Geology 140 - Environmental Geology
Course Syllabus Course Schedule Assignments Department Home Page

Kusnick Home Page

Project Topics

Date Topic Questions
9/29 Volcanic warning systems What is the state of the art of volcanic warning? How does the US rate against other countries (e.g., Japan)? Should we be investing more in volcanic warning systems (both technology and public education/drills)?
9/29 Earthquake warning systems What is available? How effective can they be? What is the cost vs. the benefit? Should California adopt these systems?
9/29 Earthquake insurance How does California's system work? Is California’s system likely to work in a great earthquake? Are there better models for an insurance system elsewhere in the US or in other parts of the world?

Earthquake readiness in California

What is the risk for a great earthquake? What has the government (federal, state local) done to reduce the risk and encourage preparation? Are these efforts likely to be successful? What else should be done? You can compare California to other countries (e.g. Japan).


Japanese tsunami

Why was it so devastating? What should have been done to reduce the risk? What has the impact been on Japan economically, politically, and socially? NOTE: the nuclear disaster is someone else's topic - concentrate on the other impacts of the earthquake & tsunami.
10/4 Earthquake preparedness in developing countries Haiti and Chile both had great earthquakes occur within the same year. Haiti was completely devastated; Chile had far less damage and recovered quickly. Why did these earthquakes have such different outcomes?
10/20 Sacramento flooding risk What is the status of the flood risk to Sacramento? What are the riskiest places in the region, and how is the risk being managed?
10/20 Flood insurance How does Federal flood insurance work? Is the system working? Does it encourage development in flood plains? Are there better models for managing the risk? Look for other proposed models, as well as systems in other countries.
10/23 Hurricanes & wetlands How did degradation of coastal wetlands contribute to the Katrina disaster? What are the potential solutions? Are they economically feasible?
10/23 Climate change & hurricanes How will climate change affect hurricanes? Look at both the effects on the generation of storms, as well as the changes to coastlines that affect the impact of storms. What is the evidence?
10/23 Katrina: Causes What causes contributed to turning Hurricane Katrina - a Category 3 Hurricane - into such a great disaster? Look at failures of technology (monitoring, communication, & flood control) as well as social policy (at the federal, state and municipal level). Have things changed sufficiently to prevent another such disaster?
10/23 Katrina: Impacts How did Katrina change both Louisiana and the US? Was the impact of the storm unevenly distributed among racial or economic groups? Have all groups recovered equally quickly? How did Katrina change the demographics, economy, educational system, culture and social structure of New Orleans?
11/1 Toilet to tap What are the facts about treating sewage water for use? Is this a viable way of extending water resources? Where is it currently being used? What are the obstacles to using this potential water resource?
11/1 California water and climate change As global climate changes, what is predicted to happen to California’s water supply? Do we see evidence of these changes happening? What are possible solutions?
11/1 Water marketing in California Where is water marketing currently taking place? What have the impacts been? What are the risks and benefits of water marketing?
11/3 Colorado River Will the Colorado River have sufficient water to meet demand in the foreseeable future? Who uses this water? What are the political issues around the use of this water?
11/3 Salmon and water Why are salmon populations crashing? Can different water management practices help?
11/3 Removing old dams What dams in California might be removed? What are the political, economic and environmental issues surrounding the removal of dams?
11/8 Living on California beaches How stable are California’s beaches and sea cliffs? Are there ways to stabilize the cliffs, or should we control the damage through measures such as zoning? How are coastal communities and the state dealing with threats to coastal property?
11/8 Disappearing Atlantic beaches Why do beaches disappear? How do coastal communities on the Atlantic Coast deal with disappearing beaches? Is it economically and technically feasible to replace sand on beaches? If so, who is paying, and who should pay?
11/15 Impacts of the BP Spill How did the spill impact coastal and ocean environments? Is using chemicals to disperse the oil a successful strategy? What are the potential long-term impacts of the spill?Who has been impacted? What is the damage to regional and the national economy? How is the fund to compensate the victims of the spill being managed?
11/15 Regulation of offshore drilling Who monitors well safety? Are the regulators free of conflicts of interest? What was BP’s safety record? Should someone have seen this coming? What should have been done?
11/17 Exploiting the tar sands of Canada Canada shot to the top of the world’s biggest oil producers in the past few years. What have been the environmental, social, and economic consequences of producing oil from tar sands? What are the long-term consequences likely to be?
11/17 U.S. Oil Shales Is the oil trapped in the shale of the American West likely to be usable any time soon? What are the potential benefits and costs of using this energy resource?
11/17 Frakking for natural gas What are the impacts of the new recovery process known as frakking? Should frakking be regulated? Should it be expanded?
11/22 American coal What are the environmental issues associated with using coal? Is there a way to use coal in an environmentally friendly way?
11/22 Geothermal energy How does geothermal energy work? Will it contribute substantially to California's energy future?
11/22 Ethanol subsidies What are the impacts of subsidizing corn crops for ethanol? Look at the consequences in the US (environmental, economic and political) as well as elsewhere in the world.
11/29 Wind energy What are the economics and environmental costs and benefits of producing energy from the wind? What is the outlook for expansion of this resource in the US and globally?
11/29 Solar energy What are the environmental costs of solar energy? Can it be economically feasible?What are the possibilities for expansion of solar energy in California?
12/1 Nuclear power in the US What would it take to make nuclear energy viable in the U.S.? Is it likely that we will expand our use of nuclear energy?
12/1 Japanese nuclear disaster How did the tsunami lead to a nuclear disaster? What do we know about the consequences of this event? Look at health and environmental effects, as well as the impact on the nuclear industry world-wide.
12/1 Nuclear waste disposal Last year the Obama administration closed the country's only possible high-level nuclear waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. What happened? Was that site safe? What are the other options for disposing of nuclear waste?
12/6 Naturally occurring asbestos How do we manage the risk from asbestos in the natural environment (e.g., in road cuts and building sites) when we know almost nothing about how great the risk is?
12/6 Old mine hazards What are the environmental issues around abandoned mine sites? How does the US and California manage pollution from old mines?
12/6 Plastic shopping bags Is taxing or banning plastic grocery bags justified? What programs exist around the world? Should California adopt a statewide program?
12/6 E-waste Where do old computers, cell phones and iPods go? Why are they hazardous? What could be done to reduce the risk from disposing of old technology?