Saturday, August 31, 2013

Geology of the Critical Zone, a new semester!
A new semester begins!  There are 9 students in the Geology of the Critical Zone (Geology 170) and it is a truly transdisciplinary class.  This fall we will work to explore critical zone interactions around the themes of agricultural and urban sustainability. Springfield, Ohio is located in the Buck Creek watershed with >79% agricultural land use.  Our urban setting, also influences, land, soil, water, and life. This semester, we will partner with the city stormwater manager, Sky Schelle, to investigate the potential for vacant lots to be used as wetland sites.  Wetlands will be the thread carried through from the first Critical Zone clas, and the upper level biogeochemistry class.  Wetlands act as nutrient and sediment filters and have been used in urban water management (e.g. to address overflow from combined sewers).
How do I start out a new semester with my students?
We've already been out in the field around campus, observing outcrops and spots along Buck Creek at distinct spatial scales. We observe the critical zone and think about interactions between geo, hydro, atmo, and bio spheres.
Then to introduce the critical zone, students think about the the 3 major forcings that drive interactions between spheres (Climate, Tectonic, People). For example, to consider climate, students work to link the below figures.   How are precipitation, soil moisture,  and ecosystems related? I'll leave these for you to think about.  I've pulled others for my students to think about that relate to tectonic (e.g. mountain building) and human forcing examples.  They will be blogging more soon! 
Precipitation map of the United States, CC license

Soil Moisture Regimes of the United States, USDA, NSSC
Terrestrial Ecosystems (USGS,