Capstone Courses

The environmental studies capstone course (Envir St 600) is a required component for students completing our major. Priority is given to students declared in the environmental studies major.

Fall 2018 Capstone Courses

Section 001: Latin American Environmental History
Professor Elizabeth Hennessy
Tuesdays, 1:20-3:15 p.m.
Meets-with History 600
Requires enrollment permission

Latin America is home to some of the world’s most famous landscapes—from Amazonian forests considered the “lungs of the earth” to soaring Andean peaks where melting glaciers have become a deadly effect of climate change. From silver ore laboriously dug from colonial-era mines to vast plantations of sugar cane and bananas, Latin American natural resources have played a central role in the development of economies and societies in the region and around the world. This course will survey changing human relationships with the natural world in the region we now call Latin America from the pre-Columbian period; through colonization and the colonial era; through the independence struggles of the nineteenth century; to contested visions of nationalism, economic development, and appropriate use of natural resources in the twentieth century; to contemporary socio-environmental problems. We will examine both how different peoples have understood, lived with, used, and transformed the environment as well as how the natural world has shaped human histories.

We will draw on readings from multiple disciplinary perspectives (including history, anthropology and geography) to analyze processes of imperialism, capitalist development, and the degradation of natural resources. The class will ask how these processes relate to the production of scientific knowledge, global environmentalism, and issues of social justice.

For this capstone class, students have the option to either complete an original individual research paper on one aspect of a natural commodity the class will decide on collectively (coffee, sugar, palm oil, etc.) or to conduct a community service project of their design on Latino environmental justice in Madison and write a final report. Students who wish to complete the research paper should enroll through History (required for History majors seeking to fulfill the 600 requirement); those who wish to do a community service project in Madison should enroll through Environmental Studies (this option will work best for students who already have connections in the Latino community in Madison). Spanish or Portuguese language skills and previous experience in or course work about the region would be helpful, but is not required.

For permission to enroll, students should email Prof. Hennessy with the subject line “LAEH Fall 2018 Request.” Please include a brief statement about your interest in the course, previous knowledge of Latin America, and whether you plan to enroll through History or Environmental Studies. If Environmental Studies, also include a proposed partner organization and short description of community service work that relates to Latino communities and environmental justice in Madison.

Section 002: Last Child in the Park: How Kids and Birds Can Save the Planet
Anke Keuser
Wednesdays, 7:30-9:30 a.m. and 2:15-5:15 p.m.
To enroll, please contact Anke Keuser (

We will be working hand in hand with staff at Madison's Sherman Middle School to provide a nature study program to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. A high percentage of Sherman ethnically diverse students live in poverty. The school is making herculean efforts to meet student needs by providing after-school programming. Our class helps the school meet those needs by pairing UW students as after-school mentors with a Sherman student.

Every Wednesday morning from 7:30-9:30am, our UW class meets for an introduction to basic field ornithology in the Lakeshore Preserve. No experience is necessary. Bird identification is a satisfying skill to acquire and birds are a beautiful portal to better understanding and appreciation of the biophysical world. You will learn how to identify Wisconsin's most common birds by sight and sound, then you will teach that skill to your middle school student "co-explorer." Every Wednesday afternoon from 2:15-5:15pm, we meet as a class at Sherman Middle School on Madison's Northside (free transportation provided by the university). Together with Sherman's Nature Explorers Club, we walk as a group to Warner Park. We spend the afternoon exploring to learn what the park and its landscape and wild creatures have to teach us, and what we all have to teach each other. We do some group activities like planting prairie seeds, birdwatching and fort-building. At the same time you will be paired with a Sherman middleschooler as "co-explorers"; in a nature-mentoring relationship. You will help your Sherman co-explorer develop academic and social skills while building an awareness of and appreciation for the natural resources of Warner Park. And your co-explorer will teach you what he or she already knows about their wonderful park and its furred, finned and feathered residents. For a press account of this work, see this article in the Capital Times.

Here is an opportunity to be the change you want to see in the world.

It is critical that you are able to attend both sessions consistently. Establishing a solid relationship with the Sherman students is extremely important, and you must be there for that relationship to develop. Attendance is 50% of your grade.

Section 003: Capstone in Soil and Water Management
Professors Nick Balster and Steve Ventura
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 12:05-12:55 p.m.
Meets-with Soil Sci 499

Healthy soils play an important role in "green infrastructure," helping infiltrate storm water, supporting open space for aesthetics and recreation, providing opportunities for local food production and other ecosystem services. Careful management of soil is critical to sustaining these services, including biophysical, social, and economic management tools. This class will engage in observations and analyses of urban soil characteristics and functions, and provide recommendations for improving the long term stewardship of this valuable resource.

Section 004: People, Planet and Sustainability
Tom Eggert
Mondays, 5:30-8:15 p.m.

This course is for students interested in sustainability, and the ways in which sustainability affects business, public policy, and individual decision-making. The goal of the course is to give students knowledge and skills so that they can help institutions understand and act on the principles of sustainability.

Pop Hlth/Envir St 560: Health Impact Assessment of Global Environmental Change
Professor Jonathan Patz
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-10:45 a.m.

Covers contemporary methods of impact assessment in a framework to address global environmental health threats (e.g., global climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss, and urban sprawl). Issues dovetail well (but do not overlap) with Introduction to Environmental Health.