Fellows will take 12 credits of IGERT core courses (6 credits/semester). Throughout this year they will learn the basic ideas and methods behind sociology, public policy, modeling, environmental economics and communication.  Using the IGERT core courses they will develop guidelines to aid NGO’s, government agencies and community-based organization to resolve current environmental problems in Puerto Rico.

Core Courses (2 credits each)

Human Dimensions of Environmental Change

Students will survey research on the relationship between human and natural systems in sociology, political science, anthropology, economics, public health, cultural studies, environmental studies, planning, geography, and other fields in relation to the selected Puerto Rico environmental problems. In addition to the results of these studies students will learn about the varied methods of these disciplines and examine the epistemological barriers between them.

Policy and Ethics for the Environment

This component will focus on how environmental policy evolves and on the ethics of different stakeholder positions, especially in relation to the selected Puerto Rico environmental problems. Students will explore “environmental capacity”, defined as both the possession of the proper resources necessary for the implementation of activities associated with environmental protection, as well as the willingness to use those resources. Environmental issues are questions of managing the commons (Hardin 1968), meaning that conflicting values are involved. Therefore students will need to apply an ethical perspective to environmental issues, health promotion issues and policy solutions.

Urban Environment, Expansion, and Design

Students will study environmental characteristics of cities and suburbs, the impacts of urban development on the environment, especially in the tropics, and principles of improved design for sustainable urban and suburban areas, especially as related to the selected Puerto Rico environmental problems. They will focus on the connections among land use, urban form, transportation patterns, tourism development, and environmental problems in Puerto Rico, the U.S., and elsewhere.

Ecosystem Services and Ecological Economics

The ecological approach to resource allocation generates methods and research questions distinct from standard economics. Ecosystem services, classified as those which support, provision, and regulate, become focal (MES 2005, Carpenter & Folke 2006) in the rigorous and objective analysis of environmental and public health issues. Students will select environmental problems and/or opportunities in Puerto Rico and analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the relevant literature before constructing a research strategy. Informed policy is the objective.

Socio-Ecological Models and Ecological Informatics

Ecological forecasting is the emerging imperative for environmental scientists (Clark et al. 2001). Students will be introduced to the methods of socio-ecological models and scenario building, as used example, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MES 2005, Carpenter & Folke 2006, Tallis & Kareiva 2006). Ecological informatics is a toolkit students will need for managing and using the large databases that accumulate in environmental monitoring programs.

Communication on the Environment

To engage diverse members of the community in environmental science and policy formation, students will develop skills of formal debate and argumentation. Special emphasis will be given to the emerging field of ecocriticism and the ethical dimensions of resource allocation. The module will analyze how the media portrays environmental science and the feedback of that portrayal on national and international initiatives. Through selected issues, students will explore the ethical foundations of different viewpoints with emphasis on clarity and accuracy in the communication of the supporting science to diverse members of the community.