Environmental Analysis

Fall 2020
Winter 2021
Spring 2021
Class Size: 50
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

Robin Bond
analytical chemistry
Carri LeRoy
freshwater ecology, quantitative biology, environmental education

Overview: Well-designed and accurate chemical and environmental measurements are key to assessing the function of natural ecosystems. This field- and laboratory-intensive program is designed for students with solid preparations in general biology, general chemistry, and precalculus who want to pursue more advanced work. Students will study analytical chemistry, methods in ecosystem science, freshwater ecology, aqueous geochemistry, statistics, and scientific writing.

This program is designed as a series of high-intensity five-week modules followed by mentored advanced research in Spring quarter. Modules in fall and winter will consist of: Forest Ecosystems Science and GIS, Analytical Chemistry and Scientific Writing, Freshwater Science and Statistics , and Analytical Chemistry and Aqueous Geochemistry (see details below). Spring quarter will allow students to apply their knowledge through mentored advanced research projects supported by the program faculty. Program time will consist of fieldwork, computer labs, laboratory work, lectures, and workshops.

Terrestrial Ecosystem Science and GIS (weeks 1-5 of Fall Quarter):   In 2020, our focus will be on measuring diversity and carbon balance in Pacific Northwest Forests. Field work will be concentrated during the first five weeks of each quarter. We will have regular field days each week using our own campus forest as a learning laboratory, as well as a week-long field trip to tour biogeochemistry field sites in the Pacific Northwest.  Through field experiences students will learn about a diversity of current biogeochemical approaches in forest ecosystems, and modern techniques for measuring ecosystem carbon storage, cycling, and sequestration. Students who may need accommodations for field trips should contact the faculty as soon as possible. Our field experiences will be tied to learning approaches in Geographic Information Science (GIS). This work will consist of developing basic GIS skills in ESRI software and R (more advanced options will be available on request to the faculty for students with prior GIS experience). Students will develop skills in map editing, using remotely sensed data, landscape analysis, and spatial statistics.

Analytical Chemistry and Scientific Writing (weeks 6-10 of fall quarter): Instrumental techniques of chemical analysis will be developed in an advanced laboratory with an emphasis on quantitative analysis, quality control procedures, research design and methods development. Analytical procedures will be based on EPA, USGS and other standard methods.  In fall quarter, the study of analytical chemistry will include analytical techniques, the use of quality controls, electrochemistry, and an introduction to instrumental analysis. Students will gain experience with traditional bench methods as well as usage of major instrumentation (ICP-MS and Discrete Analyzer). Students will learn to write standard operating procedures and will also develop communication and analysis skills necessary for the results and discussion sections of posters and scientific papers.

Aquatic Ecosystem Science and Statistics (weeks 1-5 of winter quarter): In winter quarter, biogeochemical studies will be focused on freshwater ecosystems. Students will learn hydrological and freshwater ecology methods and collect samples from streams and rivers for later analysis (e.g., freshwater, leaves, algae, macroinvertebrates, microbes). Field work will be completed in the five watersheds on the Evergreen campus reserve, but also from day trips to regional river systems of interest. Laboratory activities in weeks 1-5 will focus on prepping samples for analytical chemistry and on the identification of aquatic macroinvertebrates. Students will gain a solid foundation in applied statistical methods, going from summary statistics to hypothesis testing to more advanced statistical techniques that apply to ecological data (more advanced options will be available on request to the faculty for students with prior statistics experience). Statistical concepts will be reinforced in weekly computer labs using both JMP and R-package statistical programs.

Analytical Chemistry and Aqueous Geochemistry (weeks 6-10 of winter quarter): A major focus of the winter quarter will be on water quality and chemical analysis of freshwaters. Equilibrium concepts will explored more deeply and applied to both laboratory methods (e.g. activity and titrations) as well as the natural world (e.g. biogeochemical cycling and speciation). Students will  learn to create their own QA/QC procedures while learning to use the ion chromatograph (IC) and expanding their skills with ICP-MS and studying major and trace anion and cation concentrations in freshwaters.

Independent Research Projects (weeks 1-10 of spring quarter): In spring quarter, students will be involved in extensive small-group research projects building on skills developed in the fall and winter. Students will research topics in the primary scientific literature, develop robust group research projects, collect and analyze samples, analyze and interpret data patterns, write scientific papers, and summarize and share findings in a scientific conference format. In spring quarter, there will be an opportunity for students to learn about emerging drone technology and its use in environmental analysis.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

Chemistry, biology, environmental science, and ecology.


Credits per quarter


One year of college-level general chemistry, one year of college-level general biology, and pre-calculus are required prior to enrolling in this program.

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$300 in fall for an overnight field trip; $170 in spring for overnight field trips and conference registration.

Upper division science credit:

Upper division credit will be awarded in Terrestrial Ecosystem Science, Applied GIS, Analytical Chemistry, Aqueous Geochemistry, Aquatic Ecosystem Science, Applied Statistics, and Scientific Writing. Upper division credit will be awarded for spring quarter project work dependent on successful completion group research projects, scientific writing, and appropriate analysis of data.

Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 50

Scheduled for: Day

Located in: Olympia