Delmarva Fox Squirrel
Guidelines for Environmental Science Assignments
Two Endangered Species Reports
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:
Endangered/threatened outside of US, e.g. Cheetah, Mountain Gorilla, Black
US endangered or threatened, e.g. California Condor, Furbish Lousewort,
Indiana Bat, Spreading Globeflower.
endangered or threatened
birds and mammals,
fish & amphibians,
invertebrates; e.g. Fisher, Osprey, American Beach Grass
Common and scientific name of the organism.
Range (where it is found now and originally; perhaps a map?)
Why is it endangered?
What is being done to help it recover?
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.
||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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- Should Pennsylvania adopt a "bottle bill"? Should the federal government?
The Sierra Club thinks so. Why have such attempts failed in the past?
- 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?
- 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"?
- 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?
- Monitor the quality of the water that runs through campus, e.g.,
the pH, temperature, flow rate, species of fish present, alkalinity, buffering
- 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)?
- Organic vs. traditional farming methods. Which is more productive?
More environmentally benign? Discuss topics like pesticides, no till farming,
- DDT -- is it a serious environmental threat, or just another phony
- 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?
- The problem of exotic and introduced plants and animals in Florida--America's
great outdoor zoo.
- 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
- Conserving germplasm -- why are some scientists saving ancient strains
of wheat and other grain crops? Could we be doing the same for endangered
- In the western US, the major environmental problem is water. Discuss
this problem which sets farmers, ranchers, developers, and environmentalists
- A cost comparison of heating your family home for the next 20 years
using solar heating vs. conventional heating like gas or electricity.
- 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?
- 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.?
- Conduct a thorough investigation of Keystone's (or your own municipality's)
water supply. Where does it come from? Does it contain anything harmful?
- 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.
- 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.
- The problem of too many immigrants and refugees in the U.S.--do
we let them in or slam the door?
- 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?
- Do animals and plants have population explosions? How does Mother
Nature handle overpopulation problems? How will she handle the human population
- There is another drought and famine imminent in Ethiopia. Why haven't
conditions improved since the last one just a few short years ago?
- 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?)
- 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
- 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.
- The use of high-tech satellites to explore for minerals and other
resources from space.
- Extracting minerals from sea water.
- 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?
- Cogeneration -- cities that burn their garbage for heat and electricity.
(Examples include Harrisburg, Columbus (OH), and Akron (OH).
- 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?
- Soft Path energy programs -- what common sense energy ideas are
espoused by Amory Lovins?
- What would life be like without petroleum and its products?
- Trace the refining of oil from the ground to your gas tank.
- The sun is free -- so why isn't solar energy cheap, too?
- 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?
- What has happened to the anthracite coal industry in Pennsylvania?
- Three Mile Island and Chernobyl -- what happened, and how have these
events affected the U.S. nuclear industry? What about the many other underreported
- What is the best way to handle the many nuclear wastes we have created?
- Shippinsport -- the first nuclear reactor to 'die' of old age --
what have we done with it?
- 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?
- 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).
- What happens when the Library flushes the toilet? What does Keystone's
do with its sewage -- an interview with Keystone's 'sanitary engineer'.
- Acid mine drainage -- how it kills streams.
- Some parts of Antarctica are badly polluted. How? Why? Who owns
Antarctica? What effect does tourism have?
- Supertankers and oil spills -- their ecological aftermath. How well
did Alaska survive the Exxon Valdez tragedy?
- The dangers of plastics dumped overboard at sea -- how they are
killing turtles, birds and whales.
- A conflict of interest -- fishermen vs. oil drilling on America's
most fertile fishing grounds.
- Acid rain -- Pennsylvania as both a source and recipient.
- The health effects of indoor air pollution. How does good insulation
expose us to toxic chemicals?
- The asbestos problem -- why is it harmful? Is it worth the staggering
expense to clean it up?
- The economics of acid rain--why the midwestern states won't quit
burning dirty coal.
- The Bible says, "...be 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
- What happens when an endangered species meets a multi-million dollar
dam? The story of the snail darter vs. the Tellico Dam.
- Fires burning underground -- mine fires in Centralia and other Pennsylvania
- 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?
- Acid rain--its effect on lakes and streams.
- on forests.
- on agriculture.
- on human health.
- The hole in the sky--the threat to the ozone layer.
- Mercury (or lead or cadmium) in the environment. Where does it come
from -- and how does it effect us?
- Carcinogens in the environment -- how we test for them, and is it
worth the time to worry about them?
tours, African 'safaris', whalewatching, swimming with dolphins, etc. Are
these things beneficial to host countries and to the animals?
- Chemical pesticides--an agricultural blessing or an ecological disaster?
Why don't we make greater use of biological pesticides, like insect pheromones?
- Endangered species in Pennsylvania -- what is the commonwealth doing
to save them? (or, in your own state or country)
- 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
- 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.
- City planning--how can you build an environmentally sound, beautiful,
energy efficient, recycling society?
- 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
- Zoos -- are they becoming the last refuge for our endangered species?
Discuss conservation measures and captive breeding programs.
- Mass transit is a way to save energy and reduce pollution -- why
do so few cities use it?
- 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?
- Choose your topic and present it in a novel way: write an original
play, make a videotape, paint a picture, write poetry, etc.
- Design (that is, draw a very specific blueprint) an energy
- 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?
- Should we try to save endangered species--is it really worth it?
Should we save endangered snails, crickets, rattlesnakes, and mosquitoes?
- The Law of the Sea treaty -- why the U.S. should or shouldn't sign
- 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)?
- 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.
- Extinction is nothing new. Did primitive humans cause the extinctions
of large animals like mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed tigers, etc.?
- Smokey the Bear should be snuffed out -- or, why forest fires aren't
such bad things.
- Are you mechanically inclined? Make nesting boxes for owls/hawks/bats/etc.
- Are you an Elementary Education major? Develop an environmental education unit for
use at the Children's Center.
- 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.
- Consult with one of the local environmental organizations like Audubon,
Sierra, etc. to ask whether you could help them in any way.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Volunteer some time with a local wildlife rehabilitator. There
are some folks locally who care for injured hawks, raccoons, etc.
- 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.)
- Spend a day with a waterways conservation officer, game warden,
or forester. Find out what these careers are really like.
- There are many fine nature-oriented shows on TV (PBS and cable). Discuss
, 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?
- Discuss the growing field of environmental music. Who are the artists?
What have been their contributions? Play some samples to the class.
- Numerous recent reports have claimed that the US is trailing far
behind other nations in science education. Discuss these reports. Have
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?
- The atmospheric greenhouse effect -- are we headed for another
Ice Age, a melting of ice caps, or is it worth worrying about at all?
- 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
- 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?
- Study your use of energy for several days. Figure out what it takes
to support each of us.
- The Love Canal mess.
- The ten food plants that stand between us and world starvation.
- 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 .
- 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.
- Must business & environment always be at odds? Can environmentalism
be good business?
- Pick up litter from a 1 mile stretch of highway, analyze it &
propose ways to reduce it.
- Discuss the environmental backlash.
Is it present locally? (Yes, it is!)
- 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.
- 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.)
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.
Download EarthAware Software
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?
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?
- Make a comparison between the vehicle you most often drive and the
greenest vehicle you can find that still meets your needs. Use the
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.
- 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?
Tally: How Much Does Your Car Pollute?
Best and Worst
Gas Mileage Cars
The Meanest and
Biome Powerpoint Presentation:
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
a minimum you must include
a general description, including any unique characteristics
(e.g., permafrost in the tundra; structure of canopy and soils in tropical
rain forest), climate, etc.
location in the world; a map is worth a thousand words.
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.
human influences or any large-scale threats to the biome.
E.g., timbering of the taiga/boreal forest.
Claim one before you leave tonight!