Course Overview



GE Natural Science: Biological Science Class (3 credits)

Course Delivery

This is a completely course that will utilize multiple platforms supported by OSU.  Course content will de delivered using lecture presentations and videos.  Carmen will be used to complete quizzes, exams, and other assignments. 

Topics Covered:

  • Environmental literacy, Scientific process, ozone and Antarctica, ecocentrism, EPA, risk assessment, scientific journals, peer review
  • DDT, PCB, CFCs, BPA, bioaccumulation, biomagnification, runoff pollution, Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay, toxicology, epidemiology
  • Human population growth, carrying capacity, ecological footprint, food production, waste, ecosystems, biosphere, biomes, species, biodiversity, evolution, saving the rainforest
  • primary production, energy and nutrients, distribution of nutrients, thermodynamics, electromagnetic radiation, photosynthesis, food webs, trophic levels, Mount St. Helens 
  • population ecology, carrying capacity, predators and prey, Yellowstone National Park, population dynamics, density dependent and independent factors, populations vs. communities in ecosystems
  • biomes, communities, abiotic and biotic facts, Coriolis Effect, ocean circulation patterns, temperature and precipitation patterns, species population graphs, Earth’s major biome locations
  • hydraulic fracturing, locations of Earth’s freshwater, water cycle, water in consumer products, aquifers, Colorado River and Hoover Dam, wastewater treatment process
  • Water pollution, eutrophic, runoff, Pebble Mine, agriculture, U.S. Clean Water Act, agriculture and urban runoff, nonpoint source pollution
  • Superfund Sites, water recycling, fisheries and aquaculture, marine ecosystems, coral reefs
  • air pollution, acid rain, NOx, SO2, particulate, asbestos, Pb, Hg, ozone
  • coal ash waste ponds, heavy metal waste, types of coal, Greenhouse Effect, mountaintop removal, carbon capture, power plants
  • environmental cost of petroleum, oil and tar sands, biofuel, plastics
  • Climate change, greenhouse gases, alternative and renewable energy, hydrogen, solar, geothermal, biofuel


Textbook (recommended resource; read the assigned textbook chapters before coming to class)

Environmental Science for a Changing World, 1st Edition (2013) or 2nd Edition (2014) or 3rd edition (2018), by Houtman, Karr, and Interlandi, published by W.H. Freeman.  This textbook is available in two different formats:  paperback (~$100) or e-Book ($50-$75).  The material in the 1st and 2nd  and 3rd editions of this textbook are very similar, however, some chapter numbers are different in these editions.

To purchase the textbook visit one of the following sites:  
  1. Go to and type in Houtman in the Search box at the top of the page.  Our textbook will appear and you can purchase an eBook for about $75 for a 180-day rental.
  2. Or you can purchase or rent the textbook from or another retail site.


Final Grade

The final grade for the course is broken up by a midterm and final exam, course quizzes, and writing or project assignments.


Examinations may consist of true/false, multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions.  All exams will be taken on-line using CARMEN.  You will NOT come to the classroom to take the exam.  Rather, you take the exam from a location of your choosing that has Internet connection (e.g., dorm room, library).  A significant number of exam questions will come from material presented in the lecture.  Additional material will be drawn from the textbook, assigned readings and videos. Each student must complete the exam on her or his own.  You are NOT permitted to receive assistance from anyone else during the exam.  You are NOT permitted to take the exams as part of a group.  You ARE permitted to use your own lecture notes and slides during the exam.  Additional details will be provided in class.  

There are NO make-up exams except for valid reasons (e.g., medical excuse).  If you are sick, you MUST have a note signed by your medical doctor (i.e. a licensed physician) and dated the same day as the exam.  Otherwise, you will receive a zero on the exam. Dr. Lower will determine if your excuse is valid.  If you do NOT have a reasonable excuse for missing an exam then you will receive a ZERO for the exam.  Approved make-up exams will consist of multiple choice, short-answer and essay questions.  An approved make-up exam will NOT be administered online but rather will be taken in person with paper and pencil.


Approximately one quiz will be given every other week.  Quizzes will be announced on Carmen.  Many of these questions will be based on assigned readings and videos.  You will take these quizzes online using Carmen.

Scientific Poster Project

You will design, construct, and present a scientific poster to your classmates.  First, you must pick a topic related to environmental science.  Next, you should read at least 10 articles from well-respected sources (see example list below or use any of the sources that @OSUEnViRo is currently following on Twitter), which are related to this topic. After reading these articles, you will design and construct a poster describing the topic. For examples visit More details will be provided in class.

Journals: Biological Conservation, Chemical & Engineering News, Ecology, Environmental Science & Technology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Science, Nature.
Newspapers: BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Columbus Dispatch, NPR.


Grade Scale

A      93.00  to 100.00             A-     90.00  to  92.99

B+     87.00  to   89.99             B       83.00  to  86.99           B-     80.00  to  82.99

C+     77.00  to   79.99             C       73.00  to  76.99           C-     70.00  to  72.99

D+     67.00  to   69.99             D       60.00  to  66.99

E         0.00  to   59.99

GE Category and Expected learning outcomes

This course fulfills GE Category Natural Science, Biological Science. Natural Science coursework fosters students’ understanding of the principles, theories, and methods of modern science, the relationship between science and technology, the implications of scientific discoveries and the potential of science and technology to address problems of the contemporary world.

  1. Students understand the basic facts, principles, theories and methods of modern science.
  2. Students learn key events in the development of science and recognize that science is an evolving body of knowledge.
  3. Students describe the inter-dependence of scientific and technological developments.
  4. Students recognize social and philosophical implications of scientific discoveries and understand the potential of science and technology to address problems of the contemporary world.

Academic Misconduct

It is the responsibility of the Committee on Academic Misconduct to investigate or establish procedures for the investigation of all reported cases of student academic misconduct. The term “academic misconduct” includes all forms of student academic misconduct wherever committed; illustrated by, but not limited to, cases of plagiarism and dishonest practices in connection with examinations. Instructors shall report all instances of alleged academic misconduct to the committee (Faculty Rule 3335-5-487). For additional information, see the Code of Student Conduct (

Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities that have been certified by the Office for Disability Services will be appropriately accommodated, and should inform the instructor as soon as possible of their needs. The Office for Disability Services is located in 098 Baker Hall, 113 W. 12th Ave; telephone 292-3307, TDD 429-1334.

Communicating with Students

Periodic announcements and some lecture slides will be posted on Carmen.

Dr. Lower has created an email account specifically for this class:

Dr. Lower will use your OSU email account to communicate with you. While many of you have other email accounts through services such as Goggle, Yahoo, or Hotmail, please use your OSU email to communicate for the course.