Proposals due February1: easiest, email me a text or Word file


Talk to me during office hours



Recommended Plan of Attack


Find Problem


Define Objectives


Master the Science


Analyze the Problem


Critique the Analysis


Draw Conclusion


Examples of suitable project topics (most students will find their own topics among the environmental problems that have attracted their interest).

1. Imagine you are a Peace Corps volunteer and are asked to design a basic water supply and treatment system or sewage system for a village.


2. You are a Congressional staffer assigned to do a technical analysis of whether using Yucca Mountain for storing the nation’s high level nuclear waste is the right solution. Should your Representative vote Y or N?


3. You are a city planner. A golf course developer wants to develop an 18 hole course just upstream of the city’s main park and its recreational lake. Opponents argue that converting the existing row crop agriculture into a golf course will pollute the lake. You are assigned to make an analysis and report back to the City Council.


4. You work for a biodiversity conservation NGO in the Amazon. An agronomist in a development oriented NGO has a plan to teach local farmers how to use fertilizers, pesticides, and hybrid seed to grow much more food per acre than they can using their traditional slash and burn methods. She wants your NGO’s support for the plan on the grounds that shrinking farmer’s “footprint” to a relatively small area of permanent fields will be good for forest biodiversity. Your boss asks for an analysis.


5. The Air Pollution Control Officer of a lightly populated rural Northern California county resists forcing gas stations in his county to use vapor recovery systems. His argument is that so little gas is pumped in his county and his air is already so clean that installing vapor recovery systems would do negligible good. Your boss at the State Air Resources Board asks you to run the numbers and let him know whether or not he should grant an exemption.


6. A considerable amount of urban development has already occurred around a clear mountain lake when it dawns on residents that nutrients from their sewage treatment plant is causing algal blooms in the lake. Downstream is another lake with algae problems of its own. Someone suggests that you can pump the water over the nearest mountain pass, generate electricity on the way down the other side, and sell the water to ranchers. Plausible?


7. You work for the State Department.  A consortium of developing countries led by China send out a feeler regarding carbon trading with the rich countries. They propose to put their citizens to work reforesting large tracts of land in order to fix enough CO2 to allow rich countries to go on using lavish quantities of fossil fuels without causing global warming. Your task is to evaluate whether this proposal is worth detailed study or not.