Water quality and the biogeochemical engine

Interested in environmental issues, but unsure where to start? This is the course for you! High quality water, to be provided for drinking and irrigation purposes to the world’s ever-growing population, is one Great Challenge in the near future. Explore the links between biology, chemistry and soil science that lead to what people often take for granted:  good quality water. This course is an introduction to environmental sciences.  Using only basic knowledge from inorganic chemistry and biology, the course will lead you to an exploration of every day issues around the world. We will tackle some basic questions: Why did the “dust bowl” or the Assouan River dam have so profound an impact on soil fertility?  How do we explain the mass poisoning affecting tens of millions of people in SE Asian deltas? Why is nitrate, but not potassium, a pollutant linked to agriculture even through NPK fertilizers are used? Besides plants, are there other photosynthetic organisms? Can we reconstruct water quality from centuries ago although no water samples remain? Are biofuel or coal gasification plants viable energy solutions? Why does deforestation result in loss of fertility in the Amazon basin but not in temperate Europe? What critical water issues will be raised by megacities, which will soon represent 2/3 of the world’s population? How has the relationship between humans and water changed over the centuries?  The class will consist of lecture videos, which are between 10 and 15 minutes in length. Every week, you will have related quiz questions and exercises. These optional assignments will not be graded and the solution will be provided the week after the assignment is posted. At the end of weeks 4 & 10, there will be a graded MCQ (each counting for 15% of the final grade). There will also be two peer-graded homework assignments, together with two MCQ, at the end of week 7 and week 13 as mid term and final exams.   Join us as you startyour environmental science journey!

Created by: École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne

Level: Introductory

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