PA Endangered 
Delmarva Fox Squirrel
Guidelines for Environmental Science Assignments

PA Endangered Common Tern


Endangered Species Reports




Environmental Organization

Car Shopping

Biome PPT      
Two Endangered Species Reports
Due dates: 
Choose two species, one plant and one animal; one double-spaced typed page for each species. Each is worth 25 pts. Here are some ideas: You must cover at least the following topics:
  1. Common and scientific name of the organism.
  2. Range (where it is found now and originally; perhaps a map?)
  3. Habitat
  4. Why is it endangered?
  5. What is being done to help it recover?

Project/Paper Requirements: 
     Select a topic which interests you.  The list below may give you ideas, but you are welcome to modify one of these or come up with an original idea.  Topics must be cleared with me.  All topics are first-come-first-served; i.e., only one person in the class may have any topic.  Prepare a 'paper' which thoroughly investigates the topic.  (I can't imagine that anyone could do this in less than 5 typed pages.)  Shorter papers will be tolerated from those who choose a field topic.  The paper will be written in normal 'English-class' style.  This means that you must cite all relevant materials and have a Literature Cited section.  (Nota bene:  I am as picky of a grader on grammar and spelling as any English professor!)  This paper is worth 100 pts. 
     You will also present your project to the class during the last week of the course.  I strongly recommend a PowerPoint presentation.  I will teach you how to use PowerPoint if you wish.  This presentation will be judged by your classmates, and is worth 25 points.  
     It is strongly recommended that you submit a draft for my inspection and comments before the due date.
What's Expected
Due Date
Appropriate topic turned in on time?  
On time?  Well thought out?  
What did you say?  How well was it said and supported?  Was it well researched?  Ample references and sources?  
Perfect grammar, spelling, typing, citations and references?  
How well did you share your findings with the class?  

100+ Possible Project Topics for Environmental Science

This is a list of potential topics. You may do one of these, modify one, or choose something altogether different.
  1. George W. Bush was one of many who vowed to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.  Is this a good idea?
  2. Become Keystone's acid rain monitor -- collect water from each rain/snow and measure its pH. Compare your results with state and national trends. Report your results to local media.
  3. Pennsylvania's tax check-off for non-game wildlife -- how it works, how well it's working, and what it's doing for Pennsylvania wildlife; how much have the license plates made?
  4. Should Pennsylvania adopt a "bottle bill"? Should the federal government? The Sierra Club thinks so. Why have such attempts failed in the past?
  5. Critically review of Bill Clinton/George W. Bush/Barack Obama's environmental record (or record on energy policies). How does he stack up compared to past presidents?
  6. The recent controversy over the Spotted Owl may have done serious damage to the Endangered Species Act. Why might it be tough to get it passed when it comes up for renewal this year? What is the "God Squad"?
  7. Compare the major environmental organizations (National Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Izaak Walton League, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, The National Wildlife Federation, Earth First!, etc.) What are their goals? How do they differ? What do they do to try to accomplish their goals? Are they successful?
  8. Monitor the quality of the water that runs through campus, e.g., the pH, temperature, flow rate, species of fish present, alkalinity, buffering capacity, etc.
  9. Investigate "green consumerism", or how consumers can have an effect on product manufacturers by their buying habits. Talk to grocers and customers. Is there enough of a preference for ecologically 'friendly' products (for example, eggs packed in recyclable cardboard cartons rather than styrofoam)?
  10. Organic vs. traditional farming methods. Which is more productive? More environmentally benign? Discuss topics like pesticides, no till farming, etc.
  11. DDT -- is it a serious environmental threat, or just another phony crisis?
  12. Was Lake Erie ever dead? Why and how conditions deteriorated during the last century, leading to the day the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland. Have things improved since then?
  13. The problem of exotic and introduced plants and animals in Florida--America's great outdoor zoo.
  14. How can we ask Brazil to not cut the Amazon when we are cutting our own old growth forests in the Pacific, also threatening species with extinction?
  15. Conserving germplasm -- why are some scientists saving ancient strains of wheat and other grain crops? Could we be doing the same for endangered species?
  16. In the western US, the major environmental problem is water. Discuss this problem which sets farmers, ranchers, developers, and environmentalists at odds.
  17. A cost comparison of heating your family home for the next 20 years using solar heating vs. conventional heating like gas or electricity.
  18. Giardiasis -- what is it & what causes it? Why is there so much of it around here? How is it tested for? What can we do about it?
  19. China is the most populous nation on earth. Discuss the variety of pressures that have been used to cut the birth rate there. Which of these could you see working in the U.S.?
  20. Conduct a thorough investigation of Keystone's (or your own municipality's) water supply. Where does it come from? Does it contain anything harmful?
  21. Conduct a survey of the marriage/childbearing intentions of Keystone's female students. Include the age of their mother's first children; compare to grandparents and recent trends in marriage rate and total fertility.
  22. Zero Population Growth in the U.S. Can we reach it? Should we? Some people think that we need to have another baby boom to support Social Security in the future.
  23. The problem of too many immigrants and refugees in the U.S.--do we let them in or slam the door?
  24. Is the U.S. an energy pig? Or, do our contributions to the world in terms of technology and inventions justify taking more than our share of world resources?
  25. Do animals and plants have population explosions? How does Mother Nature handle overpopulation problems? How will she handle the human population explosion?
  26. There is another drought and famine imminent in Ethiopia. Why haven't conditions improved since the last one just a few short years ago?
  27. What will life be like when there are 16 billion people? Write a futuristic view of life styles and personal freedom compared to today's world. (Perhaps an environmental science fiction short story?)
  28. Evaluate Keystone's (or your employer's) plans for a recycling program for paper, aluminum, plastic and glass. What are its strong and weak points? How could it be made more efficient? Discuss Keystone's plan with the recycling coordinator.
  29. Investigate the amount of food, paper, and plastic products "wasted" by a fast food restaurant. "Find" some of their garbage and analyze it; determine how many trees, how much energy, etc. is wasted. 
  30. The use of high-tech satellites to explore for minerals and other resources from space.
  31. Extracting minerals from sea water.
  32. Scrap yards -- what they can recycle, and what they can't. What do they pay for recycled materials; why does the market fluctuate so much; how much do they make in this business?
  33. Cogeneration -- cities that burn their garbage for heat and electricity. (Examples include Harrisburg, Columbus (OH), and Akron (OH).
  34. There is a lot of land out there, so why are we running out of landfills? What makes it so hard to site them? How safe are our landfills?
  35. Soft Path energy programs -- what common sense energy ideas are espoused by Amory Lovins?
  36. What would life be like without petroleum and its products?
  37. Trace the refining of oil from the ground to your gas tank.
  38. The sun is free -- so why isn't solar energy cheap, too?
  39. A debate: your town needs a new power plant. Should it be a fossil fuel-burning plant, or a nuclear plant? Is there any other feasible alternative?
  40. What has happened to the anthracite coal industry in Pennsylvania?
  41. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl -- what happened, and how have these events affected the U.S. nuclear industry? What about the many other underreported nuclear accidents?
  42. What is the best way to handle the many nuclear wastes we have created?
  43. Shippinsport -- the first nuclear reactor to 'die' of old age -- what have we done with it?
  44. Canada's Bay of Fundy tidal power project--the pro's and con's. What ecological effects will it have? Is it worth the ecological costs?
  45. Factoryville -- a town that has begun to treat its sewage--why hasn't it had to until recently? Why do some small towns still dump raw sewage into streams? Do a comparison of water conditions upstream and downstream of the city (or Keystone's).
  46. What happens when the Library flushes the toilet? What does Keystone's do with its sewage -- an interview with Keystone's 'sanitary engineer'.
  47. Acid mine drainage -- how it kills streams.
  48. Some parts of Antarctica are badly polluted. How? Why? Who owns Antarctica? What effect does tourism have?
  49. Supertankers and oil spills -- their ecological aftermath. How well did Alaska survive the Exxon Valdez tragedy?
  50. The dangers of plastics dumped overboard at sea -- how they are killing turtles, birds and whales.
  51. A conflict of interest -- fishermen vs. oil drilling on America's most fertile fishing grounds.
  52. Acid rain -- Pennsylvania as both a source and recipient.
  53. The health effects of indoor air pollution. How does good insulation expose us to toxic chemicals?
  54. The asbestos problem -- why is it harmful? Is it worth the staggering expense to clean it up?
  55. The economics of acid rain--why the midwestern states won't quit burning dirty coal.
  56. The Bible says, " fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over... every living thing." Does this mean that God has said that we may do as we wish with the world, its resources and organisms? For instance, is it OK to cause one of God's creatures become extinct?
  57. What happens when an endangered species meets a multi-million dollar dam? The story of the snail darter vs. the Tellico Dam.
  58. Fires burning underground -- mine fires in Centralia and other Pennsylvania cities.
  59. The first Earth Day was in the 70's -- why did it happen? Is the thought still alive, or was it a passing fad? What has changed since then?
  60. Acid rain--its effect on lakes and streams.
  61.           on forests.
  62.           on agriculture.
  63.           on human health.
  64. The hole in the sky--the threat to the ozone layer.
  65. Mercury (or lead or cadmium) in the environment. Where does it come from -- and how does it effect us?
  66. Carcinogens in the environment -- how we test for them, and is it worth the time to worry about them?
  67. Ecotourism--nature tours, African 'safaris', whalewatching, swimming with dolphins, etc. Are these things beneficial to host countries and to the animals?
  68. Chemical pesticides--an agricultural blessing or an ecological disaster? Why don't we make greater use of biological pesticides, like insect pheromones?
  69. Endangered species in Pennsylvania -- what is the commonwealth doing to save them? (or, in your own state or country)
  70. Borrow a sound meter from me and make a community survey of sound levels (include dorm stereos, concerts, classrooms, etc.); talk to a hearing specialist about the effects of noise on our hearing; do we have local noise ordinances?
  71. Using maps, figure out how much land around here is undeveloped. Do we have zoning laws against development? Now use maps to check the amount of open areas in Scranton.
  72. City planning--how can you build an environmentally sound, beautiful, energy efficient, recycling society?
  73. Make a recycling survey of this area. Where can a citizen go to recycle? Is it convenient? How heavily used is it? Who do they sell it to?
  74. Zoos -- are they becoming the last refuge for our endangered species? Discuss conservation measures and captive breeding programs.
  75. Mass transit is a way to save energy and reduce pollution -- why do so few cities use it?
  76. America's love affair with the car -- how it effects our energy and resource supply, and the environment. How would things change if the rest of the world had as many cars as Americans?
  77. Choose your topic and present it in a novel way: write an original play, make a videotape, paint a picture, write poetry, etc.
  78. Design (that is, draw a very specific blueprint) an energy efficient home.
  79. Discuss the problem of radon gas in our homes. Why is it so prevalent across the country? Is it as serious as we are told? What health hazards does it pose to us?
  80. Should we try to save endangered species--is it really worth it? Should we save endangered snails, crickets, rattlesnakes, and mosquitoes?
  81. The Law of the Sea treaty -- why the U.S. should or shouldn't sign it.
  82. The debt crisis and the Third World -- how does the interest burden from huge loans prevent developing countries from pursuing an ecologically smart strategy? What role does the World Bank play in international conservation (or the lack of it)?
  83. Compare mortality rates of people who lived in this area 100 years ago and now. Are we living longer? Is there a difference in causes of death in these two times? If so, explain.
  84. Extinction is nothing new. Did primitive humans cause the extinctions of large animals like mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed tigers, etc.?
  85. Smokey the Bear should be snuffed out -- or, why forest fires aren't such bad things.
  86. Are you mechanically inclined? Make nesting boxes for owls/hawks/bats/etc. on campus.
  87. Are you an Elementary Education major? Develop an environmental education unit for use at the Children's Center.
  88. We have a nature trail guide for Keystone's nature trail during the summer. During the winter, the trail is much different. Plan, write, and produce a wintertime guide.
  89. Consult with one of the local environmental organizations like Audubon, Sierra, etc. to ask whether you could help them in any way.
  90. We currently have more forested land than probably existed when whites came to America. However, it is of much lower quality than before. Additionally, it is becoming very fragmented, a condition which poses perhaps more of a threat to bird species than does the burning of the tropical rain forests. Discuss these notions.
  91. Invite a politician to class to guest lecture on environmental legislation. This might be a governor, US senator/ representative, state senator/representative, local official, etc.
  92. Are you an art enthusiast? Write about wildlife art. There is quite a market for 'duck stamp' art. The winner of the national competition is a guaranteed millionaire. Enter your own picture.
  93. More for an art enthusiast. Compare the wildlife artwork of such prominent wildlife artists as John James Audubon, Robert Bateman, Roger Tory Peterson, Louis A. Fuertes, and others.
  94. Compare some of the more prominent nature writers like Emerson, Thoreau, John Borroughs, Aldo Leopold, Edwin Way Teale, Edward Abbey, etc. Or read several writings by the same author and discuss his/her philosophy of the natural world.
  95. Volunteer some time with a local wildlife rehabilitator. There are some folks locally who care for injured hawks, raccoons, etc.
  96. There is quite a controversy between animal rights advocates and the fur industry. Present a discussion about this problem giving both sides of the question, finishing up with your own opinion. (Conduct interviews with trappers, women who own furs, and animal lovers.)
  97. Spend a day with a waterways conservation officer, game warden, or forester. Find out what these careers are really like.
  98. There are many fine nature-oriented shows on TV (PBS and cable). Discuss Nature , Nova , Wild America, National Geographic, World of Survival, Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau , etc. What are their goals? How do they effect the viewing public's perception of the natural world?
  99. Discuss the growing field of environmental music. Who are the artists? What have been their contributions? Play some samples to the class.
  100. Numerous recent reports have claimed that the US is trailing far behind other nations in science education. Discuss these reports. Have you been turned off by science? What are your experiences. Why does it seem to be fashionable to say, "Oh, I just can't do math/biology/chemistry/physics/etc.? What needs to be done to the educational system to get students excited about science again?
  101. The atmospheric greenhouse effect -- are we headed for another Ice Age, a melting of ice caps, or is it worth worrying about at all?
  102. Document the history of the Marjol battery plant and lead pollution in Throop. What are citizens doing about it? What is the EPA doing about it?
  103. What has caused the terrible forest fires of recent summers? Discuss the 'let burn' policy of the National Park Service. What has happened to Yellowstone? Has it recovered ecologically?
  104. Study your use of energy for several days. Figure out what it takes to support each of us.
  105. The Love Canal mess.
  106. The ten food plants that stand between us and world starvation.
  107. Former Vice-president Al Gore has been called an environmental extremist by some, even former President Bush I, who labeled him as 'a kook from out in the ozone' What is Gore's philosophy? Read and criticize his best-selling book, Earth in the Balance .
  108. Minorities suffer more environmental insults than any other group. Why? Some topics to include are plans to site radioactive waste dumps on Native American reservations; the presence of an inordinately high number of chemical plants and landfills in poor neighborhoods.
  109. Must business & environment always be at odds? Can environmentalism be good business?
  110. Pick up litter from a 1 mile stretch of highway, analyze it & propose ways to reduce it.
  111. Discuss the environmental backlash. Is it present locally? (Yes, it is!)
  112. Zebra mussels, a clam-like invader from Europe, have infiltrated the Great Lakes and the Susquehanna River. They are expected to cause a monumental ecological problem. Discuss these invaders.
  113. Although Saddam Hussein released massive amounts of oil into the Persian Gulf in an act of ecocide, his is not the only warring country to have an effect on the environment. Discuss the effects of war on the environment (Viet Nam, Hiroshima, Nicaragua, World War III, etc.)

Two Letters 
Each is worth 25 pts. 

     Write two letters (email or telephone calls are acceptable) to someone who has an impact on an environmental issue.  This can criticize them for their position or performance.  It may also pat them on the back if this is warranted.  (Praise is good!) 
     Write to an appropriate person!  For instance, don't write to the Mayor of Scranton about the Endangered Species Act--he can do nothing about this.  Similarly, don't write to the President of the US about your community's recycling program.  For addresses of many elected officials, visit the Citizen Action part of this website. 
     Be sure you write an appropriate letter, as described in class. 
     You must document your communication.  If it is a written letter, submit to me the finished letter in an unsealed envelope which is fully addressed and stamped.  I will read it (only to ensure that you have fulfilled the assignment) and then drop it in the mail.  If you used email, you must provide me with a copy of the document you sent.  If you phoned someone, write a summary of what both you and they said.

EarthAware Software 
50 points 

Download EarthAware Software

Due Date: 

     Turn in the Analysis report printouts and your response to it.  The program has given you a rating in each of six categories.  Consider what your category rankings are as well as your overall rating.  How do you feel about these ratings?  Do they accurately reflect your lifestyle?  Do they surprise you?  Comment especially on those which are less than favorable.  What could you do to improve these?  Do you think that you can or will do anything to improve?

Environmental Organization
25 points

Investigate and report on the environmental organization of your choice.  It may be local, national, or international.  In about one typed page, tell what the organization's mission is and how they try to accomplish it.  Are they successful?  Would you be willing to join?

Car Shopping

25 points

  1. Make a comparison between the vehicle you most often drive and the greenest vehicle you can find that still meets your needs.  Use the Tailpipe Tally to determine the estimated fuel consumption and cost per year.  Also compare the carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and hydrocarbon emissions of both vehicles.
  2. Do a shopping comparison.  Determine the car that you'd most like to buy and compare it to one of the new low emission cars, such as the Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid.  Calculate the costs of your vehicle for the first five years.  Be sure to include the list price (for models that are comparably equipped, as well as the cost of fuel and insurance.  After 5 years, which has cost you more?  Now compare the tailpipe emissions.  After making these comparisons, will you include environmental considerations in the purchase of your next vehicle?


Tailpipe Tally:  How Much Does Your Car Pollute?

US-EPA's Green Vehicle Guide

Best and Worst Gas Mileage Cars

The Meanest and Greenest Vehicles

Biome Powerpoint Presentation:  25 points

Select one of the biomes from among the "Major Ecosystems of the World", Ch. 6.  Select one you know little about.  Give a 5 minute PPT presentation educating your colleagues about it.  Here's an example.  As a minimum you must include

  1. a general description, including any unique characteristics (e.g., permafrost in the tundra; structure of canopy and soils in tropical rain forest), climate, etc.

  2. location in the world;  a map is worth a thousand words.

  3. show us some of the typical biota (flora and fauna); not necessarily individual species, but instead the way of life.  E.g. special adaptations for plants and animals living in the desert biome.

  4. human influences or any large-scale threats to the biome.  E.g., timbering of the taiga/boreal forest.

Claim one before you leave tonight!