Introduction to Environmental Science

I.     Course Prefix/Number: BIO 106

       Course Name: Introduction to Environmental Science

       Credits: 4 (3 lecture; 3 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Laboratory course introduces study of the environment in which we live and of factors contributing to its alteration.  Content includes ecosystem structure and function; population dynamics; resources; pollution; evaluation and management of natural areas; biodiversity and conservation; overview of ecological balances in nature and humans’ relationship to these balances. Intended for non-science majors. Credit cannot be received in both BIO 103 and BIO 106.

IV.   Learning Objectives

After successfully completing this course a student should be able to:

  1. Define problems, construct hypotheses, generate, analyze, and interpret data relative to diverse environmental issues involved in the alteration of the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the earth’s ecosphere.
  2. Differentiate between fact and opinion about such concepts as global climate change, consequences of human population growth, and sources of energy use.
  3. Compare and evaluate various solutions to problems resulting from environmental alteration of ecological processes and ecosystem services.
  4. Explain the natural recycling of matter and one-way flow of energy within the ecosphere and how those principles are relevant to human welfare.
  5. Interrelate the principles of food webs, primary productivity, and energy laws that affect ecosystem structure and function.
  6. Explain several ways in which biodiversity ultimately supports human economic systems and public health.
  7. Apply ethical principles to local, national, and global environmental issues such as natural resource management, sustainable agriculture, chemical pollution, and sustainable economic development.
  8. Determine the skills necessary to build and maintain effective human relationships within the realms of environmental advocacy and public policy though an understanding of economics, political systems, and worldviews.

Learning Outcomes

By the completion of your biology courses at Oakton, you will have gained the experience to:

  1. Think critically – identify, define, analyze, interpret, and evaluate ideas, concepts, information, problems, solutions, and consequences. This includes the ability to compute and comprehend quantitative information and to engage in the scientific process.
  2. Communicate – communicate ideas, concepts, and information through written and oral means. Collaborate with people of diverse backgrounds and abilities.
  3. Demonstrate literacy – demonstrate the ability to read critically within content areas. Use technology to locate, evaluate, and communicate data, information, ideas, and concepts. Assess, critique, and select from a variety of information resources.
  4. Demonstrate responsibility – demonstrate an understanding of personal responsibility and ethical behavior in one’s own academic and civic life.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

Lecture Topics:

  1. Environmental Problems, Their Causes, and Sustainability
    1. Principles of Sustainability
    2. Ecological Footprints
    3. Tragedy of the Commons
    4. Environmentally Sustainable Societies
  2. Science, Matter, Energy, and Systems
    1. Matter, Energy, Thermodynamics
    2. Macromolecules, DNA, Proteins
    3. Trophic Structure and Energy Pyramids
    4. Ecosystem Dynamics and Biogeochemical Cycles
  3. Biodiversity and Evolution
    1. Dimensions of Biodiversity
    2. Ecological Services and Human Welfare
    3. Natural Selection, Speciation, Extinction, Evolution
    4. Biomes and Life Zones
  4. Community Ecology, Population Ecology and the Human Population
    1. Ecological Niche and Functional Roles
    2. Species Interactions
    3. Disturbance and Succession
    4. Population Dynamics and Demography
    5. Human Population Dynamics
  5. Sustaining Biodiversity: The Species Approach
    1. Species Extinctions and Mass Extinctions
    2. Human Alteration of Environment
    3. Conservation Biology
  6. Sustaining Biodiversity: The Ecosystem Approach
    1. Threats to Forests and Sustainable Forestry
    2. Management of Nature Reserves and National Parks
    3. Biodiversity Hotspots
    4. Restoration Ecology
    5. Threats to Marine Systems and Sustainable Ocean Management
  7. Food, Soil, and Pest Management
    1. Food Security and Food Production
    2. Environmental Problems from Agriculture
    3. Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Farming
    4. Pesticides, Herbicides, and Sustainable Pest Control
    5. Genetically Modified Organisms
  8. Water Resources and Water Pollution
    1. Freshwater Resources and Virtual Water Use
    2. Dams, Conveyance, and Desalination
    3. Water Use Efficiency and Technology
    4. Flooding and Water Pollution
    5. Rivers, Lakes, and Ocean Systems
  9. Nonrenewable Energy Resources
    1. Net Energy Ratios
    2. Oil, Natural Gas, and Coal
    3. Nuclear Energy and Tradeoffs
  10. Renewable Energy Resources and Energy Efficiency
    1. Energy Efficiency and Technology
    2. Solar, Hydro power, and Wind power
    3. Biomass, Geothermal, and Hydrogen power
    4. The Energy Transition to a Sustainable Future
  11. Environmental Hazards and Human Health
    1. Biological Hazards and Infectious Disease
    2. Chemical Hazards
    3. Risk Perception and Risk Assessment
  12. Air Pollution, Climate Change, and the Atmosphere
    1. Atmospheric Dynamics and Climate
    2. Outdoor and Indoor Air Pollution
    3. Acid Deposition and Ozone Depletion
    4. Fossil Fuel Emissions and Climate Change
  13. Urbanization and Solid Waste
    1. Urbanization and Population Trends
    2. Transportation and Sustainable Cities
    3. Solid Waste Management and Recycling
  14. Economics, Politics, and Worldviews
    1. Economic Systems and the Biosphere
    2. Economic Tools to Address Environmental Problems
    3. Politics and Public Policy
    4. Environmental Security, Worldviews, and Environmental Ethics

Laboratory Topics:

  1. The Greening of Campus: Campus Sustainability Report
  2. Quantification of Environmental Problems
  3. The Scientific Method, Hypothesis Testing, and Data Analysis
  4. Human Survivorship Changes
  5. Experimental Design: Phytotoxicity and Soil Contamination
  6. Environmental Risk Perception
  7. Tree Community Diversity and Descriptive Statistics
  8. Global Climate Change and Automobile Emissions Quantification
  9. Oakton’s Natural Areas and Species
  10. Aquatic Species Diversity and Diversity Indices
  11. Environmental Documentary Rhetorical Analysis
  12. The Energy Transition: Policy and Critical Analysis

Alternate Labs:

  1. LD50 and Animal Toxicity
  2. Soil Components: physical and chemical
  3. Problems of Hazardous Waste Disposal
  4. Acid Rain
  5. Nuclear vs. Conventional Energy Generation
  6. Problems in Land Use Management
  7. Water Pollution: Is Dilution the Solution to Pollution?
  8. Environmental Field and Sampling Studies
  9. Environmental Cartographic Interpretation
  10. Water Quality Analysis Utilizing Macro-Invertebrates as Indicators
  11. Field Trips:
    • Waste-Water Reclamation Facility
    • Prairie Ecosystem Analysis
    • Oak-Savanna Ecosystem Analysis
    • Wetland Ecosystem Analysis
    • Riverine Ecosystem Analysis
    • Solid Waste Recycling

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Instructional methods may include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Lecture/discussion
  • A.V. materials: movies, videos, power point slides
  • Field trips/Field work in Oakton’s natural areas
  • Data analysis assignments/Group work
  • Lab exercises and writing in diverse modes

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

May vary depending on instructor, but students are expected to:

  • attend all lectures and laboratory periods
  • participate in class discussion
  • read assigned materials as scheduled
  • take thorough notes in lecture and lab
  • perform other assignments as scheduled

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Text: Miller, Jr., G. Tyler and Scott E. Spoolman, Sustaining the Earth, 10th Ed. Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning, 2012.

Lab Manual: Wagner, Travis and Robert Sanford, Environmental Science: Active Learning Laboratories and Applied Problem Sets, 2nd Ed. J. Wiley & Sons, 2010.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

May vary depending on the instructor and may include:

  • Quizzes and Exams: 50%
  • Research/Analysis/Criticism paper(s): 10%
  • Class participation: 10%
  • Oral presentation(s): 10%
  • Laboratory reports/Formal lab reports: 20%

XI.   Other Course Information

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.