Summer 2018: Sustainability Leadership

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Sustainability Leadership

Course: BIOL/OEAS/IDS 467, BIOL/OEAS 567 (three credits)
CRNs: 35510, 35861, 35874, 35855, 35856
Course title: Sustainability Leadership
Instructors: Dr. Hans-Peter Plag, Dr. Tatyana Lobova, Dr. Eddie Hill
Term: Summer 2018 (season 1)
Time: Mondays and Wednesday, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Location: BAL 2068 -- SRC 1009



This project provides an opportunity to investigate a real-world issue of regional interest and its global impact and to apply the mitigation and adaptation concepts discussed in class to the kinds of issues you will be expected to understand as a professional, an informed citizen and a voter. Working on the project will also allow you to develop and/or improve your skills in research, writing, oral communication, and working in a cooperative, group setting.

The five main areas of Adaptation Science as defined in Moss et al. (2013) should be reflected in the structure of your report, i.e., the hazards, the vulnerabilities, foresight, decision making, and options.


Assume that you are writing this papers in support of decision making by a specific stakeholder group engaged in addressing the real-world issue. Write the research paper in a way that a non-expert can understand the text.


The paper has to be typed with one-and-a-half line spacing preferred. Start with the title of your paper. Then write you name and the class identifier below the title. Then have the numbered sections of your paper (see below). Give each section a meaningful headline. At the end, include the bibliography with the heading "References". For the format of references, see below the section on References.

Insert figures and tables in the text. Figures and table must be numbered and must be referenced in the test. Figures must have a caption below the figure, including the source of the figure. Tables have a caption above the table. Make sure that each caption explains the figure or table sufficiently but does not add significant text.

All units should be System International units (e.g., km instead of miles; mm, cm, m instead inches and feet; degrees Celsius instead of Fahrenheid; g and kg, instead of pounds).


Your paper should have seven sections. After an introductory section, you will consider the five areas of adaptation science. A final section will summarize your recommendations on how to address the issue you are considering. You will present the following information, with appropriate attention to detail throughout and the appropriate bibliography.

  1. Introduction: Give a brief overview of the real-world issue you are addressing. Questions you may consider here include: What is the challenge? Where is this a problem? What system are you considering (eco-system, species, human community, ...)? Who (human or non-human) is impacted? What and who has caused the problem? Who is trying to solve/address the problem? Is this a wicked or super-wicked probelm? What has been done to address it? Who are you writing for and who may benefit from your research paper?
  2. Hazards: What are the hazards that constitute threats for the system you are considering? Give a comprehensive overview of the hazards, how they interrelate, and how they may change over time. You should discuss the hazard probabilities as a function of hazard magnitude. Which of these hazards can be mitigated?
  3. Vulnerabilities: What are the vulnerabilities of the system considered? As much as possible, you should be quantitative here. Be realistic, tangible and precise. Which of the vulnerabilities can be reduced through adaptation of the system?
  4. Foresight: What was/were the causes that led to the system being exposed to threats and what future developments can be anticipated? What future challenges can be expected? What is the prognosis? You should consider at least three different scenarios. In particular, what are the long-term consequences of the “no action” option? Importantly, explain how small-scale (local) and large-scale (global) processes impact the system's current and future trajectory. What has been done to move the system towards desirable futures? What were the outcomes of these efforts?
  5. Decision making: Who are the stakeholders involved and impacted by the problem and how do they make decisions? You should consider that the system is embedded in a societal framework with many stakeholders with potentially conflicting interests. The viability of any option proposed to move the system toward a desirable or desired future will depend on the decision making of these stakeholders, in particular those that make decisions impacting the future of the system.
  6. Options: What are viable options to address the problem through mitigation of the causes, managing and mitigating the impacts, and adapting the system to the changes. Be sure to address the practical advantages and disadvantages of competing options (remember that wicked problems have no defined solution, only better or worse options, and most realistic options are not going to be simple). Think about who the competing stakeholders might be and what they stand to gain/lose from each option. Consider at least three options and discuss the associated scenarios and the potential system trajectories. Make sure that the options you discuss are consistent with the foresight you developed in Section 4.
  7. Recommendations: Here you should recommend specific options to impact the future of the system in a desirable way. Related these recommendations to the scenarios you discussed in the sections on foresight and options. To who are you making the recommendations?

Project Paper

The project paper counts for 35% of final grade. 20% or for the draft and 15% for the final paper.

  • Each student needs to write a 2000-2500 word paper (excluding illustrations and bibliography) on a given topic that includes the sections described above.
  • Paper have to include the citations of all the sources used and a bibliography has to be provided at the end of the paper that includes all of the sources cited in text.
  • Each student must use and cite at least six references for the project. These can be web-based or print, but be sure they are legitimate. Make sure that at least three references are taken from peer-reviewed literature. For most topics, you will be able to find good material from websites provided by government, conservation, and/or academic organizations. Be sure to evaluate the source of the information carefully; remember that anyone can put anything on the web, and that conservation organizations vary in their degree of balance and bias. All references must be cited in the written Bibliography that you submit on the day indicated in the Timeline. If you make any changes to the list you will need to resubmit a new bibliography as soon as possible. Failure to adhere to these guidelines will result in a reduction in the score.
  • All references must be cited in the written Bibliography that you submit on the day indicated in Timeline. If you make any changes to the list you will need to resubmit a new bibliography as soon as possible. Failure to adhere to these guidelines will result in a reduction in the score.
  • You have to re-write the information that you have learned from the literature using your own words and must cite the sources from which the information is derived. You may not use the direct quotes from the source. You have to rewrite it completely, NOT just make a few changes in the sentence!
  • Failure to rewrite will result in a loss of points up to 0 for the paper. Failure to cite sources, even if you paraphrase content, constitutes plagiarism and will result in a score of 0 for the entire project and an Honor Code sanction.
  • Grades will be based on thoroughness, accuracy, mechanics, and adherence to instructions.

Oral Presentation

The oral presentation counts for 20% of final grade.

The oral presentation should last 15 minutes. Less time means you haven’t covered the topic in sufficient depth. More time means you did not practice and not prepared sufficiently. Your goals for the presentation are to inform the audience (general public and your peers) about the real-world issue and to convince your audience to care about it and act responsible. Presentations must include illustrations. When you develop your presentation, be sure you are paraphrasing source material (i.e., putting it into your own words) rather than reading sections of material copied verbatim from your sources. The latter will be considered a violation of the ODU Honor Code and will result in significant grade penalties! You cannot read your presentation from the cards or from the screen! This will result in grade penalties.


Note that the research paper and the presentation are important parts of the writing class. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask!


Citations and Reference have to follow the documentation style defined by the Council of Scientific Editors, known as the CSE style. See SSF-Guide or the WISC page for more information on the CSE style.

Examples of acceptable references are:

  • Journal article:
    Barnosky, A. D., Hadly, E. A., Bascompte, J., Berlow, E. L., Brown, J. H., Fortelius, M., Getz, W. M., Harte, J., Hastings, A., Marquet, P. A., Martinez, N. D., Mooers, A., Roopnarine, P., Vermeij, G., Williams, J. W., Gillespie, R., Kitzes, J., Marshall, C., Matzke, N., Mindell, D. P., Revilla, E., Smith, A. B., 2012. Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere. Nature, 486, 52-58, doi:10.1038/nature11018.
  • Article in Book/Collection:
    Plag, H.-P., Jules-Plag, S., 2013. Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Ecosystems. In Pielke Sr., R. A., Seastedt, T., Suding, K. (eds.): Vulnerability of Ecosystems to Climate, Volume 4 of: Climate Vulnerability: Understanding and Addressing Threats to Essential Resources, 163-184, Elsevier. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-384703-4.00105-2.
  • Book:
    Taleb, N. N., 2012. Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. Random House.
  • Technical Report:
    Plag, H.-P., Brocklebank, S., Brosnan, D., Campus, P., Cloetingh, S., Jules-Plag, S., Stein, S., 2015. Extreme Geohazards — Reducing the Disaster Risk and Increasing Resilience. European Science Foundation.
  • Web Page:
    MARI, 2017. Fall 2017: Natural hazards and Disasters. Accessed on September 14, 2017.

Examples of citations of the above sources in the text are:

  • Barnosky et al. (2012) found ...
  • ... might lead to a significant state shift (Barnosky et al., 2012).
  • ... a transition from being resilient to being antifragile (Taleb, 2012).
  • ... loss of coastal ecosystems (Plag and Jules-Plag, 2013).

Timeline and Activities

  1. Feb. 2, 2018: Each student will select or propose a topic. Instructor will assign the final topics.
  2. Feb. 19, 2018 (Class 12): During this weeks you will need to do the research on the topic and find the best and most appropriate sources (websites and papers) that will have all the information to address the four questions. You have to use at least 6 sources. Make a list of all sources. The format has to follow the documentation style defined by the Council of Scientific Editors, known as the CSE style (see SSF-Guide or the WISC page for more information on the CSE style).
  3. Feb 23, 2018: Submit the bibliography list together with a brief outline of your paper before 6:00 PM via email to both instructors. You will not get points for the outline and bibliography but the failure to turn it in by the due date or the failure to submit it in a required state/format will result in 5 penalty points. Moreover, we will not be able to give feedback and support, if you don't submit the outline and bibliography.
  4. Mar 19, 2018 (class 18): Work on writing the draft of the paper.
  5. Mar 23, 2018: Submit the draft of the paper before 6:00 PM via email to both instructors. Please note: the draft does not mean something you put together at the last minute. It should be the best paper version you can produce. The draft will be corrected and edited and returned to you as soon as possible.
  6. Mar 28, 2018 (class 21): Work on revising your research paper.
  7. Apr 6, 2018: Submit the final research paper before 6:00 PM by email to the two instructors.
  8. Apr 11 (class 25), Apr 16 (class 26), Apr 18 (class 27): Presentations of research papers will be scheduled. Your final presentation is due on the day before the class you are scheduled to present.

Except in extraordinary circumstances, you will receive NO credit for the presentation if you are not in class the day it should be presented.