» College - Graduate Level

Global Change Research Highlights: Climate, Irrigation, and Fertilization - Understanding U.S. Crop Yields

Results: Using corn and soybeans as their testing ground, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised methods to peer into the mechanisms that modulate crop yield variability. They used statistical models to examine how climate variability impacts yields of these popular bioenergy crops at the county level. Among climate factors, the team showed that temperature is predominant in corn-growing counties, both by volume and percentage of production. Precipitation has a similar impact. The amount of energy from the sun, or radiation, has a much smaller effect USA-wide on both soybeans and corn. To understand the impact of management practices, the research team designed and conducted numerical modeling to reveal how irrigation and fertilization affect crop yield variability. Averaged over the USA, fertilization has a larger impact than irrigation. The work demonstrated that dynamically determining fertilization timing and rates in their models can greatly improve the predictive capability for yields of both crops. Read More

Understanding How Science Really Works

Science is an inspiring process of discovery that helps satisfy the natural curiosity with which we are all born. Unfortunately, traditional instruction that misrepresents science as a body of facts to be memorized and the process of science as a rigid 5-step procedure can deaden students’ spirit of inquiry. Students should come away from our classrooms with an appreciation of the natural world — fascinated by its intricacies and excited to learn more. They should view and value science as a multi-faceted, flexible process for better understanding that world. Such views encourage life-long learning and foster critical thinking about everyday problems students face in their lives. You can cultivate these ways of thinking in your students through science instruction that accurately and enthusiastically communicates the true nature of science and that encourages students to question how we know what we know. Fortunately, fostering such understandings needn’t require reorganizing your entire curriculum. Simple shifts in how content and activities are approached can make a big difference in overcoming student misconceptions and building more accurate views of the process of science. Educational research supports the following strategies for teaching about the scientific endeavor: Make it explicit: Key concepts regarding the nature and process of science should be explicitly and independently emphasized. Engaging in inquiry and studying the history of science are most helpful when the nature-of-science concepts they exemplify are explicitly drawn out in discussion and interactions. Help them reflect: Throughout instruction, students should be encouraged to examine, test, and revise their ideas about what science is and how it works. Give it context, again and again: Key concepts about the nature and process of science should be revisited in multiple contexts throughout the school year, allowing students to see how they apply to real-world situations. We’ve assembled a variety of resources to help you increase student understanding of nature and the process of science. To improve your own content knowledge, explore Understanding Science 101 and our resource library. To prepare yourself with lesson plans, teaching tips, and pedagogical strategies, visit a Teacher’s Lounge or explore the all-level resources listed below and to the right. Read More


Our Mission EnvironmentalScience.org’s mission is to be the most reliable and expansive advocate for environmental science education and careers. About Our Data Information, statistics, and data featured on our site was taken from federal and state agencies, including: IPEDS – The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System NCES – National Center for Education Statistics BLS – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Read More


Tight budgets, limited resources, new regulations, unexpected problems, citizen concerns, “to do” lists that stretch over decades—stormwater management at the community level is often about how people collaborate and make day-to-day decisions. When faced with a new technology, program managers need to know whether it will mesh with the culture of their organization. Will staff and contractors understand how to install the new systems? Do they have the resources on hand to build them? Can they be maintained without blowing the budget? Will they protect water quality and help meet regulatory requirements? In 12 years of working alongside communities, we have found that the answer to such questions is “yes” when two essential ingredients are present. The first is a community’s capacity to evaluate innovative designs and practices and make them their own. And the first depends on the second—a local champion with the respect, trust, and power to put new science-based stormwater management technologies into practice and inspire real cultural change for the future. These case studies illustrate what can happen when these necessary ingredients for change meet some of the biggest challenges faced by stormwater managers nationwide. Read More

SEED: The Untold Story

Few things on Earth are as miraculous and vital as seeds. Worshipped and treasured since the dawn of humankind, these subtle flecks of life are the source of all existence. Like tiny time capsules, they contain the songs, sustenance, memories, and medicines of entire cultures. They feed us, clothe us, and provide the raw materials for our everyday lives. In a very real sense, they are life itself. Yet in our modern world, these precious gifts of nature are in grave danger. In less than a century of industrial agriculture, our once abundant seed diversity—painstakingly created by ancient farmers and gardeners over countless millennia—has been drastically winnowed down to a handful of mass-produced varieties. Under the spell of industrial “progress” and a lust for profit, our quaint family farmsteads have given way to mechanized agribusinesses sowing genetically identical crops on a monstrous scale. Recent news headlines suggest that Irish history may already be repeating in our globalized food system. Articles in the New York Times and other mainstream sources report the impending collapse of the world’s supplies of bananas, oranges, coffee and coconuts—all due to a shortsighted over-reliance on a single, fragile variety. Without seed diversity, crop diseases rise and empires fall. More than a cautionary tale of “man against nature,” the remarkable story of seeds is an epic “good-versus-evil” saga playing out in our modern lives. For eons, cultures around the world have believed seeds to be our birthright: a covenant with the earth shared by all and passed down across generations. But today, our seeds are increasingly private property held in corporate hands. A cadre of ten agrichemical companies (including Syngenta, Bayer, and Monsanto) now controls more than two-thirds of the global seed market, reaping unprecedented profits. Genetically modified crops (GMOs) engineered in their sterile laboratories dominate farmers’ fields and dinner tables in the United States and countries around the world. Farmers from Minnesota to Madhya Pradesh, India toil in economic thrall to the “Gene Giants,” paying hefty licensing fees to plant their patented crops. If they attempt to save their own seed at the end of a season, following a tradition practiced by humans for over 12,000 years, they face ruthless prosecution. (Suffering under this indentured servitude, over 250,000 farmers in India have committed suicide in the last 20 years.) People everywhere are waking up to the vital importance of seeds for our future. In recent months, March Against Monsanto protests have rallied millions in more than 400 cities and 50 countries to the cause of seed freedom. Ballot initiatives to label genetically modified foods have been proposed in U.S. cities from California to Connecticut—a direct threat to the profits of the Gene Giants and their Big Food cronies. Seed libraries, community gardens, and a new generation of passionate young farmers are cropping up to shift the balance toward a more sustainable and sovereign seed paradigm. A David and Goliath battle is underway, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Read More

World's Largest Marine Reserve Created Off Antarctica

New 598,000 square-mile protected area is more than twice the size of Texas, and will protect everything from penguins to whales. Read More

A Big-Picture Approach to Fisheries Management

U.S. fishery managers often focus on one species at a time when determining how, when, and where fishing takes place. But each fish population is part of an interconnected ecosystem in which they interact with other fish, ocean wildlife, and habitats. Fish are also directly affected by changing environments and human activities. Threats such as ocean acidification, warming waters, overfishing, and habitat destruction can damage ecosystems and cause ripple effects, such as the decline of important fish populations. Read More

Teaching for a Sustainable Future in Undergraduate Courses

By the time today’s undergraduates send their children to college, there will be more than eight billion people on Earth. Our climate will be punctuated by extreme weather events. One or more major metropolitan areas may have experienced a devastating earthquake or volcanic eruption. Energy resources will be strained and more expensive. This world requires both an Earth literate public and a workforce that can bring geoscience to bear on tough societal issues. Developing widespread Earth literacy and this workforce are the objectives of the InTeGrate project. InTeGrate is a 5-year, NSF-funded STEP Center grant, running from 2012 through 2016. The STEP (STEM Talent Expansion Program) Center program enables “a group of faculty representing a cross section of institutions of higher education to identify a national challenge or opportunity in undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to propose a comprehensive and coordinated set of activities that will be carried out to address that challenge or opportunity within a national context.” Read More

Pedagogy in Action: Connecting Theory to Classroom Practice

The goal of the Pedagogic Service is to encourage educators to reflect critically on their own teaching practices and to support them in exploring new pedagogies. Building on a successful model in the geosciences, we have created a library of pedagogic methods and a collection of activities which exemplify each method. The complete library is available through the Pedagogy in Action portal. Additionally, the library is used by our partners to create customized pedagogic portals for their own websites. Each portal links together information about pedagogic methods with examples of their use. For example, comPADRE, a digital library supporting physics and astronomy education, has created a physics pedagogy portal with pedagogic methods of high interest in teaching physics and example activities appropriate for physics classes. The pedagogic portal is fully integrated into their existing website. Read More

Resources for Teaching Large Classes

A resource for teaching large classes (focus in geosciences). Read More


EERL's mission is to be the best possible online collection of environmental and energy sustainability resources for community college educators and for their students. The resources are also available for practitioners and the public.


EERL is a product of a community college-based National Science Foundation Center, the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC), and its partners.

Contact ATEEC 563.441.4087 or by email ateec@eicc.edu