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Joseph Merz

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Curriculum v.



Classroom and Time: Mondays 5:30-8:20pm Amador Hall Rm 250

Course Description: This survey course looks at the earth as an ecosystem composed of biological, chemical, and physical systems. The focus is on the interaction of these systems with each other and with human population, technology, and production. The student should acquire the fundamentals of a scientific understanding of the ecological implications of human activities.  Specific topics treated within the context of ecosystem analysis include energy flows, nutrient cycles, pollution, resource use, climate changes, species diversity, and population dynamics.

View the course schedule.


Objectives :: Assignments :: Grading :: Technology :: Text and Materials

Course Objectives

Students will be:

    • provided with a broad background in the general theories and foundations of environmental science.

    • exposed to the major environmental issues that confront our society and the world in general.

    • encouraged to think critically about the nature and causes of human activities that impact the environment.

    • encouraged to think critically about the role and limitations of environmental science in understanding and solving environmental problems.

    • provided and opportunity to improve scientific writing, reading, and general communication skills.

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 The following assignments are due on the dates indicated.



Due Date

1. Journal Review Paper



2. Research Paper Outline



3. Research Paper



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Grades and Grading Policy

Assignments are due at the beginning of class.  I do not accept assignments by emailLate assignments are down-graded half a letter grade for each day late- up to 3 days.  Assignments fail after this time (ie a paper turned in 4 days late or more receives 0%).


Outstanding achievement



Excellent performance; clearly exceeds course requirements






Passed, but not at average achievement standards



Failure to meet class requirement

59% or less


Grading: Midterm 20%; Final exam 30%; Journal Review paper 10%; Final paper outline 10%; Final paper 20%; Quizzes & Homework 5%; and Participation 5%. Final course grades are based on total points. The percentage cutoffs may be adjusted or "curved" downward based on the difficulty of assignments, but they will not be moved upwards.   I also award “+” and “-“ grades.


Attendance Policy: I will take attendance.  Students who miss 4 or more classes may receive a grade of “U”.  If you wish to drop the class, it is your responsibility to fill out the proper paper work.  An examination that is missed for a legitimate reason (ie illness, emergency) can be made up.  I reserve the right to verify illness by requesting a certificate from a doctor or the Health Center.  An exam missed without a legitimate excuse cannot be made up. 

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Technology Requirements

Students will need to access a scientific journal database to complete assignments.  The CSUS library has an adequate database to meet your needs but others are available. All CSUS students enrolled in one or more units can create a SacLink account for electronic mail and Internet services. Although a home computer with a high speed modem running Netscape or Internet Explorer would be beneficial, students can use the Web from one of the campus student labs or the many database stations within the library.

Computing Recommendations

You should be comfortable using a computer and willing to browse the Web. This class requires literature search assignments and students will greatly benefit from keeping updated on current environmental science issues.  As a college student, you will benefit greatly from mastering word processing skills.

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Text and Materials

Readings: There is one textbook for the course and some reading material I will assign in class from time to time (you must download from this web site- see "handouts").  There will be an average of 60 pages of reading per week. It is very important that you do the reading before we meet. That way you can participate fully in group and class discussions, which are a key part of the course.   You will also be required to read and understand at least 4 primary source journal articles to complete your 3 assignments.  The best place to find these articles is the CSUS Library or other major institutional library.

The text for the course this semester is: Wright, R.T.  2004. Environmental Science. Toward A Sustainable Future. Ninth Edition.  Pearson Education. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA. pp. 736.

Text book web site:  http://www.prenhall.com/nebel/

You can purchase books through the Hornet Bookstore. Check their Online Textbook Sales page for ordering information.  Another option is: http://www.campusbooks.com/

last updated: 01/25/2007
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