South-Central Section - 47th Annual Meeting (4-5 April 2013)

Paper No. 31-5
Presentation Time: 2:50 PM


BANNER, Jay1, HERSH, Eric S.2, WONG, Corinne I.3 and SALZBERG, Deborah2, (1)Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, (2)Environmental Science Institute, 1 University Station C9000, Austin, TX 78712, (3)Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712,

Professor Leon Long’s is known for his engaging teaching methods, teaching in field settings, and for how he unravels complex geologic principles in an easy to understand style that is popular with teachers and students. In this spirit, we have developed a new field seminar course as part of a new B.S. degree program in Environmental Science (EVS) at UT-Austin. The new degree builds on STEM components from across the College of Natural Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Jackson School of Geosciences. The interdisciplinary nature of the degree reflects the interdisciplinary nature of environmental problems. The EVS field seminar course comes in the first year of the EVS degree plan, and each week comprises a one hour lecture and 5-8 hour field exercise.

The goals of the EVS field seminar course are to 1) provide a vivid learning experience through hands-on investigation, 2) engagement in topics early in the degree program, and 3) develop an appreciation of the interdisciplinary nature of environmental problems. Field courses in STEM degree plans typically are placed in the senior year as a means to integrate concepts from earlier coursework. In contrast, the placement of the EVS field seminar course early in the degree program is designed to engage students in the subject matter so that it provides context and motivation for students during STEM foundation coursework such as chemistry, physics and math. For most field exercises we invite guest leaders from many disciplines, providing content knowledge and perspectives and methods from their field of study. The field exercise sequence starts with investigations of the regional geologic substrate, is followed by examination of hydrologic and ecologic systems developed on that substrate, and finishes with the built environment at sites of sustainable development and agriculture. Some of the exercises build on Leon Long’s geologic examples as outlined in his Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation on Geologic Wonders of Central Texas, which is an excellent template for how to break down complex geologic relationships.