on the research project.

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Class 22 (04/02/2018): Developing Options: Avoiding Adaptation or Changing Paradigms, Resilience and Anti-Fragility

Class slides

Summary

Despite abundant evidence that the Earth's life support system is rapidly degrading and that the degradation is accelerating, there is solid resistance to both mitigation and adaptation. In many cases, communities are not ready to accept the evidence and make evidence-informed decision, which would require significant changes in land use, use of resources, and moral changes. Is it an acceptable approach to wait for events to get more extreme before adaptation measures are being taken? Options for adaptation often imply the changing of existing paradigms. Moreover, exploring different options requires some tools to explore possible futures and to generate the transformation knowledge required to change the system trajectory towards a desirable future. Assessing which options are viable necessitates the involvement of stakeholders in the process of developing options. "Change by design" is an approach to this.

Nassim N Taleb (2012) introduced a concept that aims to be the opposite of fragile, and he calls this "antifragile." While a resilient system can resist a shock and remain basically the same after the shock, an antifragile system has the ability and willingness to learn from the shock and change in response. To prepare for an uncertain future, being antifragile is of benefit. The development of options for climate change adaptation should therefore go beyond increasing resilience and aim to make the systems exposed to cimate change antifragile.

Reading List

Brown and Katz, 2009.

Folk, 2018.

http://www.hafencity.com/en/concepts/flood-secure-bases-instead-of-dikes-safe-from-high-water-in-hafencity.html

Taleb, 2012. See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifragile, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/books/antifragile-by-nassim-nicholas-taleb.html, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/dec/16/antifragile-nassim-nicholas-taleb-review

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Class 23 (04/04/2018): Developing Options: Safe-guarding the Earth's Life-Support System: Economy and Governance and Mitigating the Degradation of the Life-Support System

Class slides

Summary

A sustainable community is one that satisfies the needs of the present while safeguarding the Earth's life-support system (ELSS), on which the welfare of current and future generations depends (Griggs et al., 2013). Humanity is embedded in and dependent on the ELSS. For at least 200 years, almost all interactions, including the flow of material, energy, and information between society and the ELSS are economic in nature and controlled by ethical, social, and economic (ESE) rules, which in turn are impacted by the changes in the ELSS (Plag and Jules-Plag, 2017). To reach sustainability, safeguarding the ELSS has to be congenital to the economic rules. Although the vast majority of normative ethical accounts demand that the human population transitions to a fair, sustainable lifestyle, the economic rules that require perpetual growth are in tension with this moral requirement. In fact, the current rules are sustaining growth by accelerating the main mass and energy cycles in the ELSS leading to a cataclysmic degradation. Humanity has developed into the “anthropogenic cataclysmic virus” (ACV) in the ELSS (Plag, 2015). To reach sustainability, this virus is challenged with a transition into the healer.

Reading List

Boyce, 2013. See See http://www.peri.umass.edu/236/hash/9075669bb1167c89a85947735ace6a03/publication/547/.

Greer, 2011.

Jackson, 2009.

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Class 24 (04/09/2018): Student Presentations

Summary

Student will give presentations on their research project. We will have three presentations on:

  1. Impacts of sea level rise and climate change on the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (pptx)
  2. Landfills and Sea Level Rise (pptx)
  3. Chesapeake Bay under climate change and sea level rise (pptx)

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Class 25 (04/11/2018): Student Presentations

Summary

Students will give presentations on their research project. We will have three presentations on:

  1. Loss of Ecosystem Services of Wetlands (pptx)
  2. Lion fish (pptx)
  3. Invasive Species (pptx)

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Class 26 (04/16/2018): Student Presentations

Summary

Students will give presentations on their research project. We will have three presentations on:

  1. Extinction of Species (pptx)
  2. Ocean Acidification/Warming and Coral Reefs (pptx)
  3. Pollution (pptx)

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Class 27 (04/18/2018): Student Presentations

Summary

Students will give presentations on their research project. We will have three presentations on:

  1. Urban Agriculture (pptx)
  2. Population growth and sustainability (pptx)
  3. Towards sustainable fishing and aquafarming in the Caribbean - considerations for Sustainable Development Goal 14 (pptx)

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