Biology 340

Global Biogeochemistry

Winter Term 2002

The understanding of biogeochemical cycles in the global environment is key to a solid understanding of ecology in general, and the impacts humans have on the environment. Many problems associated with conservation or habitat degradation have roots in anthropogenic disruptions of natural biogeochemical cycles of, for example, nutrients (including carbon), water, toxic metals and other pollutants. We will discuss processes and reactions governing cycles in the atmosphere, lithosphere, terrestrial ecosystems, freshwater wetlands and lakes, rivers and estuaries, and the oceans. We will outline the global cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Group discussions will incorporate current topics in anthropogenic alterations of natural cycles that lead to ecosystem degradation.

When:

Wednesday afternoons, 13:00-15:50, Room M137.

Session Leaders:

Dr. Vincent L. St.Louis
Rm. Z-814, Department of Biological Sciences
Phone: 492-9386
Fax: 492-9234

E-mail: vince.stlouis@ualberta.ca

Course Syllabus:

Date

Session Topic

Grade

January 9

Introduction to Global Biogeochemistry

 

January 16

Atmospheric chemistry and structure
Reading

5%

January 23

The lithosphere
Reading

5%

January 30

Atmosphere/biosphere interactions
Reading
Term Paper Assignment 1 Due

5%
5%

February 6

The Biosphere: Biogeochemical cycling of C,N,P in freshwater and marine environments
Reading

5%

February 13

The Biosphere: Biogeochemical cycling of C,N,P in terrestrial and wetland ecosystems
Reading

5%

February 20

READING WEEK

 

February 27

The Oceans (including global ocean circulation, Atlantic deepwater circulation, El Nino, fertilization)
Reading

5%

March 6

Climate Change
Reading

5%

March 13

The Global Cycle of Sulfur (including acidification)
Reading

5%

March 20

The Global Water Cycle (including water exports, river diversions, global water demand/supply, etc.).
Reading

5%

March 27

Stratospheric Ozone Depletion (including its relation to climate change and acidification).
Reading

 

April 3

Mercury, Other Trace Metals, and Persistent Organic Pollutants
Reading

5%

April 10

Term Papers Due

0%

Readings:

Suggested textbook: Schlesinger, W.H. 1997. Biogeochemistry: an analysis of global change. 2nd edition. Academic Press, California.
Current Literature: I will assign 1 (sometimes 2) recently published scientific papers per sessions. You will be responsible for reading these papers PRIOR to each session. Assigned readings will be posted on this website.

Grading:

There will be no formal midterm or final exams in this course. We will instead use a self-directed learning format outlined in the following article:

Etkina, E. and D. Ehrenfeld. 2000. Helping ecology students to read: the use of reading reports. BioScience 50: 602-608.

Each week, you will be assigned an article chosen from the recent scientific literature pertaining to the following weeks topic of discussion. In addition to thoroughly reading the article and coming to class prepared to discuss it, you will write weekly reading reports on the assignments, consisting of 5 to 11 sentences as follows:

I will read and comment on each of your weekly assignments, and you will receive one of the following five possible grades:

These weekly assignments will account for 55% of your overall grade.

The remaining 45% of your mark will come from a term paper.

The Term Paper:

The end goal will be to write a term paper detailing ONE global biogeochemical cycle of your choice.

The first assignment associated with the term-paper (worth 5% or your grade and due 30 January 2002) will include:

I will read over all proposed topics and get back to you with suggestions.

The final term paper (worth 40% of your grade and due 10 April 2002) will be 10 pages of double-spaced text (i.e., excluding title page, tables, figures, references, acknowledgements, and appendices). The format of the term paper will strictly follow that of an Article published in the journal BioScience. Please consult a current issue of the journal, as well as the following website for "Information for BioScience Contributors".

In general, your term paper should consist of the following:

IMPORTANT NOTES REGARDING THE TERM PAPER ASSIGNMENTS: