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Environmental Science



Much of biology and ecology is concerned with populations: how many organisms are there? Are there as many as last year? Are there as many in a polluted environment as in a clean environment? Learn to count and compare populations living, dead, undead, or inanimate. Learn the difference between quadrants and transsects, and how to scale up from front yards to east coast states. Bonus tricks: Use random sampling to solve the Polluted Pond Paradox. Expose Killer Cats with clever graphs. Plot preferences of honeybee populations.


Tragedy of the Commons

"Picture a pasture open to all. The rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course ... is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another. But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing the commons. Therein is the tragedy..." Thus begins Garrett Hardin's famous article on the Tragedy of the Commons. Explore the tragedy and possible ways of avoiding it. But Hardin's article is nothing if not contrary. What could possibly be wrong with obeying your conscience? How will taxes save us all? And how could anyone divide up the air?


Evolved Immunity

In her tiny garden, Mary planted 3 tomato plants, 5 carrots and one big sprawling zucchini vine. By mid-summer the zucchini hoppers invaded, but spraying them with her locally available super-toxic pesticide only made things worse. Can you solve the Case of the Evolving Hoppers? Clues include the three tenets of natural selection. Watch out for the prokaryotic red herring!

What's in your Watershed?

What is a watershed, how is the Chesapeake Bay Watershed special, and how do we test water quality? With a few brief asides for bacterial growth.

The case of the missing mountaintop

Mountaintop mining has decapitated over 500 mountains and buried over 2000 miles of stream. Find out how the coal got into the mountains in the first place, how the coal industry is getting it out, and how scientists measure the effects on life in streams.