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Mitigation and Adaptation Studies

Course: BIOL/OEAS 466; BIOL/OEAS 595 (three credits)
Course title: Introduction to Mitigation and Adaptation Studies
Instructors: Dr. Hans-Peter Plag and Dr. Tatyana Lobova
Graduate Teaching Assistant: Ms. Harmony Hancock
Term: Spring 2017
Time: Mondays and Wednesday, 3:00-4:14 PM
Location: NEW ED BUILDING 1104

Course description: In this course, students will be introduced to studies focusing on mitigation of human-induced changes in the Earth system, including but not limited to climate change and sea level rise, and adaptation to the impacts of these changes. A particular focus will be on the challenges climate change and sea level rise pose to conservation efforts. The course will cover the hazards resulting from the on-going planetary reengineering that is pushing the planet out of the Holocene; the vulnerability of the coupled socio-ecological and economic system to these hazards, the foresight we have in terms of future trajectories of the planet and the probability density functions of the hazards; the opportunities and limitations for mitigation and adaptation that result from societal decision making processes and the general basis of human decision making; and, finally, the options we have for mitigation and adaptation and a framework for the assessment of the viability of proposed options. Most of the examples used in the course to illustrate the issues are taken from practical work in conservation.


The learning goals of the course

Students will:


Prerequistes: BIOL 291 or agreement of instructor

Required Course Materials:

Rockström, J., Klum, M, 2015. Small Planet, Big World. Yale University Press. ISBN-10: 0300218362, ISBN-13: 978-0300218367. Available on as hardcover or Kindle editions (~$20)

Sodhi, N.S., P.R. Ehrlich. 2011. Conservation Biology for All. Oxford University Press. ISBN: 978-0-19-955423-2. Available on BlackBoard in a free PDF format. Or at

Reading List: See Schedule and Class Pages.

Time: Mondays and Wednesday from 3:00-4:15 PM



The course will combine lectures with exercises and project work. There will be weekly homework. The student project assignment will consist of a research paper and a brief presentation at the end of the class.

Weekly home work will contribute 40% of final grade. There will be a total of 10 homework and each will have a maximum of 10 points. Thus, the homework will result in a maximum of 100 points.

Student project assignment will contribute 60% of final grade (30% presentation + 30% paper). There will be 75 points for the presentation and 75 points for the paper, with the latter split in 38 points for the draft paper and 37 points for the final paper.

You will be graded on a standard scale:
100-90% =A
89.9-80% =B
79.9-70% =C
69.9-60% =D
59.9% and below=F.

University regulations prohibit communicating test results via email or by phone. If you wish to talk about your grade, please make an appointment. All scores will be placed on BlackBoard as soon as possible after they are graded.


The course will combine lectures with discussions and project work. There will be weekly homeworks based on reading and answering questions in written form. These answers should be concise and have to be submitted on the day before the class. The answers should include the name of the student as well as the questions themselves. The final assignment will consist of a brief presentation of the research paper to be prepared during the “Student Project” hours and in homework.

Note that the form of this course will differ from many other more traditional courses in that is starts with the description of a complex societal challenge and not with basic theory. The challenge of adapting to the current and future changes inflicted by humanity on the planet and the Earth's life-support system is a “wicked problem for which no comprehensive theory exists. It requires environmental, social, and economic considerations in a complex system environment. Therefore, we will approach this problem by first describing the problem in its many facets and then pulling in theory where needed to better understand the problem and to illustrate possible approaches to address the challenges.