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A Research Service Learning course

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Duke students learning crayfish identification with governmental scientists at the Eno River

Save the whales! Save the redwoods! Save the spotted owls! Rally cries such as these not only imply that biodiversity is in crisis, but that we should be doing something about it. We are currently in the midst of an extinction crisis destined to become as large and significant as the extinction event that ended the age of the dinosaurs. Thousands, if not millions, of species are predicted to go extinct within the next century. The difference is, this time humans are the cause. In the midst of this crisis, what is the role of conservation biologists? Are we simply documenting extinctions as they occur, or are we obligated to attempt to reverse the trend? Is that even possible? Who is ultimately responsible for -- or capable of -- reversing this trend? Industrialized countries or developing nations? Federal, state, or local governments? Private corporations, religious institutions, or non-profit agencies? You or me?

In this course, you will have the opportunity to wrestle with these and other significant conservation questions as you explore the interconnections between the natural environment, economic markets, cultures, religions, and ethics. The readings have been carefully chosen to provide you with a solid foundation in conservation theory and ecological principles, while at the same time allowing you to explore significant case studies. You will be keeping a Visible Thinking Journal in which you capture your reactions, thoughts, ideas, and questions, allowing you to make connections between texts, class discussions, and your experiences. Your classmates will read and respond to your journal entries, allowing you both to deepen your interactions with the subject. We will bring those ideas to class for what promises to be exciting and lively discussions! Finally, you will use your writing throughout the semester to guide you in crafting a personal essay about your environmental ethic, similar in form to the National Public Radio series This, I believe.

Conservation biology is an applied science, dedicated to conserving biological diversity on our planet. In line with the philosophy of the discipline, a recurring theme in this class, and the topic of the first of two major writing assignments, will be Think Globally, Act Locally. What connections can we make between this global biodiversity crisis and our everyday actions? Which conservation issues should be solved locally, and which require an international approach? Should it matter to Americans if species in another country go extinct?

This section of Writing 20 is an official Gateway Course for Research Service Learning, and, as such, provides you with the unique opportunity to participate in several local conservation research projects with our community partner, the Eno River State Park. Your time out in the field will allow you to make connections between theory and practice, between reading and experience, between thinking and action. Your final writing project of the semester will be a Research Proposal that may be submitted for funding by Duke University's Office of Service Learning.

For a copy of the course syllabus

click here to download file

For a copy of the course schedule

click here to download file

For a copy of the 1st writing project

click here to download file

For a copy of the 2nd writing project

click here to download file

For a copy of the prompt for the "Visible Thinking" journal

click here to download file

For a copy of the "Guidelines and Limitations for Service-Learning Students" handout

click here to download file