The main object of this project is the development of an environmental analysis course, with specific emphasis on the integration of atomic spectrometry, ion chromatography, and infrared spectrometry into the curriculum. This course includes lecture and seminar, fieldwork and sampling, laboratory analysis, and the incorporation of results into sophisticated computer models. The course challenges students with complex, real-life, local environmental problems, where the results of their study make a significant contribution to the characterization and predictive modeling of a local aquifer. This course is the center of our science-based environmental studies program.
The project activities are interdisciplinary, with seminar style classes discussing hydrogeology, methods and instrumentation for chemical analysis, kinds and sources of aquifer pollution, sampling methods, calibration and verification of experimental results, and modeling methods that provide a dynamic map of local groundwater quality. The lab component emphasizes current instrumental methods and modern technologies appropriate for advanced study and research in chemistry and in environmental science.
The new program described in this proposal is an adaptation of one of the original NSF Chemistry Initiative projects, "Establishing New Traditions", centered at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Several strategies outlined in the New Traditions project are implemented. First, the concept of establishing interdisciplinary courses to make important connections between chemistry and other disciplines is a fundamental aspect of the lab course. The environmental focus of the project provides a bridge between modern analytical chemistry and the other diverse disciplines included within environmental science. Second, the lab project uses a topic-oriented approach, dealing with a real world problem in environmental chemistry, a goal of the New Traditions project. The choice of characterization and monitoring of the local aquifer provides a focus topic with scientific, economic, and political significance for students in any discipline.