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University System of Maryland

The Science Advisory Toolbox for Environmental Management

University System of Maryland via edX


There is a broad spectrum of ways that science can be incorporated into environmental management and policy and it all begins with effectively articulating cause and impacts. Climate change, biodiversity loss, and other pressing, global environmental issues are of such a scale that citizens, NGOs, natural resource managers, interest groups, and local governments believe themselves helpless to find solutions. But these are the very groups that need to coalesce around a strong message to effect social change. You can be their guide.

We will begin this course with a survey of early conservation thought-leaders that changed the conversation about how humans view their natural world. Environmentalism, at its core, requires a science-driven, grassroots movement that ultimately inspires social change, encourages corporate social responsibility, and shapes environmental policy. Only then can society ensure healthy ecosystems and environmental justice for citizens of local and regional communities.

As our understanding of our natural world has grown in depth and complexity, so has the need for implementing new communication tools to best express this knowledge in a way that is accessible and actionable. Synthesis of data into a compelling story is the solution. You will develop your own toolbox of science advisory techniques while growing your environmental management knowledge base.

Taught by leading experts in the field with real world examples and studies, this course will show you how today’s conservation leaders can still “change the conversation” and guide society toward solutions for complex resiliency and sustainability problems that benefit all stakeholders and future generations.


Module 1: Frameworks for socio-environmental management

● Greek Words

● Ecosystem-based management part 1

● Ecosystem-based management part 2

● Sustainability and resilience

● Transformation to sustainability

● Adaptive governance

Module 2: Conservation and environmental movements

● Conservation movement

● Emergence of the environmental movement

● Institutionalization of the environmental movement

● Globalization of the environmental movement

● Current and future of the environmental movement

● Coupled human and natural systems/SES

Module 3: Science advising strategies

● Studying vs. solving environmental problems

● Roles scientists play part 1

● Roles scientists play part 2

● Science advising

● Science advising spectrum?

● Environmental policy and management spectrum case study

Module 4: Stakeholder engagement and co-production

● Why stakeholder engagement?

● Classifying problems

● Transdisciplinary approaches

● Planning and implementing transdisciplinary approaches

● Evaluating transdisciplinary approaches

● Best practices in transdisciplinary research

Module 5: Socio-environmental problem solving

● Scientific synthesis

● Systems approach/Systems thinking - Social, economic and environmental integration, Environmental Economics? Ecosystem Services

● Citizen science

● Science and media

● Science and environmental law

● Socio-environmental justice

Taught by

William “Bill” Dennison, Richard Arnold and Vanessa Vargas-Nguyen

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  • Anonymous
    As a beta tester for this course, I thought it was a good course that gave the student a holistic view into environmental management tools. I felt like I received a brief, solid foundation on the history and previous events that have occurred within the...

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