Integrating policy and land management issues into a natural sciences education: Teaching environmental sciences on the lower San Juan River, Utah

Michael H. Ort, Diana E. Anderson, David M. Ostergren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


The Environmental Sciences Program at Northern Arizona University developed an interdisciplinary field course combining natural sciences (geology, biology, and chemistry), policy and land management centered on a place-based set of problems. The course consists of a campus-based semester of study of scientific, management, and political issues surrounding the lower San Juan River basin of southeastern Utah. Students then spend eight days on the river conducting scientific studies and discussing their management and policy implications. The desired learning outcome of the course is for students to be able to integrate complex environmental field data, and the course structure and evaluation criteria emphasize this. Students work in large and small groups on problems that combine geomorphology, geochemistry, and ecology, such as stream terraces, soils, and the plant communities they support, soil development and chemistry under native and non-native vegetation, and biological soil crusts and soil development in arid lands. Discussions on the management an political implications of the students' findings give a "real-world" relevance to their work. Conducting a field class on a remote river presents a number of dificulties an opportunities. River logistics are handled by a commercial outfitter so professors can concentrate on academic issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116-122
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Geoscience Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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