2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 273-9
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


PHILLIPS, Lisa, Department of English Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Illinois State University, Campus Box 4240, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790, PHILLIPS, Michael A., Natural Sciences, Illinois Valley Community College, 815 N. Orlando Smith Ave, Oglesby, IL 61348-9692 and DARBY, Kate, Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225, mike_phillips@ivcc.edu

While geoscientists may ultimately rely upon chemical analyses of water, soil, and air samples, the initial affect of contamination is most often noted when people detect alterations of their lived spaces through sensory experiences – by the way their environment smells, sounds or looks. Thus, fully understanding and characterizing environmental problems requires an interdisciplinary approach that draws not only from the geosciences, but also from social science and humanities fields in which human experience, narratives, and images are interpretable data. Mapping sensory impacts, will help students develop an understanding of how individuals living in proximity to environmental hazards are directly affected by those hazards.

We have developed a module wherein students develop an understanding of the systemic impact pollutants have on the environment and how geoscientists and other concerned parties investigate that impact and use the results to communicate and develop containment and remediation strategies. Sensory data (specifically smells and sounds) are collected by students and used to trace the movement of contaminants through the environmental system.

During this module, students analyze and characterize a variety of quantitative and qualitative data by planning and completing field investigations, engaging with case studies, and creating a map of an environmental setting using their sensory perceptions. Students develop and express an understanding of the connections between chemicals that can be detected in the environment, the movement of those substances through the environment under variable environmental conditions, and the impact those substances may have on the lived experience of residents.

The module is designed to foster synthesis between sensory perception (what students smell, taste, hear, see, or feel) and geoscientific data (such as water samples and flow maps) to facilitate deeper analysis of environmental issues by engaging with data as characterized by multiple disciplines. The use of immediate, personal sensory experience allows students to develop a deeper understanding of an environmental setting thus making connection to more abstract numerical results associated with field equipment or laboratory results clearer.