Water: Science and Society

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Quick Facts about Water: Science and Society

The course is being offered as a blended (online and in-class instruction) and a fully online course: Pennsylvania State University - University Park (blended course) and fully online through the Penn State World Campus.

  • Instructors: Dr. Erin DiMaggio and Dr. Maureen Feineman (Penn State University - University Park | World Campus)
  • Course Structure: All lectures are online. The University Park sections will meet weekly to conduct laboratory exercises. Laboratory exercises for World Campus sections are entirely online.
  • Overview: This course is designed as a general-education investigation of the importance of water to the existence of life on Earth, and the qualities of water that lead to its unusual but critical properties. The first part of the course will provide a basic scientific background for understanding water movement, occurrence, and behavior, through a series of interactive activities. The second part of the course will draw upon this scientific framework to understand the relationships between water and human activities. Among other diverse topics, we will examine the role of water in climate regulation, the impact of water on human populations and activities, the benefits and drawbacks of modern water management strategies related to irrigation and dams, and policy issues regarding water quality and availability. A sense of the human history of water use and the impacts of natural cycles will be conveyed through activities, virtual field trips (filmed footage with the instructors and discussion focused on key topics related to surface water, water re-use and recycling, and dams), and assigned readings and associated online discussions. Although we will focus on case studies from the American West, we will extend this to include global issues of water scarcity and potential conflict, for example in India, China, and the fertile crescent.