SUST 220: Water (Course Preview)

This spring semester the SUST program is offering SUST 220 Water, one of the core 200-level courses in the Sustainability Studies curriculum, in a special hybrid format at the Schaumburg Campus. Taught by Mike Bryson, Associate Professor and SUST Program Director, the course will meet online starting Monday, Jan. 28th, as well as face-to-face on four weekend dates throughout the spring semester (Saturday Feb. 2nd, Feb. 23rd, Apr. 6th, and Sunday Apr. 28th).

Weekend Sessions: Lectures + Discussions + Field Trips!


RU students sample the macro-invertebrate fauna of the North Branch on the NW Side of Chicago, May 2010

The unique hybrid format of SUST 220 Water helps keep our class carbon emissions down (because of significantly reduced commuting time/costs) but also gives us the opportunity to explore water resources in Schaumburg as well as the NW suburban and Chicago region. Some of these sessions will start in our classroom at the Schaumburg Campus for some lecture and discussion, and then shift into doing some field work at a site nearby. Other sessions will present opportunities to participate in water-related events and explore aquatic ecosystems in an up-close and personal way. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of our scheduled sessions:

Sat. 2/2 — Meet at the Schaumburg Campus for course orientation and initial explorations of local water resources. Our semester will start with an introductory lecture on water and sustainability, personal introductions amongst ourselves, and a discussion of water as a resource and a cultural motif. After a sack lunch, we’ll explore the Campus as well as selected nearby sites in and around Schaumburg that are instructive for thinking about how how water moves through and impacts the local community.

RU students canoe the South Branch of the Chicago River, May 2009

RU students canoe the South Branch of the Chicago River, May 2009

Sat. 2/23 — Attend the Chicago River Student Congress at Marie Curie High School in Chicago. Located on the SW Side of Chicago, beautiful Curie HS is the 2013 site for the Friends of the Chicago River‘s annual Chicago River Student Congress. The Congress is a gathering of middle school, high school, and college students who have done research about and/or restoration work on the Chicago River’s many waterways, a place where they share knowledge and inspire each other through science, policy, art, and ideas. After attending (and quite possibly helping out with, in some capacity) the Congress from 9am-12:30pm, we’ll break for lunch and then explore some nearby sites along the South Branch of the Chicago River / Sanitary & Ship Canal Corridor, such as the Chicago Portage National Historic Site, Canal Origins Park, and Bubbly Creek.

Sat. 4/6 — Meet at the Schaumburg Campus for lecture and discussion on the science and policy of wetlands. After lunch, we’ll conduct water quality sampling work on the RU campus detention pond/wetland, thus learning how to use chemical field testing equipment; then venture out to one or more nearby wetland sites to immerse ourselves in matters of wetland ecology, conservation, and restoration.

Calculating the streamflow rate of the Upper North Branch, Oct. 2012

Calculating the streamflow rate of the Upper North Branch, Oct. 2012

Sun. 4/28 — Meet at Linné Woods to study and then canoe the North Branch of the Chicago River. Linné Woods is a unit of the Cook County Forest Preserve District in Morton Grove, a few miles east of Schaumburg. Here we will cap off the semester with a two-part exploration of the Chicago River’s Upper North Branch, which flows through tranquil forest preserves and a suburban golf course. We’ll first assess the water quality and streamflow volume through performing a chemical, biological, and physical assessment of the river and its biota. Then, we’ll team up with students from my SUST 350 Service & Sustainability class on a Friends of the Chicago River-led canoe trip down a five-mile stretch of the North Branch — a very scenic yet ecologically instructive part of the river.

Required Text

Water ResourcesShimon C. Anisfeld, Water Resources (Island Press, 2010, paper, ISBN 1597264954). On order and available at the RU Bookstore (Wabash Building). See the book’s website at Island Press for more details.

Overview of SUST 220 Water

Key concepts and themes to be addressed in SUST 220 include the science and policy of ensuring a safe water supply; water conservation strategies, particularly in urban areas; wastewater treatment and  watershed management; threats to water supplies posed by pollution and development; and wetlands ecology and restoration. Students will develop a thorough understanding of the water cycle and its relation to the sustainability of water systems; understand and assess the importance of water as an environmental as well as cultural resource; learn to define, measure, and sample water quality in a variety of contexts using field-based water sampling techniques; and evaluate contemporary water management and policy issues, particularly those affecting the waterways of the Chicago region as well as the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Questions about the Course?

Email Prof. Mike Bryson at mbryson[at] or call him at 847.619.8735 (Schaumburg office).

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