ENVS Topics Courses for Spring 2021

Environmental Studies Topics Courses*
Spring 2021


*Please note that ENVS 291, 391, and 491 options are open to undergraduate students only, while ENVS 591 options are open to both undergrads (mostly geared towards junior/senior level students) and grad students.

View your spring 2021 registration date


ENVS 291 Options:


ENVS 291 Topic: Hydroponics Lab
Instructor: Dr. John Jones, jonesj39@vcu.edu
Credits: 1
Section 002 CRN 41183
Wednesdays 9:00-9:50am

Important Note: This lab follows a non-traditional structure in order to function during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Please read more about the course and request an override here.

Course Modality: Blended-asynchronous instruction

Course Description: In this lab, students will grow and harvest nutritionally dense vegetables using microgreen and hydroponic growing techniques. Harvested vegetables support the VCU Ram Pantry and other near-campus food pantries. Students will learn a combination of practical agronomic and project management skills, while deepening their understanding of nutrition and emergency food systems.

Recommended Prerequisites: none


ENVS 291 Topic: Healthy Food & Nutrition
Instructor: Dr. John Jones, jonesj39@vcu.edu
Credits: 1
Section 003 CRN 41184
Thursdays 9:30-10:45am

Course Modality: Face-to-face instruction

Course Description: This course helps students develop healthy personal food behaviors as they transition into their college experiences. Students will learn the basics of balanced diets, how to read nutritional labels, basic cooking techniques, and making healthy choices while on campus.

Recommended Prerequisites: None.  Although this course could benefit anyone, it is designed for first and second year students.


ENVS 391 Options:


ENVS 391 Story Mapping for Environmental Science
Instructor: Jennifer Ciminelli, s2jmcimi@vcu.edu
Credits: 1
Section 001 CRN 41630

Course Modality: Online-asynchronous instruction

Course Description: In this course, students will learn techniques to take traditional environmental scientific communication and weave interactive and engaging narratives aimed at providing more holistic and deeper experiences for the information consumer.  Students will learn how to think through this communication style and then leverage ArcGIS Online story mapping, web application and web mapping applications to deliver content to their audience.

Recommended Prerequisites: None, but students taking this course need to have working knowledge of computer basics.  Please email Ms. Ciminelli with questions about the course.


ENVS 391 Energy Policy: The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy
Instructor: Dr. Brian Toibin, toibinbt@vcu.edu
Credits: 3

Section 002 CRN 42230

Course Modality: Online-asynchronous instruction

Course Description:  This course will survey the national and international policy decisions that are driving the current and future energy landscape. The course will examine policy decisions concerning the development of the major sources of energy; examine the environmental, social, and political implications of those decisions; and explore the policy factors moving the world towards a cleaner more renewable energy future.  Purchase of a textbook may be required.

Recommended Prerequisites: None.  This course is geared towards ENVS students who want a deeper dive into policy decisions driving much of the environmental debates.  It may also interest political science or sociology students who want to understand the drivers of this critical area of policy debate.


ENVS 491 Options:


ENVS 491 Topic: Avian Ecology & Conservation lecture & lab (CAPSTONE OPTION*)
Students interested in taking Avian Ecology & Conservation MUST register for the lecture (ENVS 491 Section 001) AND lab (ENVS 491 Section 002).
If you would like to take this lecture + lab, please register for ENVS Section 001 (lecture) on your assigned registration date and then email Lindsay Freeman at envsadvising@vcu.edu to request an override into ENVS 491 Section 002 (lab).
Instructor: Dr. Lesley Buluck, lpbulluck@vcu.edu
Credits: 4 (2 credit lecture + 2 credit lab)
Section 001 CRN 41181 and Section 002 CRN 41187
Wednesdays 10:00-11:50am (lecture) and Fridays 7:00-11:00am (lab)

Course Modality: Face-to-face instruction.  Meet in the Trani Life Sciences Building room 235 for the lecture and lab.

Course Description (for Section 001 lecture & Section 002 lab) This 4-credit course combines both lecture (ENVS 491 Section 001, 2 credits) and lab (ENVS 491 Section 002, 2 credits) material; students must enroll in both courses. The content of this course builds on a framework of ecological theory and conservation practice within the context of birds. We will use birds as examples, but the concepts covered are broadly applicable, and many of the skills gained in the lab will be transferable to other species of wildlife. Through lectures and discussions, we will cover topics such as population dynamics, dispersal/migration, effects of habitat alteration (e.g., fire, timber harvest, and fragmentation), climate change impacts, urban ecology, and species interactions. Lab sessions will focus on building skills in bird identification in the field as well as data analysis and interpretation (including citizen science data). We will meet in person on Wednesdays from 10-11:50am and on Fridays from 7-11am. We will often spend these early Friday mornings in the field.

Recommended Prerequisites (for lecture and lab sections): BIOL 317 and STAT 210 (or by instructor permission).

*This lecture/ lab combination can count as capstone if completed while you have senior standing.  If you are not a senior or have already completed an ENVS capstone course, it will count towards electives for the ENVS major/minor and towards VCU’s upper level credit requirement.

If you are on the 2018-2019 bulletin (or an earlier bulletin year) and want this class to count as your capstone, Lindsay can sub in this course for your ENVS 490 requirement on DegreeWorks.

If you are on the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 bulletin and want this class to count as your capstone, you will also need to register for ENVS 499 capstone experience.   The credits for ENVS 491 will slot in towards your required ENVS electives, while registering for ENVS 499 indicates that you’ve fulfilled the capstone requirement.  An override will be required for ENVS 499- please email envsadvising@vcu.edu for an override into this course.


ENVS 491 Topic: Urban Ecology (CAPSTONE OPTION*)
Instructor: Dr. Cathy Viverette, cbvivere@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 003 CRN 41253
Wednesdays 2:00-4:40pm

Course Modality: Hybrid-asynchronous instruction

Course Description: An interdisciplinary examination of problems and issues central to environmental studies. Each student will participate in a group research project focusing on urban forests and the ecosystem services urban trees provide. Students will collect data on existing urban forest cover by conducting tree inventories, mapping distribution, and estimating the economic value provided by trees on public land. In spring 2021, tree inventory work will occur primarily on the VCU campus. Additional inventory activities,and possible opportunities for tree planting, may occur in Richmond neighborhoods near campus and on the Southside of Richmond. Final project results and analysis will be provided to our community partners in the VCU Community Forest Program.  The course is scheduled from 2–4:40 on Wednesdays. Class lectures and group work will be conducted remotely via zoom or other remote platforms. Field activities will occur regularly at on campus locations throughout the semester, during the class period, and students should be prepared to work outside in a variety of weather conditions. Groups may have to meet and conduct additional field data collection outside of class in order to complete project deliverables. Field work opportunities mayalso occur at off campus locations. Students that participate in activities at off campus locations will have to arrange their own transportation.

Recommended Prerequisites: This course is primarily meant for students with junior or senior standing.

Students who completed ENVS 490 Research Seminar in Environmental Studies (taught by Dr. Viverette) during the spring 2019 semester should not take this course (ENVS 491 Urban Ecology is the same class). 

*This course can count as capstone if completed while you have senior standing.  If you are not a senior or have already completed an ENVS capstone course, it will count towards electives for the ENVS major/minor and towards VCU’s upper level credit requirement.

If you are on the 2018-2019 bulletin (or an earlier bulletin year) and want this class to count as your capstone, Lindsay can sub in this course for your ENVS 490 requirement on DegreeWorks.

If you are on the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 bulletin and want this class to count as your capstone, you will also need to register for ENVS 499 capstone experience.   The credits for ENVS 491 will slot in towards your required ENVS electives, while registering for ENVS 499 indicates that you’ve fulfilled the capstone requirement.  An override will be required for ENVS 499- please email envsadvising@vcu.edu for an override into this course.


ENVS 491 Invasive Species Management in Urban Parks (CAPSTONE OPTION*)
Instructor: Dr. Ed Crawford, ercrawford@vcu.edu
C
redits: 3
Section 004 CRN 38362
Fridays 1:00-3:40pm

Course Modality: Face-to-face instruction

The James River Park System is an urban ‘wilderness’ park that is often described as the City of Richmond’s premier asset. It threads along a spectacular section of the James River rapids and encompasses a rich assortment of habitats and natural resources. But the 600+acre Park is in trouble. Long overlooked infestations of invasive vines, shrubs, and trees threaten the health and structure of the park’s forests and natural plant communities.

This course will introduce you to the innovative James River Park System Habitat Restoration Plan, a long-term plan to manage non-native invasive plants and restore natural areas within the park. In this course, you will work with the environmental professionals, park personnel, and community partners who established the Plan and developed the JRPS Invasive Plant Task Force tasked with implementing it. In this course, you will gain experience in: 1. identification and management of non-native invasive plant species and native species for re-introduction, 2. documentation and quantification of ongoing ecological restoration projects within the park, 3. identification and mapping of high quality habitats or species of special concern in the park, 4. collaborative work with park personnel and community partners to develop practices that balance land use, land management, and land maintenance, 5. developing and delivering surveys and outreach materials on invasives for homeowners, professional resource managers, and commercial nursery and landscape businesses. The ideas and experience you gain will be applicable to an emergent problem that is not just local but regional, national, and worldwide in scope.

Recommended Prerequisites: BIOL 152 is helpful, but not required for this course.   This course is meant for students with junior and senior standing.

*This course can count as capstone if completed while you have senior standing.  If you are not a senior or have already completed an ENVS capstone course, it will count towards electives for the ENVS major/minor and towards VCU’s upper level credit requirement.

If you are on the 2018-2019 bulletin (or an earlier bulletin year) and want this class to count as your capstone, Lindsay can sub in this course for your ENVS 490 requirement on DegreeWorks.

If you are on the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 bulletin and want this class to count as your capstone, you will also need to register for ENVS 499 capstone experience.   The credits for ENVS 491 will slot in towards your required ENVS electives, while registering for ENVS 499 indicates that you’ve fulfilled the capstone requirement.  An override will be required for ENVS 499- please email envsadvising@vcu.edu for an override into this course.


ENVS 491 Food & Environment
Instructor: Dr. Steve McIninch, spmcinin@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 005 CRN 38270
Monday/ Wednesdays 12:30-1:45pm

Course Modality: Online-synchronous instruction

Course Description: We all must eat. Growing, processing, cooking, and eating our food links us to our ecosystem more than any other act. . Global agriculture sustains us (and the other 7 billion people out there) but is also a major cause of many types of environmental degradation. Food and the Environment is a course directed at understanding the linkages between agricultural production and the environment. How is a degrading environment influencing the food supply and how does the food supply affect the environment.

Recommended Prerequisites: None


ENVS 491 Topic: Chesapeake Bay Restoration
Instructor: Joe Wood, woodjd@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 902 CRN 41423
Fridays 4:00-6:40pm

Course Modality: Online-synchronous instruction

Course Description: This course will cover policy initiatives and restoration efforts directed towards protecting the Chesapeake Bay, particularly those focused in Virginia.  The course will cover the clean water act and how it has influenced these efforts, modeling tools, access datasets and will generally cover various professional careers that focus directly on these initiatives.  Students will be expected to use Excel but to manage data and develop conclusions.

Recommended Prerequisites: None


ENVS 591 Options:


ENVS 591 Topic: Environments & Policies of Urban Food Systems
Instructor: Dr. John Jones, jonesj39@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 901 CRN 39524
Wednesdays 7:00-9:40pm

Course Modality: Face-to-face instruction

Course Description: This course examines how environments and public policies shape American urban food systems. Broadly defined, the elements of the urban food system include the production/cultivation, distribution, preparation, consumption, and waste management of food products utilized by humans in urban spaces for nourishment and/or pleasure. Entrenched environmental, social, economic, political, and bureaucratic factors underpin this system. To explore these factors, this course employs a variety of interdisciplinary lenses, including: environmental studies; public administration; public health and nutrition; urban planning; political science; and sociology. This course will include field-based service-learning opportunities in the greater Richmond region through several off-campus site visits.

Recommended Prerequisites: None


ENVS 591 Topic: Environmental Regulation
Instructor: Bud Watson, jmwatson2@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 902 CRN 34893
Thursdays 7:00-9:40pm

Course Modality: Face-to-face instruction

Course Description: This course is designed to complement ENVS 660, Environmental Law, for graduate students to provide an extensive introduction to environmental regulation, the working element of most environmental agency activity. It also functions as a stand-alone introductory course on the use of environmental regulations for environmental management for both undergraduate and graduate students. The course takes advantage of the presence of federal, state, and local environmental agencies in the Richmond area to provide interaction between agency professionals and students for both educational and work opportunities. Thus, the course is also designed to prepare graduates for professional work in environmental compliance and permitting.

Recommended Prerequisites: none


ENVS 591 Topic: Geospatial Data in R
Instructor: Dr. Rodney Dyer, rjdyer@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 903 CRN 41188
Wednesdays 4:00-6:40pm

Course Modality: Online-synchronous instruction

Course Description: This is an introduction to creating, using, and manipulating geographically references data for environmental data analysis and planning using the R statistical language.  Topics include data maintenance, global positioning systems, vector and raster operations, spatial analysis, advanced visualization, and geographic data standards.

Recommended Prerequisites: Participants must have their own laptop.  Open to graduate students as well as undersgraduates who have successfully completed ENVS 343 Data Literacy or ENVS 543 Environmental Data Literacy (or by instructor permission).


ENVS 591 Topic: Air Pollution Control & Modeling
Instructor: Dr. Timothy Kelly, tmkelly2@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 906 CRN 38797
Wednesdays 7:00-9:40pm

Course Modality: Online-synchronous instruction

Course Description:
Considering local and global air pollution problems and national requirements as well as international agreements on pollution control, students will be able to determine necessary emission reductions to prevent harm to occur to human health, welfare, and climate. By the end of the course through lectures, problem solving in supervised class meetings, readings, presentations, and exams, the students will have demonstrated skills to formulate and solve often complex air pollution problems. Students will be able to develop and apply simple mathematical models to predict the atmospheric chemical transformation of pollutants as well as horizontal and vertical transport throughout the troposphere and stratosphere and exchange between the hemispheres. Students will become proficient to process, analyze, and interpret air pollution and meteorological data and to apply scientific methods and environmental engineering strategies that help to promote a more sustainable and healthy environment. Further, they will be able to discuss knowledge gaps that require more advanced studying and possibly future research. Their communication skills will improve through discussions and individual project presentations; and, they will obtain an appreciation for the complexity and importance of environmental engineering.

Recommended Prerequisites: None


ENVS 591 Section CO1 Swiftwater Safety
Instructor: Joey Parent, parentaj@vcu.edu
Credits: 1
Section CO1 CRN 40115
Saturday, April 24th and Sunday, April 25th, 2020, 8:00am-6:00pm

Students should be able to assist in maneuvering a guided paddle raft. Participants should be in good health and overall fitness, possess solid swimming ability, and be comfortable swimming in moving current during river drills. Participants should dress appropriately for weather and temperature and expect to be in the water for extended periods of time.

Course Modality: Hybrid-flexible synchronous instruction

Course Description: The River Safety and Rescue class teaches recognition and avoidance of common river hazards, execution of self-rescue techniques, and simple rescues of recreational paddlers in distress. Emphasis is placed both on personal safety and on simple, commonly used skills. Fundamental techniques for dealing with hazards that carry greater risks for both victim and rescuer, such as entrapments, and pins, also are also taught. This course is aimed at whitewater boaters interested in learning fundamental river rescue skills.

Important Note: This class will only meet on Saturday, April 24th and Sunday, April 25th.  Attendance to both days of the course is mandatory.  Failure to attend either day will result in a failing grade.

Essential Eligibility Criteria

This Course is open to all individuals who acknowledge the ability to perform the following essential eligibility criteria:

  • Breathe independently (i.e., not require medical devices to sustain breathing)
  • Independently maintain sealed airway passages while under water
  • Independently hold head upright without neck / head support
  • Manage personal care independently or with assistance of a companion
  • Manage personal mobility independently or with a reasonable amount of assistance
  • Follow instructions and effectively communicate independently or with assistance of a companion
  • Independently turn from face-down to face-up and remain floating face up while wearing a properly fitted life jacket
  • Get on / off or in / out of a paddlecraft independently or with a reasonable amount of assistance
  • Independently get out and from under a capsized paddlecraft
  • Remount or reenter the paddlecraft following deep water capsize independently or with a reasonable amount of assistance
  • Maintain a safe body position while attempting skills, activities and rescues listed in the appropriate Course Outline, and have the ability to recognize and identify to others when such efforts would be unsafe given your personal situation

ENVS 591 Topics: Teaching Practicum (for Teaching Assistants!)
Instructor: Dr. Rodney Dyer, rjdyer@vcu.edu
C
redits: 1, 2, or 3 (depending on what class you are a teaching assistant for)
There are three sections of this course.  If you are interested in TAing for ENVS 300, you need to request an override into ENVS 591 section 001 CRN 42180

Course Modality: Blended-asynchronous instruction

Recommended Prerequisites: For the three credit section of this course (undergrads TAing for ENVS 300), the prerequisite is ENVS 300 (strictly enforced- overrides will only be given to students who meet this requirement).

Course Description: The three credit section of Teaching Practicum (formally known as the Seminar in Sustainability Academics, or SemSA) is for students who desire a deeper understanding of sustainability issues and strategies and who feel the need to be able to communicate more convincingly about sustainability issues, challenges and practices. SemSA builds on sustainability issue literacy and activities introduced in the Sustainable Societies-James River Basin (SS-JRB) course (ENVS 300). SemSA students put their issue literacy and communication skills to work mentoring students in a SS-JRB class. By practicing varying methods of delivering and sharing information and types of learning activities in the lab-like environment of the SS-JRB classroom, SemSA students deepen their own issue knowledge and have the opportunity to practice management, mentoring and leadership skills. The goal of the SemSA course is to help equip motivated students to be knowledgeable, confident, effective sustainability leaders.

Important Note: Students in this course will be teaching assistants for Dr. Toibin’s ENVS 300 course.   If you completed ENVS 300 with a grade of A or B and are interested in being a teaching assistant for this course, please email Dr. Toibin for more information.  After he gives you permission to enroll in this section of ENVS 591, please contact Lindsay Freeman at envsadvising@vcu.edu to request an override.


Additional Course Information for Spring 2021:

To view additional ENVS course descriptions and prerequisite requirements (for non-topics courses), please click here.

ENVS 335 Environmental Geology (a major requirement for environmental studies students who entered VCU prior to fall 2020) has been discontinued.  Current ENVS majors can substitute in any upper level ENVS or approved/related elective for this requirement (Lindsay Freeman will submit the substitution waiver before you graduate).

ENVZ 335 Environmental Geology Lab (a major requirement for environmental studies students who entered VCU prior to fall 2020) has been discontinued.  It will be waived for all current students who haven’t yet completed it (Lindsay Freeman will submit the waiver before you graduate).

ENVS 411 Oceanography (a major requirement for environmental studies students who entered VCU prior to fall 2020) has been discontinued.  Current ENVS majors can substitute in any upper level ENVS or approved/related elective for this requirement (Lindsay Freeman will submit the substitution waiver before you graduate).  Our suggested oceanography substitution is ENVS 355 WATER, which is being taught during spring 2021.

Do you want to take multiple topics courses that share a course number (for instance, two different sections of ENVS 591)?  Please email Lindsay Freeman at envsadvising@vcu.edu to ask for a duplicate course override for that course number!

Are you a senior ENVS major looking for a capstone course for Spring 2021?  Here are your capstone options!

  • ENVS 314 Man & Environment- online/ synchronous option
  • ENVS 491 Invasive Species Management in Urban Parks- in person option
  • ENVS 491 Urban Ecology- hybrid/ asynchronous (partially in person) option
  • ENVS 491 Avian Ecology & Conservation (lecture + lab)- in person option
  • ENVS 492 Independent Study (this requires you to line up an ENVS-related independent study with a faculty member and talk to Lindsay ahead of time about paperwork and approval!)
  • ENVS 493 Internship (this requires you to line up an ENVS-related internship and talk to Lindsay ahead of time about paperwork and approval!)

After you register for a capstone course, please contact Lindsay Freeman at envsadvising@vcu.edu to request an override into ENVS 499 Capstone Experience (0 credits- this simply checks the “capstone box” on DegreeWorks if you are on the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 bulletin for the ENVS major).  If you are on an older ENVS major bulletin (2018-2019 or earlier), you most likely don’t need to register for ENVS 499 (your capstone course will sub in for ENVS 490 on DegreeWorks instead), but check on this with Lindsay just in case!


VCU Updates on COVID-19

VCU COVID-19 Updates

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we figure out what the rest of the semester will look like for students.  As you probably know, changes are happening quickly and continuously.  I will do my best to update you on the changes that impact ENVS students the most. 

It is important for you to try to read all incoming emails from the university, but for extensive updates for Environmental Studies students I urge you to check this Google document each day.

ENVS Topics Courses for Fall 2020

Environmental Studies Topics Courses*
Fall 2020


*Please note that ENVS 291, 391, and 491 options are open to undergraduate students only, while ENVS 591 options are open to both undergrads (mostly geared towards junior/senior level students) and grad students.

View your fall 2020 registration date


ENVS 291 Options:


ENVS 291 Topic: Paths to Environmental Leadership
Instructor: Dr. James Vonesh, jrvonesh@vcu.edu
Credits: 2

Section 001 CRN 40606
Wednesdays 9:00-10:40am
Enrollment: By Instructor Permission Only/Application – https://forms.gle/BSTJP6n42aGMnYrZ9

Prerequisites/ Requirements: Class is open to sophomore and junior students (no freshmen or seniors), GPA ≥ 3.0

Course Description: Are you a college sophomore or junior? Are you interested in conservation, environmental stewardship, or environmental policy? Have you demonstrated a commitment to the environment through participation in campus activities or service to your community? Are you working towards a career that will enable you to address environmental issues on a local, national, or global scale? Do you want to develop a vision of how your academic path will help you achieve your career goals? If you answer yes, then Paths to Environmental Leadership might be for you!

This course focuses on personal leadership development, leadership in the field of environmental studies, grant-writing & revision, and the peer-review process. We will use Charles Mann’s 2018 “The Wizard and the Prophet – Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World” to frame our exploration of different approaches in leadership in our field. Discussions with guest speakers who are leaders in various environmental fields, additional readings, and self-directed exploration of leadership figures will broaden our understanding of environmental leadership. Students will then use the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship as a tool to begin to develop their own vision of environmental leadership and develop experience in grant writing and peer review. In developing a Udall application, students will need to articulate their professional aspirations, what aspect of environmental studies they wish to focus on and why, and how their academic plan will assist them in achieving their goals.  They will need to articulate and demonstrate a personal plan for engaging in leadership. Finally, they will need to discuss a significant public speech, legislative act, book, or public policy statement by environmental leaders Congressman Morris K. Udall or Secretary of Interior Stewart L. Udall and its impact on their field of study, interests, and career goals.  Students will be trained to peer-review each others’ proposals and to revise their own work in response to peer (and instructor feedback). Students who chose to may continue to revise their proposals after the course under the mentorship of the VCU National Scholarship Office and submit them for the March 2021 competition.


ENVS 291 Topic: Healthy Food & Nutrition
Instructor: Dr. John Jones, jonesj39@vcu.edu
Credits: 1
Section 002 CRN 40823
Thursdays 9:00-9:50am

Recommended Prerequisites: None

Course Description: This course helps students develop healthy personal food behaviors as they transition into their college experiences. Students will learn the basics of balanced diets, how to read nutritional labels, basic cooking techniques, and making healthy choices while on campus.

Although this course could benefit anyone, it is designed for first and second year students.


ENVS 291 Earth Systems Modeling
Instructor: Dr. Vickie Connors, vsconnors@vcu.edu
Credits: 1
Section 003 CRN 39133
Tuesdays 9:00-10:40am

Recommended Corequisite or Prerequisite: ENVS 201 (strictly enforced- Please do not register for this lab unless you completed ENVS 201 in fall 2019 or will be taking ENVS 201 during fall 2020).

Course Description: An introduction to the modeling of dynamical processes of major systems that drive planet Earth. The geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and changing climate are examined as dynamic and interdependent systems by computer modeling. A field trip to the VCU Rice Rivers Center will provide a range of field activities to explore a few components of the earth system.


ENVS 291 Topic: Hydroponics Lab
Instructor: Dr. John Jones, jonesj39@vcu.edu
Credits: 1
Section 004 CRN 40847
Tuesdays 10:00-10:50am

Recommended Prerequisites: none

Course Description: In this lab, students will grow and harvest nutritionally dense vegetables using microgreen and hydroponic growing techniques. Harvested vegetables support the VCU Ram Pantry and other near-campus food pantries. Students will learn a combination of practical agronomic and project management skills, while deepening their understanding of nutrition and emergency food systems.


ENVS 391 Options:


ENVS 391 Applications of Conservation Science
Instructor: Dr. Lesley Bulluck, lpbulluck@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 001 CRN 39139
Monday/ Wednesday 2:00-3:15pm

Recommended Prerequisites: BIOL 152, ENVS 311, and STAT 210

Course Description:  Through readings, lectures, discussions, and analysis of ecological data, students will learn about current applications of conservation science and the importance of data/evidence in motivating effective conservation policy.  Students will gain an understanding of conservation priorities at a variety of different scales/perspectives from species and communities to landscapes and ecosystems as well as the importance of including the human dimension in effective conservation efforts.


ENVS 391 Energy Policy: The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy
Instructor: Dr. Brian Toibin, toibinbt@vcu.edu
Credits: 3

Section 004 CRN 39442
Monday/ Wednesday/ Friday 11:00-11:50am

Recommended Prerequisites: None.  This course is geared towards ENVS students who want a deeper dive into policy decisions driving much of the environmental debates.  It may also interest political science or sociology students who want to understand the drivers of this critical area of policy debate.

Course Description:  This course will survey the national and international policy decisions that are driving the current and future energy landscape. The course will examine policy decisions concerning the development of the major sources of energy; examine the environmental, social, and political implications of those decisions; and explore the policy factors moving the world towards a cleaner more renewable energy future.  Purchase of a textbook may be required.


ENVS 391 Topic: Vector and Pest Management for Environmental and Health Professional

Instructor: Charles Wesley Robertson, rob106@henrico.us
Credits: 3
Section 901 CRN 39032
Tuesday/ Thursday 5:00-6:15pm

Recommended Prerequisites: None, but students will find introductory biology and/or entomology useful.

Course Description: Growing human populations have resulted in significant increases in exposure to arthropod-borne pathogens. As contact increases and arthropod vectors become more adaptive to human environments researchers, abatement professionals, policy makers, and public health professionals need a firm understanding of arthropod vector biology, ecology and control. This course will begin with an introduction to arthropod biology and diversity. The focus will then shift to pathogen recognition and how the environment influences hosts, vectors, transmission and control. The course concludes with a review of current arthropod-vector control methodologies and how their application varies geographically.

Some of the questions which will be addressed include: What are the major arthropod vectors globally, regionally, and locally? Why do epidemics occur where and when they do? Why some pathogens, such as Zika re-emerge? What are some of the control strategies currently being used by professionals to manage major vector, pest, and pathogen populations? What is the likelihood of new approaches being developed to solve human-vector-pathogen relationships?

Learning Objectives:

  • Define, identify, and compare arthropod vectors

  • Recognize major vectors and pathogens involved in environmentally relevant transmission cycles

  • Discuss the presence, transmission, ecology, and impact of arthropod borne pathogens

  • Explain why outbreaks of major disease continue to occur in the modern world

  • Introduce insecticides and control methods

  • Compare control methods and how they relate to the reduction of vector-borne disease

  • Explain, develop, and analyze Integrated Pest Management Plans

Textbook: Pest and Vector Control by H.F. Van Emden, 1st edition
Note: Text is recommended as a reference but not required

The flyer above is from fall 2019, but the class will be the same for fall 2020.


ENVS 491 Options:


ENVS 491 Topic: Applied Raptor Ecology*
Instructor: Dr. Cathy Viverette, cbvivere@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 002 CRN 37652
Fridays 1-3:30pm

Recommended Prerequisites: BIOL 317 and an upper level statistics course (STAT 314, ENVS 491 Environmental Applications of Statistics, STAT 543, ENVS 543, BIOS 543, or ENVS 591 Applied Environmental Statistics)

Course Description: Raptors–such as eagles, ospreys, kites, hawks, harriers, vultures, and falcons–are recognizable to most people even if not familiar with birds otherwise.  Derived from the Latin ‘raptus’ meaning to seize or carry off, the term raptor refers to a suite of relatively large, long-lived avian species with similar biological characteristics–such as sharp beaks and powerful talons–but diverse evolutionary histories.  ‘Raptus’ is also the origin of the adjective ‘rapt’, to be engrossed or spellbound, which is appropriate since fascination with raptors has given rise to a rich body of art, literature, and scientific research.  Historically often misunderstood and persecuted due to their predatory nature, raptor populations have more recently been subject to a range of anthropomorphic pressures from biocides to habitat loss.  Population declines in a number of iconic species (e.g. Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon) during the mid-twentieth century led to active management of raptors in North America spurring research and conservation programs resulting in copious datasets on abundance, distribution, and habitat associations.

In this course we will explore raptor biology, ecology, and conservation concentrating on diurnal birds of prey commonly seen the Mid-Atlantic region.  Through lectures, readings of the technical literature, field trips, and individual or group projects, students will learn field techniques and quantitative analyses commonly used in raptor research.  Participation in two weekend field trips are required.

*This course can count as capstone if completed while you have senior standing.  If you are not a senior or have already completed an ENVS capstone course, it will count towards electives for the ENVS major/minor and towards VCU’s upper level credit requirement.

If you are on the 2018-2019 bulletin (or an earlier bulletin year) and want this class to count as your capstone, Lindsay can sub in this course for your ENVS 490 requirement on DegreeWorks.

If you are on the 2019-2020 bulletin and want this class to count as your capstone, you will also need to register for ENVS 499 capstone experience.   The credits for ENVS 491 will slot in towards your required ENVS electives, while registering for ENVS 499 indicates that you’ve fulfilled the capstone requirement.  An override will be required for ENVS 499- please email envsadvising@vcu.edu for an override into this course.


ENVS 491 Campus Sustainability Plan Student Council
Instructor: Dan Albrecht-Mallinger, albrechtmald@vcu.edu
Credits: 1
Section 901 CRN 4053
Tuesdays 7:00-8:50pm
Registration by override only!

Recommended Prerequisites: UNIV 200; Sophomore through senior standing recommended.

Course Description: Every five years, VCU updates its Sustainability and Climate Action Plans, reporting progress and setting goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve sustainable infrastructure, and increase environmental awareness in and out of the classroom. Major sections of these reports are researched and written by focus groups that contain faculty, staff, and undergraduate students. In this class, students from the various subcommittees will convene to discuss their focus groups’ mission, progress, and challenges. The cross-pollination of ideas and methodology will facilitate a cohesive vision for the future of sustainability at VCU among the focus groups. Students will meet once a week, with rotating presentations and workshops among focus groups.

Enrollment for this course is by override only. Students are being recruited through the Office of Sustainability to serve on committees this spring.  Only the students selected for the Campus Sustainability Plan Committee will be overridden into this course.


ENVS 591 Options:


ENVS 591 Topic: Stella Models for Earth System Science
Instructor: Dr. Vickie Connors, vsconnors@vcu.edu
Credits: 1
Section 001 CRN 22061
Wednesdays 1:00-1:50pm
Registration by override only!

Course Description: Students in this course will TA for Dr. Connors’ ENVS 291 lab course. Enrollment will be done by override.  This is only a course option for graduate students only.


ENVS 591 Topic: Applied Landscape Ecology*
Instructor: Dr. Lesley Bulluck, lpbulluck@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 002 CRN 39566
Tuesday/ Thursday 1:00-2:15pm

Recommended Prerequisites: A GIS course (ENVS 421, ENVS 521, or URSP 521), an upper level statistics course (STAT 314, ENVS 491 Environmental Applications of Statistics, or ENVS 543 Data Literacy), and BIOL 317, or by permission of instructor.

Course Description: Landscape Ecology is the study of large-scale spatial patterns, the causes of these patterns, and their consequences for population and ecosystem processes.  The intent of this course is to provide a foundation in the major concepts and applications of landscape ecology as a framework for research, analysis and management.  Topics covered will include the causes of landscape pattern, quantifying landscape pattern and spatial statistics, the effects of landscape pattern on organisms and ecological processes, and using landscape ecology to inform conservation.

Students will learn the concepts of landscape ecology through (1) lectures, (2) readings and discussions, and (3) hands-on exercises designed to provide experience with commonly used landscape ecology tools.

Learning objectives:

  • Gain an understanding of Landscape Ecology concepts and their applications to real world conservation and land use challenges.
  • Accurately visualize, manipulate, and interpret spatial data in the R environment
  • Analyze the impact of scale on spatial relationships
  • Use methods for detecting, characterizing, and analyzing landscape pattern
  • Link landscape pattern to potential generating processes with spatial statistics and neutral landscape models
  • Apply course content and skills to an independent project

*This course can count as capstone if completed while you have senior standing.  If you are not a senior or have already completed an ENVS capstone course, it will count towards electives for the ENVS major/minor and towards VCU’s upper level credit requirement.

If you are on the 2018-2019 bulletin (or an earlier bulletin year) and want this class to count as your capstone, Lindsay can sub in this course for your ENVS 490 requirement on DegreeWorks.

If you are on the 2019-2020 bulletin and want this class to count as your capstone, you will also need to register for ENVS 499 capstone experience.   The credits for ENVS 491 will slot in towards your required ENVS electives, while registering for ENVS 499 indicates that you’ve fulfilled the capstone requirement.  An override will be required for ENVS 499- please email envsadvising@vcu.edu for an override into this course.


ENVS 591 Topic: Environments & Policies of Urban Food Systems
Instructor: Dr. John Jones, jonesj39@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 005 CRN 40843
Tuesday/ Thursdays 12:30-1:45pm

Recommended Prerequisites: None

Course Description: This course examines how environments and public policies shape American urban food systems. Broadly defined, the elements of the urban food system include the production/cultivation, distribution, preparation, consumption, and waste management of food products utilized by humans in urban spaces for nourishment and/or pleasure. Entrenched environmental, social, economic, political, and bureaucratic factors underpin this system. To explore these factors, this course employs a variety of interdisciplinary lenses, including: environmental studies; public administration; public health and nutrition; urban planning; political science; and sociology. This course will include field-based service-learning opportunities in the greater Richmond region through several off-campus site visits.


ENVS 591 Topic: Applied Restoration Ecology*
Instructor: Dr. Ed Crawford, ercrawford@vcu.edu
Credits: 4
Section 006 CRN 40498
Tuesdays 9:00am-1:00pm

Recommended Prerequisite: BIOL 317

Course description: Ecological restoration is an emerging science that provides a litmus test for the theoretical underpinnings of Ecology. Mitigation for damaged ecosystems has become the most common impetus for restoration projects globally. Restoration of degraded riparian, wetland and stream habitats is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. and is predicated on the assumption that structure and function of these degraded ecosystems can be restored with a level of predictability and on short temporal scales (5-10 yrs.).   Students will learn the role of project “planner” who restores, enhances or rehabilitates ecosystems, the role of “practitioner” who implements the restoration plans and the role of “resource manager” who oversees the restoration site and conducts long-term monitoring. Students will acquire an analytical and quantitative skill set unique to current ecological restoration applications that are critically needed by resource managers and practitioners of habitat rehabilitation and restoration.  Students will learn state of the art field based applications currently used in riparian, wetland and stream restoration assessment and monitoring.

*This course can count as capstone if completed while you have senior standing.  If you are not a senior or have already completed an ENVS capstone course, it will count towards electives for the ENVS major/minor and towards VCU’s upper level credit requirement.

If you are on the 2018-2019 bulletin (or an earlier bulletin year) and want this class to count as your capstone, Lindsay can sub in this course for your ENVS 490 requirement on DegreeWorks.

If you are on the 2019-2020 bulletin and want this class to count as your capstone, you will also need to register for ENVS 499 capstone experience.   The credits for ENVS 491 will slot in towards your required ENVS electives, while registering for ENVS 499 indicates that you’ve fulfilled the capstone requirement.  An override will be required for ENVS 499- please email envsadvising@vcu.edu for an override into this course.


ENVS 591 Topic: Soil, Sediments, & Environmental Pollution
Instructor: Dr. Arif Sikder, amsikder@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 007 CRN 41005
Tuesday/ Thursday 8:00-9:15am

Recommended Prerequisite: None

Course Description: This course deals with theoretical and applied aspects of pollution of soil and sediments. It covers processes responsible for the occurrence and release of pollutants in the environment, dispersion mechanisms, problems of accumulation of toxic substances in soil and sediments.  The course includes lectures, field investigations and laboratory analysis for determining toxic metals in soil by X-ray Fluorene Spectrophotometer (XRF) and Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). Finally handling data obtained from field study and laboratory analysis and presenting the result.

Breakdown of Learning and Teaching activities:
Lecture: 50%
Field investigation: 25%
Laboratory analysis: 25%

Breakdown of Grades:
Written exam: 40%
Participation: 20%
Final Presentation: 40%


ENVS 591 Topic: Environmental Engineering
Instructor: Dr. Timothy Kelly, tmkelly2@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 901 CRN 33310
Mondays 7:00-9:40pm

Recommended Prerequisites: This course is recommended for graduate students as well as undergrads who have completed MATH 151 and CHEM 102.

Course Description: This course has been developed as an introductory course to address environmental engineering topics such as legal issues, hydrology, water/wastewater treatment, air pollution, and solid and hazardous waste management. We will introduce the background scientific principles, analytical tools, and engineering operations applied in the field. Mass/material balances, environmental chemistry, waste management techniques and other scientific approaches will be studied. These concepts and analysis tools along with engineering principles will be applied to the study of hydrology, water, wastewater, solid waste, hazardous waste and air quality pollution and control. After taking the course, the students will be able to define and identify the environmental issues and legal aspects of the profession; understand the concept of hydrology and hydrologic cycle; concepts of water and wastewater quality assessment, monitoring, and treatment; concepts and principles of design and operations of water supply and wastewater drainage systems; air pollution and process of water quality management and pollutant transport; define and characterize solid and hazardous wastes (and their regulations); and, understand the concept of solid and hazardous waste management, processing, minimizing, separation at the source, recycling, reuse, universal waste management and recycling, and their environmental impacts.


ENVS 591 Topic: Environmental Ethics
Instructor: Dr. Cliff Fox
Credits: 3
Section 902 CRN 40466
Wednesdays 4:00-6:40pm

Recommended Prerequisites: None, but class is geared towards advanced undergraduates as well as grad students.

Course Description: This is a seminar for advanced undergraduates and graduate students that will focus on questions of environmental ethics. This is a relatively new field of inquiry, and is, in many ways, still defining its ground. Therefore, this will allow us to engage in discussions of some of the most exciting questions facing environmental studies today; from animal rights to questions of technology and development. However, we will begin by grounding ourselves in the broader ethical tradition and a philosophy of science understanding science within the new arena of environmental ethics.

The class will involve reading, discussion, and writing. Students will read each week and write short papers reacting to the readings. These reactions will be explored in class discussion. At mid-term we will look at the ethical elements in two of the classics of environmental writing, Sand County Almanac and Silent Spring. The class will also require a final paper. This class will be stimulating for serious undergraduate students, as well as graduate students.


ENVS 591 Topic: Hydrogeology
Instructor: Dr. Timothy Kelly, tmkelly2@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 903 CRN 39949
Wednesdays 7:00-9:40pm

Recommended Prerequisites: This course is recommended for graduate students as well as undergrads who have completed MATH 151 and CHEM 102.

Course Description: Focuses on the fundamental concepts of groundwater flow and contaminant transport with an emphasis toward environmental issues such as waste disposal, surface water hydrology, groundwater hydrology and wells, environmental impacts and hydrogeological systems. Allows students to understand and interpret the basic environmental hydrogeologic characteristics of a site and to use that knowledge to provide an informed opinion on protection and remediation.


ENVS 591 Topic: Seminar in Sustainability Academics
Instructor: Dr. Brian Toibin, toibinbt@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 904 CRN 31158
Tuesday/ Thursday 5:30-6:30pm
Registration by override only!

Recommended Prerequisites: ENVS 300 (strictly enforced- overrides will only be given to students who meet this requirement).

Course Description:  The Seminar in Sustainability Academics (SemSA) is for students who desire a deeper understanding of sustainability issues and strategies and who feel the need to be able to communicate more convincingly about sustainability issues, challenges and practices. SemSA builds on sustainability issue literacy and activities introduced in the Sustainable Societies-James River Basin (SS-JRB) course (ENVS 300). SemSA students put their issue literacy and communication skills to work mentoring students in a SS-JRB class. By practicing varying methods of delivering and sharing information and types of learning activities in the lab-like environment of the SS-JRB classroom, SemSA students deepen their own issue knowledge and have the opportunity to practice management, mentoring and leadership skills. The goal of the SemSA course is to help equip motivated students to be knowledgeable, confident, effective sustainability leaders.

Important Note: Students in this course will TA for Dr. Toibin’s ENVS 300 course.   If you completed ENVS 300 with a grade of A or B and are interested in being a teaching assistant for this course, please email Dr. Toibin for more information.  After he gives you permission to enroll in his section of ENVS 591, please contact Lindsay Freeman for an override.


NEW!  Freshwater Fridays (9 credit block)*


This fall, VCU’s Center for Environmental Studies will be offering a unique 9-credit block in freshwater studies that meets all day on Fridays.  The “Freshwater Fridays” block consists of three integrated 500 level topics courses:

  1. Scenic Natural Resources Policy & Assessment (with Dr. James Vonesh, VCU)
  2. Stream Survey Methods (with Dr. Dan McGarvey, VCU)
  3. Virginia Water Quality Issues & Careers (with Dr. Joseph Wood, Chesapeake Bay Foundation)

The purpose of block scheduling these courses on Friday is to enable the course to develop a more immersive and integrated curriculum whereby instructors can teach not only course-specific content, but highlight the overlap across disciplines. It also facilitates our ability to integrate day and weekend trips to increase Relevant Experiential Applied Learning (REAL). In addition to several Friday day trips, the courses include joint weekend data collection and educational camping/canoe trips (supported by the VCU Outdoor Adventure Program) to a western, central, and coastal plain rivers system.  This block of classes is open to undergraduate and graduate students; however, space is limited to 18 students. Enrollment is by application (selected students will be given overrides into these courses), and students must enroll in all three courses.

Recommended Prerequisites: (for all three courses): None
Application Deadline: May 7th, 2020
Course fee: $350 (covers all related field trips)

Course Trailer video: https://youtu.be/aV-ceKEmYaM
Student Application: https://forms.gle/ZNWDVNCAvUcgE18Q8

Course summaries and learning objectives for each of the three Freshwater Fridays courses are posted below.

ENVS 591 Topic: Scenic Natural Resources Policy & Assessment
Instructor: Dr. James Vonesh, jrvonesh@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 004 CRN 40589
Fridays 9:00-11:30am

Course Summary: In this class students will be introduced to broadly to scenic resource policy and assessment in the classroom while engaging the learning topics more deeply through a collaborative experiential learning approach focused around the Virginia Scenic River Program. Through the scenic rivers project students will implement the concepts and tools they have learn to examine Virginia State Code as it pertains to Scenic River designation, use remote and in the field approaches to complete a scenic river assessment for a specific river segment, produce a technical report & GIS Storymap summarizing the assessment findings, and present their findings to a community audience from a county bordering the river segment they assessed.

Learning objectives:

  • Develop an understanding of what constitutes a scenic resource
  • Develop a better understanding of the cultural, ecological, and economic value of scenic resources
  • Gain familiarity with government policies that regulate & recognize visual resources
  • Be introduced to approaches for the inventory and management of scenic resources
  • Develop basic skills for using remote sensing and spatial analysis tools in scenic resource inventory and assessment
  • Gain experience in-field assessment of a scenic resource
  • Develop proficiency in technical writing as pertains to the scenic assessment program
  • Practice professional communication of scenic assessment findings

ENVS 591 Topic: Stream Survey Methods
Instructor: Dr. Dan McGarvey, djmcgarvey@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 003 CRN 40586
Fridays 12:00-4:00pm

Course Summary: This course will cover basic and advanced methods used to study fishes and benthic macroinvertebrates in small, wadeable streams. Topics covered will include qualitative and quantitative field surveying methods, fish and invertebrate specimen identification, data analysis of original field data. Class time will be a combination of lecture, field trips (including weekend/overnight trips), processing of specimens in the laboratory, and data analysis.

Learning Objectives:

  • Use a variety of surveying methods and tools to collect fishes and aquatic macroinvertebrates in wadeable streams
  • Identify stream fishes (species or genus level) and macroinvertebrates (family level) from the Mid-Atlantic region
  • Apply fish and benthic invertebrate data in biological assessments
  • Conduct statistical analysis of multivariate community data with the R programming language

ENVS 591 Topic: Virginia Water Quality Issues & Careers
Instructor: Joe Wood, woodjd@vcu.edu
Credits: 3
Section 905 CRN 40587
Fridays 5:00-7:30pm

Course Summary: This course will cover Virginia’s approach to managing water resources.  Topics covered will include the clean water act, total maximum daily loads, water quality standards and designated uses. Class time will include meeting with panels of Virginia professionals who focus on water quality-related issues, programmatic data review and analysis and management.

Learning Objectives:

  • Apply modeling tools to consider impaired waterways
  • Identify and evaluate the status of public water-related resources
  • Interact and understand day-to-day challenges of water quality professionals
  • Improve understanding of Virginia’s regulatory and non-regulatory approaches to improving water quality

If you would like to apply to be part of the “Freshwater Fridays” immersive coordinated curriculum please complete the application: https://forms.gle/ZNWDVNCAvUcgE18Q8.

*This block of courses can count as capstone if completed while you have senior standing.  If you are not a senior or have already completed an ENVS capstone course, the three courses will count towards electives for the ENVS major/minor and towards VCU’s upper level credit requirement.

If you are on the 2018-2019 bulletin (or an earlier bulletin year) and want one of these three classes to count as your capstone, Lindsay can sub in one of the courses for your ENVS 490 requirement on DegreeWorks.

If you are on the 2019-2020 bulletin and want one of these classes to count as your capstone, you will also need to register for ENVS 499 capstone experience.   The credits for ENVS 591 will slot in towards your required ENVS electives, while registering for ENVS 499 indicates that you’ve fulfilled the capstone requirement.  An override will be required for ENVS 499- please email envsadvising@vcu.edu for an override into this course.


Additional Course Information for Fall 2020:

To view additional ENVS course descriptions and prerequisite requirements (for non-topics courses), please click here.

POLI 386 Environmental Security is approved to count towards ENVS elective credits for the environmental studies major and minor.  However, a POLI major/minor restriction was recently added to the course.

ENVS 335 Environmental Geology (a major requirement for environmental studies students who entered VCU prior to fall 2020) has been discontinued.  Current ENVS majors can substitute in any upper level ENVS or approved/related elective for this requirement (Lindsay Freeman will submit the substitution waiver before you graduate).

ENVZ 335 Environmental Geology Lab (a major requirement for environmental studies students who entered VCU prior to fall 2020) has been discontinued.  It will be waived for all current students who haven’t yet completed it (Lindsay Freeman will submit the waiver before you graduate).

ENVS 411 Oceanography (a major requirement for environmental studies students who entered VCU prior to fall 2020) has been discontinued.  Current ENVS majors can substitute in any upper level ENVS or approved/related elective for this requirement (Lindsay Freeman will submit the substitution waiver before you graduate).  Our suggested oceanography substitution is ENVS 391 Section 902 WATER, which will be taught again during spring 2021.


Patagonia National Parks Comparative Analysis of Wilderness Policy- Student Experience

Patagonia National Parks– Comparative Analysis of Wilderness Policy

Written by Jordan Rasure

“…the reward of this venture, if there was one, would reside in the doing of the thing itself.” – Kevin Fedarko

Starting in Coyhaique, we traveled south in a clockwise loop – first to the snow-tipped mountains of  Cerro Castillo, to lake-guarded Chile Chico, then to guanaco-inhabited Jeinemeni and Chacabuco, to the marble caves of Río Tranquilo, and back again. Thirteen people carrying everything we needed for two weeks in roughly seventy liter packs had come together to experience everything that Chilean Patagonia could offer in such a short time. Our individual motives for spending New Year’s south of the equator varied, but rooted at the core of each reason was a profound desire to immerse ourselves in wilderness.

Formally, our unified goal was to learn about the differences in the management of national parks in Chile and the United States. Over the course of two treks and a handful of conversations with locals who engaged with the parks in various capacities, we gathered first-hand knowledge of a system that simultaneously contrasts and mirrors our own. We walked through a riverbed crisscrossed by strands of a glacier-fed stream that braided and unraveled itself over the landscape. We stared at guanacos that had returned to their endemic lands after domestic livestock had been removed. We felt the potency of the southern vernal sun and our own smallness when perched on exposed ridge lines overlooking peak after peak of the Southern Andes. We were there, absorbing and trying desperately to capture all the beauty of this wild and magical place.

But even as we admired the delicate alpine flowers nestled in rocky crevices and the great wingspans of condors riding thermals, we were reminded that this place needs as much protection as the parks and reserves that are closer to our home. For we saw the damage inflicted by grazing cattle, walked through scree fields uncovered by retreating glaciers, and listened to stories about an overextended government agency failing to conserve these precious and irreplaceable ecosystems. This was Patagonia – a place with a complicated past and an uncertain future in terms of its wild spaces.

In writing about an attempt to set a boating speed record through the Grand Canyon, Kevin Fedarko remarks that the joy of many endeavors is simply having the experience. The doing of the thing itself. Our thing was traveling to and throughout Chilean Patagonia. Collectively, our trip was full of firsts – a first plane flight, a first multi-day backpacking trip, a first chance to dabble in another language. We learned so much more than could have ever been taught in a classroom, but our thing is even bigger than just that experience. We are now charged with learning about the systems that are in place to protect the enchanting places both in Chile and in the United States. For some of us, a report at the end of the semester will be the end of the thing. For  others, we hope to be able to take what we have learned and someday influence policies to protect cherished places. Maybe it will be somewhere in Patagonia, maybe it will be a park in the United States, but wherever we invest our efforts, we will remember the lessons we have learned in the doing of this thing.

About the author: Jordan Rasure is a senior pursuing a dual degree in biology and Spanish with a minor in chemistry at VCU.   She was one of eleven students who participated in the Patagonia National Parks- Comparative Analysis of Wilderness Policy course/ study abroad trip during winter break 2019.  Students traveled to Chilean Patagonia from Dec. 28th, 2019- Jan. 11th, 2020, and are taking a corresponding Wilderness Policy and Practice course on campus during Spring 2020.

 

Summer 2020 Schedule Viewable on eServices TODAY!

Summer Registration
The summer schedule is now available to view on eServices.  Registration for Summer classes begins next Tuesday, February 11th at 8am.

A few things to note:

  • ALL current VCU students are able to register for summer classes at the same time regardless of earned credit hours, so if you are counting on taking a specific course this summer, make sure to register right at 8am on Tuesday!
  • For more information about summer studies, go to http://summer.vcu.edu or e-mail summer@vcu.edu.
  • Please keep in mind that if you have a registration hold on your record, you will not be able to register for summer or fall classes until the hold is removed.
  • To check for holds on your account, go to eservices–> student–> registration–> view holds.
  • If you have questions about potential summer coursework, please feel free to come to my walk in hours or make an appointment with me through your MyVCU Portal!
  • The topics course document for summer 2020 classes will be sent out to ENVS majors & minors by next Monday, Feb. 10th.  It will also be posted here on the ENVS Rampage.
  • The fall 2020 schedule will be available to view in mid-March (exact date has not yet been announced).  Fall registration will begin on Tuesday, March 24th. You should be able to view your fall 2020 registration date here in the next week or so.

Graduating in Spring 2020?

If you plan to graduate this spring, you must do the following:

 

  1. The graduation application will be available on eservices starting January 13th, 2020. You must apply to graduate by Friday, January 24th, 2019.
    If you have already discussed waivers/ substitutions for ENVS major requirements with Lindsay (for example, subbing in an ENVS elective for the discontinued ENVS 411) but they still need to be processed, she will take care of this by late January/ early February after seeing that you have applied to graduate. If you are waiting on transfer courses to come to VCU or still need to submit the HS foreign language waiver, please follow the instructions included below. You should apply to graduate on time even if you are waiting on issues like these to be resolved!
  2. If you are not 100% sure you are on track for graduation this spring, please email Lindsay Freeman (envsadvising@vcu.edu),  schedule an advising appointment, and/or come to ENVS walk in advising hours by January 17th (the last business day before the add/drop deadline for spring 2020) to make sure you are all set.  Remember, you must earn at least 120 total credits to graduate with any bachelor’s degree at VCU. At least 45 of these credits must be upper level.
    Regarding capstone:
    If you did not already complete a course that qualifies to count as a capstone during your senior year, you must do so this spring!  For those of you on 2018-2019 (or earlier) bulletin, I will sub in your capstone course for ENVS 490 on your DegreeWorks if you are taking a course other than ENVS 490 as your capstone.  Those of you who have switched to the 2019-2020 bulletin must take ENVS 499 Capstone Experience (0 credit placeholder “course”) in addition to your capstone elective in order for things to slot in correctly on your DegreeWorks.  Please email me ASAP if you need an override into ENVS 499!

To access the application to graduate:
Log into your MyVCU Portal.  Click on eServices–> Student–> Student Records–> Apply to Graduate.  If you are graduating with a double major, dual degree, or certificate (like the Certificate in Sustainable Innovation), please complete an application for each major.

Regarding transfer credits that haven’t been sent to VCU:
If you need to transfer any credits from other institutions to VCU (if you took a summer course at a community college, for example), please take care of this as soon as possible.  Transcripts should be sent to: VCU Transfer Center, 900 Park Avenue Box 842532, Richmond, VA 23284-2532. 

Regarding the VCU Life Sciences Foreign Language Requirement:
If you successfully completed three levels of one foreign language in high school, you qualify to have the VCU Life Sciences foreign language requirement waived.  Please go to this page and follow all instructions under the “High School Foreign Language Waiver Information” heading if you qualify for this waiver but your foreign language requirement has not yet been waived on DegreeWorks.


COVID-19 Update 3/23/20:

VCU Life Sciences will no longer be holding a departmental commencement ceremony for spring 2020 graduates. We will be inviting all spring and summer graduates to participate in our fall ceremony. Please see below for updated information from the VCU Commencement office:

“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health officials, the university’s Commencement exercises will no longer be held as planned on May 8-9. All 2020 graduates and their guests are now invited to participate in the university’s Commencement ceremony on Dec. 12, 2020. The university is planning additional opportunities to recognize May graduates and the individuals who supported our graduates through the years. More information is forthcoming.” 

For the latest information, graduating students and their guests are encouraged to visit the university’s COVID-19 website and VCU Health’s COVID-19 website, both available from the vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org homepages. For questions, please email UNIVevents@vcu.edu.

Q: Will the spread of the COVID-19 virus impact the university’s commencement exercises?

A: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health officials, the university’s Commencement exercises will no longer be held as planned on May 8-9. 

Q: Are the spring college and school ceremonies also cancelled?

A: Yes. This decision includes all school, college and special ceremonies. If there are any alternative plans to recognize graduates, they will be shared by the sponsoring school or office.

Q: How will the university celebrate May 2020 graduates?

A: All 2020 graduates and their guests are now invited to participate in the university’s Commencement ceremony on Dec. 12, 2020. The university is planning additional opportunities to recognize May graduates and the individuals who supported our graduates through the years. More information is forthcoming. 

Q: What details can be shared about the December Commencement ceremony?

A: Planned for Dec. 12, 2020, VCU Commencement will bring graduates from all schools and colleges together to celebrate their academic achievements. The biannual ceremony will feature the president of the university and a keynote speaker. More details about VCU Commencement and other school and college ceremonies will be forthcoming.

Q: Does the cancellation of Commencement exercises affect my degree conferral or diploma?

A: No. The cancellation of Commencement exercises will not affect degree conferral or diploma for graduating students. The official conferral date for May 2020 degrees is May 16. Degrees will post to your record on Tuesday, May 26. Degrees will not appear on academic transcripts until this date. Degrees will only show for those students who have satisfied all degree requirements and receive final approval. Students should check their academic transcript via eServices to ensure your degree has been posted before requesting official transcripts. 

Diplomas will be mailed beginning June 22, to the address provided during graduation checkout. To receive your diploma, you must meet all financial obligations to the university. Diplomas will not be released for those students who have not met their financial obligations. Please contact the Office of Records and Registration at (804) 827-1673 or graduation@vcu.edu once those obligations have been met.

Q: Will students have the opportunity to order academic regalia (caps, gowns, hoods, cords, tassels, etc.)?

A: Students will be able to purchase their academic regalia and other Commencement items. The university is working with its partners to finalize details. More information is forthcoming. 



Spring 2020 Commencement is the weekend of Saturday, May 9th, 2020. 
Graduates have the opportunity to celebrate their achievement at two ceremonies: the university-wide ceremony and their school or department’s ceremony.  At departmental ceremonies, graduates will be recognized individually and will walk across the stage.  At the university-wide ceremony, graduates are recognized collectively by school, with the exception of Ph.D. and Ed.D. candidates, who will be recognized individually.

University-wide ceremony (please RSVP here by early May)
Saturday, May 9th, 2020 at 10:00 am
Greater Richmond Convention Center

VCU’s university-wide Commencement ceremony brings graduates from all schools and colleges together to celebrate their academic achievements. The annual ceremony features the president of the university. This event is open to the public. Tickets are not required and seating for guests is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at [TBD].

VCU Life Sciences Ceremony
Friday, May 8th, 2020 at 6:00pm (graduates must arrive by 5:30pm)
VCU W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts, Concert Hall
922 Park Ave., Richmond, Va. 23284

Tickets may be required for guests.  If tickets are required, Amie Knapp (aknapp2@vcu.edu) will contact all pending graduates via email with more information about ticketing in April.

Please refer to the VCU Commencement Website for additional information (the website should be up to date by sometime in March). You may also contact the Graduation/ Degree Audits Office with questions at (804) 828-1917 from 8 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.