An ecological context for the built environment
Architects build structures that serve as environments for organisms: human beings. Therefore, it is crucial that architects understand the ways in which organisms interact with the environment and other organisms. This course will investigate topics in Ecology that will enable students to think more broadly about what it means to design living and working spaces.
By taking this course, students will...
- acquire an "ecological literacy" about how the natural world works
- develop an understanding of how scientific methods are used to construct ecological knowledge
- become familiar with some of the major ecological challenges facing the Earth today, and the important research which needs to be done to address these concerns
- develop a deeper understanding of how human development impacts ecological communities and systems
- become familiar with the ecological justification for sustainable practice in building and design
By the end of this course, students will be able to...
- understand and describe the major ideas of natural selection, population and community ecology, biodiversity, climate change, and sustainability
- describe and debate some of the major ecological issues relating to the current and future human condition, e.g. ecosystem services, agricultural systems, water resources, the management of reserves, and the growth of cities
- identify and describe specific ways in which natural or anthropogenic activity might influence terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
- describe and assess the ecological impact of the use and development of alternative energy technologies
- describe how environmental health may be impacted by toxic materials, and describe what factors contribute to toxicity
- address issues of ecological concern using qualitative and quantitative arguments
- describe the ecological basis of "green" movements in design and architecture
The calendar below is an example of how the course has been structured in the past. Like most non-studio three-credit classes at Pratt, the course meets for a total of 45 in-class hours— one weekly session of 3 hours for each of 15 weeks.
Basic Ecological Concepts; Ecosystem Services
Natural Selection and Evolution
Food Webs and Ecological Efficiency; Population Dynamics
Island Ecology; Introduced Species
Biomes, Disturbance, and Succession
Biodiversity and Conservation; Preserves and Parks
The Human Condition I: Population
MIDTERM PAPER/PROJECT DUE
Self-guided trip to the American Museum of Natural History
Class will not meet
Human Condition II: Energy and Water Resources
Human Condition III: Urban Landscapes
AMNH ASSIGNMENT DUE
Human Condition IV: Pollution and Cradle-to-Cradle Design
Synthesis / Review
FINAL PAPER/PROJECT DUE
COMPREHENSIVE FINAL EXAM
Students do not have to purchase any reading material for this course. All required readings will be posted as PDFs or made otherwise accessible through the course website on Pratt's Learning Management System.
Course readings will include book chapters, government reports, articles from peer-reviewed journals (e.g., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Nature, BioScience), mass-market science periodicals (e.g. Scientific American), and recent articles in the popular press. To comply with "Fair Use" copyright guidelines, students will need to authenticate with a Pratt userid and password to gain access to readings.
An optional, recommended text Enger, E. D. and Smith, B. F., (2006) Environmental Science: A Study of Interrelationships, Eleventh Edition, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, New York, 488 pgs. ISBN 0073304476 is available for purchase in the PrattStore or online at your favorite retailer. Consider purchasing this if you'd like to explore further. It is NOT required to purchase this book.
There will be a small fee and subway fare associated with a self-guided trip to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.
- Readings (available on the course LMS) are to be read BEFORE coming to class.
- Beginning in the second week of the course, a reading report is due each week by NOON ON THE DAY BEFORE CLASS. You will complete these reports within the LMS in response to the provided questions. Reading reports will cover the main ideas of the assigned reading, and will help to frame the context for the upcoming lecture and in-class activities. Reading reports may also include a question or two as a followup from the previous week's lecture. Late reading reports will be accepted— but penalized accordingly— up until class meets.
- Participation is heavily weighted in this course. Assessment of participation is based upon structured in-class activities (such as weekly "Do Now" exercises that will begin each class; occasional group debates and presentations; small group discussions), contribution to classroom discussion, as well as general preparedness and attentiveness.
- A trip report for a visit to AMNH is due in Week 10.
- Two papers — one at mid-semester and one at the end of the semester — are required. A project (e.g. a painting, graphic novel, video essay, animation, etc.) may be substituted in place of either paper; projects will require a significant written component, however, in the form of an annotated research bibliography. The paper/project must demonstrate high-level understanding of the science of the topic/theme at hand, appropriate use of information resources, and a facility with the technical and stylistic expectations of college-level writing. In order to demonstrate "high-level" understanding, the paper/project must go significantly beyond what was covered in the class lecture and the required reading. Expectations and assessment guidelines will be posted on the course LMS site in advance of the due date.
- A comprehensive final exam will be given in class during the last week of the semester.
Final course letter grades are based on 100%–90% for A-range, 89%–80% for B-range, etc.
- 15% Weekly reading reports
- 5% AMNH trip report
- 20% Participation
- 20% Midterm paper/project
- 20% Final paper/project
- 20% Final exam
There are NO opportunities for extra credit.
- Students must adhere to all Institute-wide policies listed in the Student Handbook under "Community Standards," which include policies on attendance, academic integrity, plagiarism, computer, and network use. Please see the Office of Student Affairs for policies and procedures for handling academic conduct issues.
- Pratt Institute is committed to full inclusion of all students. Those who require special accommodations for disabilities must obtain clearance from the Office of Disability Services at the beginning of the semester. Please make an appointment with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) to discuss these accommodations. The DRC is located in Room 117, Willoughby Hall.
- Students must check the course website on Pratt's Learning Management System to download readings, check guidelines for assignments, and check course announcements.
- Students must obtain a Pratt e-mail address and check this mailbox for official course communication.
- On-time attendance at each class meeting is expected. (See the section on absences below.)
- Partial attendance, i.e. lateness or early departure and will impact the the Participation component of course grade. (An example: A late-arriving student would be likely to miss the "Do Now" exercise at the beginning of each class.) If not excused in advance, each late arrival or early departure will be penalized as a 50% reduction of the Participation component for the session.
- For students who miss three or more classes, I will send a notice to the student and a "Retention Alert" to the appropriate advisor. These messages will give an indication of progress to date in the course, and provide guidance for remaining eligible to pass the course.
- Late assignments will be reduced by one full grade (i.e., 10%) per each day late. No assignments will be accepted for credit more than 10 days late. Late assignments will only be accepted at the discretion of the instructor (i.e., in very unusual circumstances and/or arranged well in advance).
It is absolutely in your best interest to attend all class sessions. Absences and late arrivals/early departures will count against your Participation grade. On the comprehensive Final Exam, you are held responsible for all material covered in the course, regardless of whether you were present.
If you are absent AND if you contact me within a day of your absence, I will provide you with an out-of-class assignment which will be due at the next class meeting. This assignment will require well-researched answers to a series of questions that parallel the lecture and class discussion. Answers will require explicit citation to required articles and supplementary reading, and may require additional research to demonstrate graduate-level understanding. Timely and satisfactory completion of the out-of-class assignment will give you a chance to earn participation credit up to the full amount for the missed session. If you elect not to complete the out-of-class assignment, you will receive zero participation credit for the session you have missed. Because it is possible to complete Reading Reports two weeks before the class meets, on-time submission of the Reading Report will still be expected for most absences; exceptions for emergencies may be granted at the discretion of the instructor.
As per Pratt Institute policy: I will only consider granting an incomplete if a student in otherwise good standing within the course can provide a compelling and exceptional reason for the request (e.g., documented unexpected illness, death in the immediate family, etc.) — in writing — before the final exam, and agrees to a contract for completion of all missing material. In no circumstance will incompletes stay on a transcript for more than one semester. An incomplete will automatically change to a grade of "F" if the deadlines and expectations in the contract are not followed.