CSPG101: Science & Global Change First Year Colloquium II
Welcome to the Anthropocene: Causes and Impacts of the Climate Crisis

Spring 2021
ONLINE Tues. 3:30-4:50 pm Eastern
SGC Website
Course Syllabus Website
Course Schedule Website
Download an pdf file of this syllabus.


Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Office: Centreville 1216
Phone: 301-405-4084
E-mail: ELMS or tholtz@umd.edu
Office Hours: Mon 10:30-11:30 on Zoom or by appointment
Dr. John W. Merck, Jr.
Office: Centreville 1218
Phone: 301-405-2808
E-mail: ELMS or jmerck@umd.edu
Office Hours: TBA or by appointment

Undergraduate Teaching Assistants:
Brittan Farley
E-mail: ELMS or bfarley3@terpmail.umd.edu
[Title your email "CPSG 101"]
Office Hours: TBA

Andrea Johnson
Office: Centreville 1214
E-mail: ELMS or johnson118alj@gmail.com
[Title your email "CPSG 101"]
Office Hours: TBA

Tessa Quade
Office: Centreville 1214
E-mail: ELMS or tquade@terpmail.umd.edu
[Title your email "CPSG 101"]
Office Hours: TBA

NOTE: It is your responsibility as a student to completely read through and understand this syllabus. If you have questions about it, please contact Dr. Holtz or Dr. Merck. You will be held responsible for following all requirements of this syllabus.

COURSE ORGANIZATION: One Zoom meeting per week, one (or more) asynchronous recorded lectures per week, one Excursion (required).


Additional online required readings are indicated on the schedule, and available on ELMS. Reading assignments must be done by the class time listed.

Copyright: © 2021 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. and John W. Merck, Jr. as to this syllabus and all lectures. Students are prohibited from copying and selling course materials, from selling lecture notes, and from being paid to take lecture notes without the express written permission of the faculty teaching this course.

COURSE OBJECTIVES AND PHILOSOPHY: The unintended consequence of the Neolithic and Industrial Revolutions is that human activity has reached the scale of Earth's natural systems. We have entered the Anthropocene, the age when humanity has altered the environment around us. Students will examine how climates operate, and how natural and human factors influence them. They will see the observed impact of recent global changes on the world around us. They will study how communities & infrastructure, food, water & national security, as well as the wildlife on land, sea & air, are challenged by the profound and increasing impact of humanity.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: By the end of the semester, every student should be able to:

GRADES: The numbers given represent the thresholds that must be passed in order to reach that grade (for example, A+ is 97.000... and any number greater). There is no rounding for letter grades; the thresholds must be passed. F is any grade below D-. Thresholds: 97, A+; 93, A; 90, A-; 87, B+; 83, B; 80, B-; 77, C+; 73, C; 70, C-; 67, D+; 63, D; 60, D-; < 60, F.

The Final Grade is the algebraic sum based on the numerical grades.

The One-on-One Scholars Status Interview is given either full points (for completion of the assigned project) or none (for non-completion or disruptive activity). Each general quiz is graded on a 8-point scale (one per correct answer); the final quiz is on a 20-pint scale.

Course grades are calculated by the summed total of the items listed below. The relative percentage of the total grade represented by each is given.

  1. General Quizzes (10%): Five quizzes are given throughout the semester. The lowest quiz grade is automatically dropped: this includes quizzes missed for unexcused absences. Quizzes will be delivered on ELMS.

  2. Final Quiz (10%): A longer quiz, held on the last day of class, also delivered on ELMS. This will cover all the material of the semester, and even draw on concepts earlier in the SGC program.

  3. Discussion Participation (15%): As this is a Scholars Colloquium, all students are expected to attend every synchronous meeting and be an active participant when appropriate. In some classes, there may be directed interactive activities or discussions. Some meetings will involve Breakout Rooms. A default grade of 5 will be given for every meeting a student attends. They may be awarded up to 2 more points as extra credit for particularly helpful or effective participation in the meeting. Students who are present for a discussion section but are non-participants or are disruptive may be docked up to 2 and 4 points (respectively) at the instructors's discretion.

    While the expectation is that students attend EVERY synchronous meeting, it is recognized that occasionally conditions (accident, illness, power failure, etc.) arise that prevent such. To recognize that, every student is allowed two (2) absences from these meetings without penalty, so long as they inform the instructors and TAs by email (beforehand if at all possible), or certainly by the end of that same day that they will be/were absent and the reason for that absence. Should you not inform instructors and TAs in a timely fashion, the students will receive a 0 for the grade for the discussion/participation for that day. Additionally, if there are more than two absences the student will receive a 0 for the grade each additional class time missed. (If there is a medical condition or other extraordinary circumstance that does require missing more than 2 class meetings-or missing the date of an individual in-class presentation of some form-the student must provide documentation from the appropriate sort of official (health professional; court official; etc.) explaining the absence.)

  4. Student-Generated Questions (8% total): Every week we will ask you to provide a question, its answer (and in the case of a matching or multiple-choice question, additional incorrect options) from the lecture presented the previous week. Creating your own question is an effective way of better understanding the material. These questions will be made available to all. A selection of these will form part of the discussion in Colloquium and may be used in quizzes.

  5. Homework (10%): There are two individual homework assignments this semester. The first (due February 16) is calculating your individual carbon footprint; the second (due on March 2) is on reconstructing paleoclimates from proxy data. Details about the assignment provided later this semester.

  6. One-on-one Scholars Status Interview (5%): How are you doing at University of Maryland? How are you progressing towards your Scholars citation? In order to help make sure things are going well, and that you are progressing to completion of your SGC citation, we require all students to have a one-on-one interview with Dr. Holtz, Dr. Merck, or the TAs during the middle part of the semester. There will be an online sign-up sheet to register for a particular time slot later in the semester. The interviews will be brief (~15 minutes) and will largely be conducted via Zoom unless other arrangements are made. (Dr. Holtz will make himself available on campus for some of these.)

  7. "Awareness of Climate Change Impact" Survey (5%): How well does the general public understand the potential impacts of climate change? You're going to find out. Each student will be responsible for obtaining five (5) respondents to a brief survey about the types of impacts global climate change can be (we will provide the survey). The respondents may NOT be current or former Science & Global Change scholars; they may be students from any other Scholars program; non-Scholars; University faculty, staff, or graduate students; family; friends not at University of Maryland; people you only know online; total strangers; etc. By March 23 classtime you must have had responses from five different individual (in other words, you might have to ask more than five in order to get five responses). You will input their responses on ELMS. This data will be examined in Colloquium and be incorporated into the various "Impacts of Climate Change" Team Project videos.

  8. "Impacts of Global Change" Team Project Video (20%): %): Your primary research in this semester's Colloquium is the development of videos to be posted on the SGC YouTube video channel about the impacts of global change. In teams of 4 students you will research and report on how contemporary and near future global change has impacted and will impact the physical, living, and human spheres. The final deliverable product a recorded video mounted on the SGC YouTube channel and also embedded onto your portfolio. This project has several different subcomponents:
    1. Team Formation/Sign-up of Topic (1%): Due Feb. 23.
    2. Team Contract (1%): Also due Feb. 23, a contract among all team members stating the agreed-upon responsibilities of each person.
    3. Annotated Bibliography (1%): In order to fully research the background of your topic, your team will construct an annotated bibliography of at least eight (8) different references, at least five (5) of which must be from the recent (published since 2012) peer-reviewed literature. (We especially encourage you to use the appropriate chapter of the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC or other IPCC Special Report as appropriate as a source.) This is due on ELMS on March 9.
    4. Recorded Presentation: Faculty Evaluation (10%): A draft of your PowerPoint/Keynote must be uploaded on ELMS on March 30 for comments and evaluation by the faculty. The final video version must be recorded on Zoom and shared with the faculty by Apr. 6. We will upload these onto YouTube and provide you with the link so that you can embed a copy on each members' portfolio page.
    5. Recorded Presentations: Student Evaluations (5%): Each student will screen all the videos but will be responsible for evaluating 3 different videos. These evaluations must be completed and uploaded by Apr. 27. The averaged score of these will be entered as the Student Evaluation for the video grade.
    6. Participation in Student Evaluations (1%): The fact of your own participation as an evaluator is part of your grade; failure to turn in evaluations of the videos you were supposed to view will result in a 0 for this part of the grade.
    7. Within-Team Peer Evaluation (1%): You will evaluate other team members, and be evaluated by them, in terms of your contributions to the project. Due Apr. 13.

  9. SGC Academic Showcase Report (10%): Later this semester your sophomore colleagues will be presenting the results of their individual research, service-learning, or internship work during the Scholars Academic Showcase. The exact logistics of the Academic Showcase in the COVID environment are still being worked out and will be announced later this semester. You are required to attend the Showcase, and interview at least four (4) of the presenters, at least three (3) of whom must be SGC students. (Depending on the logistics, you may be assigned some or all of the interviewees.) Your report on these short interviews will be part of the grade for this semester but will also give you an idea of some of the experiential learning opportunities afforded by Scholars. (NOTE WELL: Next Spring YOU will be presenting at the Academic Showcase, so observe carefully!! Don't just talk to three sophomores and leave as soon as you can; instead, use this time to survey a large number of these projects so that you get an idea of the possibilities.) The worksheet of the report is due May 7.

  10. Excursion Report (5%): Each student is responsible for attending and reporting on one (1) of several options of extracurricular events. These reports are due as file uploads on ELMS online. The question sheet relevant to specific field trips will be provided in advanced; there are service project forms, as well as an even more generic report form: all will be made available on ELMS. Here are some options of types (and examples) of excursions available this semester; more will be announced in class and on ELMS as the semester progresses.

    NOTE: You may not use the same specific Excursion this semester which you used last semester.

  11. Freshman Time Capsule Reflection Essay (5%): You are now completing your first academic year, and one way or another you have learned much. In some ways, your life here may have bone according to plan and in other ways, it will have been full of surprises. Due on the last day of colloquium, your assignment is in the form of an essay letting next year's incoming students know what to expect (exclusive of the effects of the COVID-19 situation, which hopefully they will not have to face in the same ways you did!)

  12. Portfolio Maintenance (2%): Be certain that your Academic Portfolio is updated (i.e., your current class status, major, age, contact information, etc.); that all links are operational; that all text is properly spelled; that all images and code are used legally; all pages use the same css; etc.

LATE ITEMS: Graded items must be uploaded/posted by the date listed. If there are important extenuating circumstances, discuss this with the faculty & TA as early as possible so that we can make allowances, if we deem it appropriate.

IMPORTANTLY: Any item not turned in by the end of final exam period will be graded as "0", unless special arrangements are made in advance of this date between the student and both faculty. "I forgot to turn it in" or "I was busy with other courses" do not represent "special arrangements"; you must be responsible for your own grade and graded items.


Expectations & Attendance

Attendance in the synchronous meetings is required. The Scholars Colloquia require you to do more than simply master the information; you must be able to intelligently communicate and discuss the ideas and concepts of the course with your instructor and fellow students. See this website for the Zoom skills you should master and the proper in-meeting practices to use for the Colloquium.

We require that students be active participants in Breakout Room sessions. Sitting there with your screens off and not talking to each other is unacceptable behavior; and if you are found doing this, points will be removed from your participation grade for that Colloquium meeting. If your Breakout Room group does happen to finish answering their questions or projects in advance, we ask that you return back to the main Zoom room. (That said, if you have completed the assignment or answered the questions fully but there is still time, there is nothing wrong about discussions and chatting about other matters beyond the classroom in your group.)

Although there are many reasons why people may choose to have their Zoom cameras off, we strongly encourage everyone when possible to activate your cameras during Colloquium. This was an item that many students in CourseEval in the Fall Semester highlighted as a way to improve the experience.

General Policies

The University has provided a page on Academic policies here. Each student is responsible for reviewing this page with regards to issues of Academic Integrity; the Code of Student Conduct; Sexual Misconduct; Discrimination; Accessibility; Attendance, Absences, or Missed Assignments; Student Rights Regarding Undergraduate Courses; Official UMD Communication; Mid-Term Grades; Complaints About Course Final Grades; Copyright and Intellectual Property; Final Exams and Course Evaluations; and Campus Resources.

Laptop/Smartphone/Tablet Use:

Given the reliance on technology this semester, please make certain that you have access to appropriate hardware, software, and Internet connections. If you are concerned about your ability to connect remotely for this course, please consult the following information about solutions provided by the Division of Information Technology:


The primary means of communication for this course will be the ELMS Inbox (email) function. Even given its online nature, there is the possibility that due to unusual inclement weather or other unexpected emergencies, the University may close. Please consult the University main webpage (http://www.umd.edu) or call 301-405-7669 (SNOW) to confirm such cancellations. Drs. Holtz & Merck will contact students via ELMS in order to inform them concerning delays of due dates for projects to be handed in or for exams: typically, these will be shifted until the next available class date.

Course Evaluations:

CourseEvalUM will be open for students to complete their evaluations during the last two weeks of the semester. Students can access CourseEvalUM through ELMS to complete their evaluations. You will be alerted about these dates and provided more information closer to that time, and students will be alerted via their official University e-mail account.