SUS 7200C Sustainable Aquatic, Terrestrial, and Atmospheric Systems

Fall 2017. Subject to refinement/updating.

Instructor: Professor Kyle McDonald
Schedule: Thursday 5:20 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Location: NAC 5/110
3 credits 3 hours/week


Professor Kyle McDonald
Office hours by appointment: Thursday 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Marshak 834.

When emailing, Professor McDonald requests that students include the course title “SUS-7200C” in the subject line with student's contact information, including their full name.


Growing concern about human impact on all of Earth’s systems has led to a rash of initiatives to reduce our global ecological footprint and to greater interest in living and designing sustainably.  An understanding of the ecological interactions that underlie our Earth systems is critical for developing the sustainable solutions that we seek. This course will place environmental issues in an ecological framework.

Note: Students registered for cross-listed course EAS-B4800 or EAS-44800 (4 credit hours) will have an additional lab section on Wednesday evenings (format is open for discussion).


  • Be familiar with the global environmental picture
  • Understand ecosystems, their structure, how they function, and challenges to their sustainability
  • Understand the basics of the cycling of carbon and water in the Earth system and concerns and consequences of associated human influence
  • Appreciate the intrinsic and extrinsic values of ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Understand energy usage and production including renewable resources
  • Understand atmospheric processes and involvement in ecosystem interactions
  • Comprehend the dimensions of the sustainability challenge in terms of economics, resources, the public and public policy and urban sprawl.

Course Requirements

Participation and attendance: Because of the participatory nature of the class, timely attendance is mandatory. You are allowed one absence or three late arrivals with no questions asked. Beyond that, your semester grade may be lowered.

Blackboard: All students must use CUNY electronic blackboard. It is assumed that you will check blackboard for all assignments and announcements. Blackboard includes a feature that automatically sends announcements via email (CCNY email). Be sure you check the appropriate email CUNY no longer permits auto-forwarding of email. On-line classes, via Blackboard, may be assigned for some weeks. There will also be some guest lecturers.

Homework: Weekly reading of assignments. Timely completion of all required work

In Class Etiquette: Silence cellular phones during class. Laptops may be used for note taking. Please, no consumption of food during class.

Required Reading

Reading:  Environmental Science: A Global Concern (12th edition) by William and Mary Cunningham (2011) is the required text for this class.

Note: There is a 13th edition of the text available as well (published 2014). Students may use that version.

Additional readings will be distributed throughout the course. Check Blackboard for reading assignments.


  1. Participation and attendance- 15%
  2. Assignments 1-3: 45%
    1. Reading and analysis of writings of Gifford Pinchot, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold (10%)
    2. Newspaper Article Summary and Analysis. (15%)
    3. Analysis of large datasets (20%)
  3. Final Project– 30%
    1. Complete & timely submission of summary and literature cited (2% of final grade)
    2. Complete & timely submission of outline (3% of final grade)
  4. Final presentation / discussion (10%)

Note: Those registered in EAS-B4800 and EAS-44800, these are four credit hour courses. The above schedule represents 75% of your grade. Your grade in the lab section will constitute 25% of your grade.

Course Outline

Date (subject to revision)


Assignments due

Readings will be drawn from the text and supplementary material


Science and Sustainability


Assignment I: Readings for Analysis




Cunningham & Cunningham


Chapters 1 and 2:

Understanding Our Environment

Principles of Science and Systems


Gifford Pinchot: “The Conservation of Natural Resources”


John Muir: “Our National Parks”


Aldo Leopold: “The Land Ethic” in A Sand County Almanac


David Owen: “Green Manhattan” in The NewYorker



Earth Systems

Cunningham & Cunningham

Chapter 4, and Case Study: Evolution, Biological

Communities, & Species Interactions



Ecosystems and Biomes


Assignment I: Analysis of Readings

(Note due dates for contributions to discussion board given in the assignment)


Cunningham & Cunningham

(same as prior week)

Chapter 4, and Case Study: Evolution, Biological

Communities, & Species Interactions

Chapter 5: Biomes



Ecosystems and Biodiversity


Assignment II: Newspaper

article summary and analysis



Chapter 5: Biomes

Chapter 11: Biodiversity: Preserving species



Diplomatic Exercise

Ambassador Laura Garber







Assign Data Set Analysis

Project: Part I



Assignment II: Article summary and analysis


Cunningham & Cunningham

Chapter 17: Water Use and Management

Chapter 18: Water Pollution

Chapter 22: Urbanization & Sustainable Cities


No Class (Monday Schedule)





Field Trip – Bronx River Restoration Project



Cunningham & Cunningham

Chapter 6: Population Biology

Chapter 7: Human Population

Chapter 9 section 2: Food and Hunger: Key Food

Sources (pg. 183-1187)

Chapter 10: Farming: Conventional and

Sustainable Practices



Remote Sensing as a Monitoring Tool


Dataset Analysis Class (Computer Lab)


Assign Data Set Analysis

Project: Part II


Assign Final Project



Assignment III: Analysis of Large Datasets - Part I





Cycling of Water, Carbon and Energy: Carbon and Climate


Cunningham and Cunningham:

Chapter 15, Sections, 4, 5, & 6: Air Weather and



Final Project:

Provide partner groups, topics



Presentation of Dataset Analysis Projects


Assignment III: Analysis of Large Datasets - Part II




Cycling of Water, Carbon and Energy: Climate and the Cryosphere



Cunningham and Cunningham:

Chapter 15, Sections, 4, 5, & 6: Air Weather and



Final Project:

Summary with literature cited.

Any questions or concerns



Our Changing Planet: Evidence of our Tenure

Potential Guest Lecture

Final Project:

Short update to class and written

Bulleted outline of each section

Environmental Issue, Ecological Concept(s),

Daily Life, Sustainable Practice with literature







No Class – Thanksgiving




Additional topics of interest


TBD (IPCC Report?)


Final Project (Papers) Due



Final Projects – Proposal Panel






Final Exams