Earth and Resource Science

ERS at UM-Flint

ERS Department Currently Exploring Master’s Degrees

Filed under: Faculty Posts — December 12, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

by Dr. Marty Kaufman, chair ERS

Since 2006, our department has grown from 30 students to the 81 we now have. Over the years, we have received many requests for an environment-related Master’s Degree program, but due to the low number of full-time faculty, it was not possible to offer one.  This situation has now changed, and at our upcoming faculty meeting we will be discussing several possible avenues for graduate study within the department.

Given the current diversity of our faculty expertise, there are several options for a Master’s program. In no particular order the three most likely are: Integrated Science, Sustainability, and Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing.  We are currently conducting a search for a new faculty member who will coordinate the Integrated Science Teaching Certificate Program. Michigan school districts now prefer to hire teachers with preparation in Integrated Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Earth Science), rather than discipline-specific candidates. As a result, all of the discipline-based science Teaching Certificate Programs at UM-Flint have been phased out, and the Integrated Science program will become active this fall. We anticipate at least 10-12 students initially at the undergrad level, including many currently employed science teachers who will return to add this certification. Since the State of Michigan requires teachers to obtain an additional 18 credit hours of graduate work, a Master’s in Integrated Science can provide an avenue for fulfilling this requirement.

Regarding the Sustainability program, our Energy and Sustainable Systems major implemented in 2011 has been very successful. We have over 15 majors, and the soon to be completed Urban Alternatives House should provide a catalyst for the further growth of this program. GIS would be a core component of this degree, which may also include tracks in Sustainable Transportation, Energy, Planning and Policy, and Water Resources.

If the GIS Master’s is developed, we also envision it to have multiple tracks; with applied components in transportation, energy, and water resources among others. 

We would like to hear your thoughts about ERS graduate programs. Please send us a note.

Hello World!

Filed under: Faculty Posts — December 3, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

by Garry Green

Things are beginning to slow down an environment science labs with our final test next week.  Like most people I am excited and looking for to break. Between semesters I’m hoping to continue making improvements to the environmental science labs particularly focusing on air pollution and including a new exercise focusing on ozone pollution. I’m also looking forward to teaching landscape photography, Geo297, again this coming spring semester and hope to also find time to modify and improve the lessons and goals of Geo297.

HR and I are still collaborating on the urban alternatives house video and planning of the community garden space. With construction on the house drawing to a close I’m in the process of putting the final touches and edits on a video project highlight the UAH construction process and goals of the project. In conjunction with my graduate work I’m continuing my creation of a 3D model of the house and community garden space for planning. Soon all this should be available for viewing on the UAH Facebook page.

Using Education to Promote Bicycling and Walking at UM-Flint

Filed under: Faculty Posts — November 15, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

by Greg Rybarczyk

Anyone who has driven on the north side of campus, along 5th Avenue and looked south towards UM-Flint may have noticed a big blue bicycle box, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian crossings painted on an otherwise barricaded service drive entering onto this major thoroughfare.  These peculiar roadway features are now part of the new UM-Flint Bicycle Road Skills Course!  Since last winter, the UM-Flint Walking and Bicycling Working Group- which consists of faculty, students, and staff have been diligently working on a plan to install a bicycle skills course on campus to help educate the university community and public in proper bicycle riding techniques in a safe and virtual transportation environment.  Because education is one of the key elements towards promoting walking, bicycling, and creating a sustainable transportation environment, this course sets out to provide a safe and secure outlet for people to build confidence while bicycling and walking in an urban environment.  By teaching students, faculty, staff, and citizens the proper use of pedestrian and bicycling facilities, they will be less fearful of walking and bicycling and more knowledgeable drivers which will create a safer transportation environment for everyone.

In order to start making this bicycle skills course a reality I submitted a grant proposal to the Crim Fitness Foundation with the help of UM-Flint Walking and Bicycling Group Intern Ali Harris.  The grant was awarded and the planning for the bicycle road skills course began at the onset spring 2012.  With the help of Bill Webb, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance, Theresa Landis, Director of Recreation Services Director, Joel Ellis, UM-Flint Facilities & Operations, UM-Flint’s Ground Crew, Fleis and Vandenbrink’s engineer bicycle advocate Victor Lukasavitz, and local contractors, the design and implementation of the training area came to fruition during the summer of 2012.  Because UM-Flint’s skills course is only one of two in the nation, there wasn’t much precedent on how to efficiently design and implement such an educational tool on university grounds.  Therefore, the planning and design of the course was constructed in accordance with MDOT and Federal AASHTO guidelines to ensure that it presented lawful bicycle and pedestrian facilities one might see in their own community.  The kick-off for the course occurred in conjunction with UM-Flint’s Department of Public Safety “Touch-a-Truck” event.  The event took place on a sunny late September Saturday,and although most people were more interested in sitting in fire trucks or watching helicopters land, we still had several community members (children mostly) interested in our skills course (see pictures).  Overall, the event was a great introduction to the bicycle course and provided hope for its continued evolution in becoming a permanent teaching fixture on campus.  There are plans to install 2 informational signs on the course; one introducing the course and another providing bicycle course facility definitions and “How To’s.”  In the short term, I will be using the skills course in my upcoming ERS winter 2013 course: GEO 491, Sustainable Transportation-Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning.  The Recreational Department will also be using the skills course for their HCR 113 course entitled: Bicycling on the Flint River Trails.  Even if you don’t take either of these courses I encourage everyone to ride the UM-Flint Bicycle Road Skills Course with one of UM-Flint’s Free Maize and Blue bicycles or with their own bicycle and provide your comments to: Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Imagine Flint!

Filed under: Faculty Posts — November 15, 2012 @ 10:16 am

by Victoria Morckel

For the first time in over fifty years, the City of Flint is updating its master plan. For those of you with an interest in planning, this is a great time to get involved. Come have a say in the future of Flint by attending one of the community workshops on November 15th, November 28th, and December 13th. For more information, go to

RPL311 students are getting involved in the planning process. We recently completed a commercial property survey of Davison and Saginaw streets for the city. The purpose of the surveys was to collect data on property conditions, vacancy, and infrastructure to inform the master plan. Notably, students will be using the data to provide the city with recommendations for improvements to these two streets. Presentations to the City of Flint planning team will occur on December 6th at 2:30 in room 520. All are welcome to attend.

Next semester, in RPL260 and RPL371, students will examine who is coming to downtown Flint and why. The idea is that if we can identify what attracts people to Flint, perhaps we can build on our strengths to attract even more people to the downtown area. We will later examine the opposite question: who is not coming to Flint and why. These questions will be explored using primary data collection, statistical analyses, and geospatial techniques.

On a different note: Please join me and the ERS department in welcoming Dr. George Galster to campus on November 15th. Dr. Galster will be giving a talk on his new book titled “Driving Detroit: The Quest for Respect in the Motor City” at 3:00 in Michigan Room D of UCEN. If you have an interest in Detroit or in shrinking cities, attending this talk is a must!

Department News

Filed under: Faculty Posts — October 10, 2012 @ 11:48 am

By Marlos Scrimger, Lecturer IV

As the Fall semester moves into week 6 the students taking ERS courses have been very busy. GEO 150 students have been learning about the sun and earth relationships, seasonal changes, solar radiation energy concepts, atmospheric processes, air pressure, air masses, wind circulation, jet streams, and in general, weather.   

At the mention of weather, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported that the United States has just undergone the hottest 12-month period ever recorded.  The Pacific Northwest and northern parts of California were actually much cooler than normal over the past year, while a vast stretch of the Midwest and East were acutely warm and dry.  NOAA said that from May 2011 to April 2012, the average temperature in the lower 48 states was 55.7o F or 2.8o F above the 20th century average.  The first four months of 2012 were also the warmest on record, with the average temperature for the contiguous states reaching 5.4o F above normal.  April marked the 326th month in a row that was warmer than last century’s long-term average.

The GEO 285 students (Environmental Hazards and Natural Disasters) have been working hard on research papers and their Disaster Journals.  Last week seven students presented their research on Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunami events. As a resource the students may access an interesting web site that provides a weekly updated diary of the planet.  There is information on tropical cyclonic events, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, temperature trends, biological wonders, virus outbreaks, and other phenomenon.

Another noteworthy item is that the US Weather Channel during the upcoming 2012-13 winter season has decided to name major winter storms. This is traditionally only used for hurricanes in the United States.   The Weather Channel believes that adding names to these storms will raise awareness, make it easier to follow a weather system’s progress, easier to communicate about the storm, and will make it easier to remember and reference the storm in the future.

UAH Project

Filed under: Faculty Posts — September 13, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

by Dr. Richard Hill-Rowley (HR)

The Urban Alternatives House (UAH) project is now moving!  Construction work started in July and Marty mentioned it in his last post.

Rather than write a blog post that summarizes how all this has come together I am going to include three links which will provide some background and a way to keep up with progress as the project moves forward.

The first link is a fact sheet we prepared to briefly describe the project and its objectives.  Next is a recent article from the Flint Journal that reports on an open house we held at the UAH on September 7 to let our friends and a partner check out progress on the renovation while it was still underway.

A third link is to the UM-Flint Urban Alternatives House Facebook page.  I am posting photos of the renovation and short updates on progress.

There is still a lot of work to do and we have our challenges along the way, which is common in all renovation projects.  But we are shooting to finish up by the end of October.  And we hope you will all come to the grand opening when everything is complete.


Filed under: Faculty Posts — August 29, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

By Dr. Marty Kaufman, chair ERS

On behalf of the faculty and staff of ERS, we would like to welcome all of our students back for another year at UM-Flint. We also welcome our newest faculty member-Victoria Morckel-who is joining ERS after recently completing her doctoral program at Ohio State University. Victoria will be teaching GEO 116 and RPL 311 this fall. Victoria is an expert in urban revitalization, and we look forward to her contributions to our existing planning and sustainability programs.

Although enrollment at UM-Flint has slightly declined this year, our department continues to grow. We now have over 80 majors, two degree programs (Environmental Science and Planning; Energy and Sustainable Systems), and two very active minors in Environmental Science and Geographic Information Science. In addition, a lot of excitement is being generated by three major initiatives our department is undertaking: 1) the Urban Alternatives House; 2) a new Integrated Science Teaching Certificate Program (TCP); and 3) the establishment of a new GIS center.

After several years of tireless work, Professor Hill-Rowley’s vision for a house within an urban area that could serve as a model for energy and water efficiency has become a reality. Construction has begun on the interior renovations, the geothermal system is being installed, and designs for the solar panels are in progress. This project is unique in the sense that it not only incorporates demonstration, but also active learning through the real-time monitoring of the energy systems and classroom space.

Prof. Repic has developed a new program in Integrated Science Teaching; and although the formal approval of the program will not occur until October, courses towards this degree can be taken starting this fall. This new program fills the void created by the discontinuance of all the major TCP programs in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Earth Science, which was prompted by shifting state education requirements and school district preferences for teacher training.

Finally, within the next two weeks, ERS will formally announce the opening of its GIS center. This effort has been spearheaded by Professor. Rybarczyk, and it avails the GIS expertise in our department to the campus and surrounding community. There is now a partnership for spatial data acquisition and dissemination with the Thompson Library, a series of free training workshops in introductory GIS, and opportunities for our advanced GIS students to help with GIS design issues on interdisciplinary mapping and analysis projects across campus and beyond.

GIS is expanding at UM-Flint

Filed under: Faculty Posts — June 27, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

by Dr. Marty Kaufman, chair ERS

First off, our faculty and staff would like to welcome you to this blog. Once a week, a different faculty or staff member will share their take on the current events within our department.

On June 21, Professor Greg Rybarczyk and I conducted a 2-hour GIS workshop that provided an introduction to GIS. The first hour included a brief history of GIS, and how simple schematic models are used to transform an environmental or social issue into a computable GIS application. Attendees then used the second hour to implement a simple floodplain risk application using ARC-GIS.

The real news about this event was the depth and breadth of the interest in GIS evident within our campus and the surrounding region. Maybe it was the price (free), or the gratis lunch? Nah–GIS is really hot.  Attendees included professors from five departments (Public Administration, Anthropology, Computer Science, Political Science, and Social Work) and representatives from our library. From outside campus, professionals from the Genesee County Health Department, the Crim Fitness Foundation, Rowe Engineering, Air and Land Surveys, AKT Peerless, and Superior Environmental were also pounding the keyboards. 

This effort is part of a longer-term strategy to build our GIS program. The work began with a “Cloth Bag” presentation in March by Greg and I that was sponsored by our Thompson Center for Teaching and Learning. After receiving lots of positive feedback from this event, the entire faculty decided it would be beneficial to offer a series of workshops for the campus and professionals. In addition, we’ve expanded our GIS course offerings to include a new intro course designed explicitly for non-ERS majors (RPL 270).

Our fall lineup of GIS workshops includes one on data sources and another on data conversion methods and analysis. We’ll keep everyone posted.