As part of the College of Natural Resources and Environment of Virginia Tech, CLiGS maintains an inherent interest in the health and strength of ecosystems with a particular emphasis on their symbiotic relationship with human systems. The health of our environment is tied directly to global development decision-making and likewise, the health of our communities and economy depends on resilient ecosystems.
NR 5014 Constructing Sustainability (3 credits)
This course examines the science, policy and practice of sustainability and sustainable development in a global context. We will examine the history, current status and future prospects of sustainability and sustainable development from economic, social and ecological perspectives. In the past several decades, sustainability and sustainable development have gained status in political, scientific, business, religious and cultural institutions and are now guiding principles that frame and shape public policy and private practice at multiple scales. While these concepts are well‐established in many communities and cultures worldwide, they have only recently emerged as prominent features in the mainstream of contemporary popular culture throughout global society. This interdisciplinary course encourages students to consider how they can engage science, policy, professional and civic institutions in constructing sustainability.
NR 5114 Global Issues in Natural Resources (3 credits)
This course is designed to support the International Field Experience (IFE) scheduled for the same semester. It provides students with important global context for issues examined during the IFE, while also encouraging students to consider the challenges and rewards of working in a different culture. During the weeks prior to departure, students work online to complete a series of assignments and get to know the other members of their IFE team. Students will come together online again following completion of their field work to wrap-up and reflect on their experiences. Specific readings and assignments vary each semester according to the IFE destination and the lead IFE faculty.
NR 5424 Urban Wildlife (3 credits)
Eight of every ten of Americans live in cities or towns of 50,000 people or more, and 50% of the world’s human population now lives in urban areas. What has been the impact of this transition on wildlife populations? While it’s a common assumption that cities are inhospitable to non-human animal life, we have ample evidence today to indicate that not only do some wildlife species survive in urban areas; they can thrive. One positive consequence of this is that people can directly enjoy and appreciate wildlife close to home, and feel a closer connection to the natural world by doing so. A negative consequence is that conflicts between people and wildlife are on the rise. Urbanization has created new challenges for wildlife management professionals, and most have little or no special training in this area. This course will be organized into five learning units: urban landscapes, urban ecosystems, urban habitats and hazards, sociopolitical issues, and special management considerations.
NR 5634 Urban Ecology (3 credits)
Our planet is increasingly urban. Approximately 50% of the world’s people now live in urban areas. In many regions of the world, the rate of urbanization is declining; however, individual cities, metropolitan regions, and urban areas continue to grow (in number, extent and population). In this context, urban ecology is an important approach to environmental science and sustainable development. People throughout the world practice urban ecology. These people are motivated by a desire to create healthy human ecosystems and livable communities in which to live, work, and play. This semester, we will study some of these people, projects, and places. Key questions: What is an urban ecosystem? Are cities sustainable environments? What are civic stakeholders, local communities, and global society doing to ensure that urban and urbanizing landscapes are healthy and desirable places for today’s world?
NR 5724 Conservation Ecology (3 credits)
Human activities are having a cumulative effect on the natural systems upon which life depends. Future land management impacts will likely entail unprecedented change in environmental conditions. More integration of the traditional natural resources fields will be required to develop innovative approaches to sustain resource development. Conservation ecology provides insights to the many benefits and services that nature offers and explores strategies to sustain ecological integrity and plan landscapes for human use. It is an emerging interdisciplinary approach to harmonizing the interactions between people and nature at ecosystem scales.
*Available in Fall, Spring, and Summer I (12 week, even numbered years)
NR 5884 Adaptive Management (3 credits)
Faced with limited resources to confront growing challenges, conservation organizations must show that their efforts are strategic, systematic, and results-oriented. This course provides students with the skills and knowledge to design and implement effective conservation projects and to generate clear evidence of their progress toward achieving conservation results. The course provides training in adaptive management (AM), including planning, monitoring, implementing, analyzing, learning from, and adapting conservation projects — essential knowledge and skills for current and emerging conservation practitioners. Graduate students in conservation-focused programs require experiential learning in the practical and applied processes (i.e. adaptive management) and skills (e.g. developing goals and objectives, budget drafting, and leadership) that are essential for achieving conservation results.
NR 5884 Biodiversity Policy (3 credits)
*NEW* Conservation biologists warn that we are in the midst of a great “extinction crisis,” with millions of species threatened due to habitat destruction, climate change, and other anthropogenic factors. This course focuses on examining how we are (and should be) constructing legal regimes and effective political institutions to conserve Earth’s endangered forms of life across multiple levels (ecosystem, landscape, species, population, and genetic diversity). We will examine U.S. legal and political responses to biodiversity loss, with a focus on the Endangered Species Act, as well as the role of international law, especially treaty regimes. We will look at how law is(n’t) succeeding in preserving life on Earth, and pay particular attention to most effective legal practices to conserve biodiversity.
NR 5884 Biodiversity Stewardship (3 credits)
This course builds on the principles of biodiversity science across the many components of stewardship. Participants will each identify a study area (local site or area, a county, or larger region) that provides the context for investigating, documenting, analyzing and promoting biodiversity. Accordingly, students’ projects and course products are highly variable and reflect a wide variety of professional, academic and personal interests. Skills developed in this course can be immediately applied to real-world needs, and some participants may design their projects and products to address an existing need.
NR 5884 Coastal & Marine Systems (3 credits)
*NEW* Approximately 3 billion people, or half of the world’s population, live within 200 kilometers of a coastline. That figure is projected to increase dramatically by 2025. Coastal areas represent complex socio-ecological systems that provide valuable ecosystem services to people and the planet, but these ecosystems are under increasing stress with growing coastal urbanization and other anthropocentric impacts and demands. Coastal management is concerned with protecting, conserving, and managing coasts and coastal resources and requires an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and negotiating often-competing interests. In this course, we will be exploring the socio-ecological systems that comprise coastal areas or zones, as well as the pressures affecting their health and resilience. We will then examine some strategies being developed around the world to manage coastal areas for social, economic, and environmental sustainability.
NR 5884 Human-Wildlife Conflicts (3 credits)
Human-wildlife conflict resolution is a rapidly growing area within the wildlife sciences that draws upon the need for multi-disciplinary approaches to resolve complex issues associated with human domination of ecosystems. The problems people have with wild animals and the problems wild animals have with people require the use of cooperative, collaborative, and innovative approaches if they are to be resolved in ways that maximize both social and ecological benefits. Nowhere do the challenges in this area loom larger than in our urban and suburban environments. Within very recent times the growing conflicts between people and wild animals such as beaver, deer, coyote and Canada geese have developed to a point where the entire paradigm of wildlife management has been changed. This course draws upon some of the emerging issues associated with human-wildlife conflicts and through the use of case histories and examples explore the theory and practice of conflict resolution as well as the practical ethics needed to navigate contemporary wildlife management.
NR 5884 Landscape Systems and Strategies (3 credits)
The cumulative effects of global trends such as increasing population, expanding cities, improving living standards, accelerating climate change, shifting agriculture, and moving coastlines combine with local pressures on individual landscapes. Over the next century, these keystone processes will fundamentally alter landscapes across the globe creating new challenges for productivity, sustainability, resilience, and adaptability. Landscapes are definable frames of human activities and natural systems, ranging from highly altered, such as urban or agricultural lands, to predominately natural, such as wild or resource lands. We rely on landscape organization for essential social and ecosystem services. The imperative for sustainability requires that we develop conservation, development, and governance processes that treat landscapes with a long view. This course looks at the big picture, by examining the challenge of planning large landscapes for both the intermediate and long term. The objective is to construct a vision for unseen, yet sustainable, landscapes.
*Available in Fall, Spring, and Summer I (12 week, on odd-numbered years)
NR 5884 Watershed Stewardship (3 credits)[formerly Watershed Systems Stewardship] This course was developed as an interdisciplinary course covering: watershed identification and mapping; watershed characteristics and evaluation; stormwater engineering; stream corridor restoration; water quality monitoring; native plants and animals; exotic and invasive species; public education; volunteer coordination and training; roles and activities for teachers and students; and advocacy training.