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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Moray House School of Education : Education

Postgraduate Course: Ecosystems for Educators (EDUA11318)

Course Outline
SchoolMoray House School of Education CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryAn understanding of ecosystems (in the widest sense) must be central to Learning for Sustainability. Despite humankind¿s dependence on the biodiversity and bio-geochemical systems of the earth, their importance is far from a central theme in education, society and political decision-making. This is particularly pertinent to the global and interdisciplinary nature of the Learning for Sustainability policy field.

The main aim of the course is to engage participants in thinking about learning for sustainability by interrogating the influence of cultural understandings of the planet, specifically ¿as a provider of services¿, on their education thinking and practices. The course will examine a range of ecosystems as providers of ¿services¿, and in doing so it will challenge the idea that our species as being separate from the ecosphere and its processes.

The course addresses three closely inter-related themes:

Firstly: An understanding of the geophysical and biological processes that have shaped, and continue to shape, our living planet, and the ways in which ecosystems provide the foundations human life ¿ fresh water, food and shelter as well as contributing to infrastructure, industry, economy, human health and well-being and poverty alleviation. The many ways in which human activity impacts on these processes will also be addressed.

Secondly: A critical examination of both philosophical and educational perspectives the concept of ¿ecosystem services¿ and the ways in which we understand, manage and assign ¿value¿ to ecosystems, biodiversity and their products and services, with a particular focus on how the ways in which we conceptualise and communicate about ecosystems may affect our success in creating the conditions for humans and the rest of the natural world to flourish.

Thirdly: An examination of the practical implications for education, learning and teaching, including but not limited to the place of experiential education.
Course description Not entered
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

Understand and communicate to a range of audiences the main physical and biochemical cycles responsible for the evolution and maintenance of the current earth system at a global scale, as well as the ecological principles that govern the evolution and maintenance of ecosystems at regional and local scales, and the place of humans within these.

Critically evaluate cases of human impact on the functioning of ecosystems at local, regional and global scales, such as human settlement, energy use, water use, food production, population growth and aggregate demand.

Demonstrate critical understanding of the concept of ecosystem services and the ways in which we ¿value¿ and ¿manage¿ ecosystems, including both the potential benefits and risks that may arise from adopting such approaches.

Deal with complex issues and make informed judgements based on evaluation of the quality, validity and relevance of evidence and arguments grounded in qualitative and quantitative data.

Use a variety of ¿modern experiential¿ and ¿traditional¿ field studies techniques during practical investigations of a range of natural and managed terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
Reading List
Indicative reading:

Anderies, J.M., Janssen, M.A. & Ostrom, E., (2004). A framework to analyze the robustness of social-ecological systems from an institutional perspective. Ecology and Society, 9(1), 1¿28.

Beck, U. (2010). Climate for change, or how to create a green modernity? Theory, Culture & Society, 27(2-3), 254¿266.

Begon, M., Townsend, C. & Harper, J. (2005). Ecology: from individuals to ecosystems. Wiley.

Blackmore, E. & Holmes, T. (2013). Common Cause for Nature: Values and frames in conservation. Retrieved from

Chan, K.M.A., Satterfield, T. & Goldstein, J. (2012). Rethinking ecosystem services to better address and navigate cultural values. Ecological Economics, 74, 8-18.

Costanza, R. (2006). Response to McCauley: ecosystems without commodifying them. Nature, 44(3), 749-750.

Daily, G. (Ed.) (1997). Nature's services: Societal dependence on natural ecosystems. Washington D.C.: Island Press.

Folke, C., Jansson, A., Rockstrom, J., Olsson, P., Carpenter, S., Chapin, S. & Westley, F. (2011). Reconnecting to the Biosphere. Ambio 40(7), 719¿738.

Gomez-Baggethun, E., de Groot, R., Lomas, P.L. & Montes, C. (2010). The history of ecosystem services in economic theory and practice: From early notions to markets and payment schemes. Ecological Economics, 69(6), 1209-1218.

Juniper, T. (2013). What has nature ever done for us? London: Profile.

Jones, A. (1997). Environmental biology. London: Routledge.

McCauley, D.J. (2006) Selling out on nature. Nature, 443, 27-28.

McNeill, J.R. (2000). Something new under the sun. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Meadows, D.L. (2006). Tools for the transition to sustainability. In M. Keiner, (Ed) The future of sustainability (pp. 161-179). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

Meadows, D.H. (2009). Thinking in systems: A primer. London: Earthscan.

Middleton, N. (1999). Global casino: An introduction to environmental issues. London: Arnold.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Program. (2005). Ecosystems and human well-being: Synthesis. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Norgaard, R.B. (2010). Ecosystem services: From eye-opening metaphor to complexity blinder. Ecological Economics, 69(6), 1219-1227.

Reid, W., Mooney, H., Capistrano, D., Carpenter, S., Chopra, K., Cropper, A.,¿Shidong, Z. (2006). Response to McCauley: the many benefits of ecosystem services. Nature, 443, 749-750.

Rounsevell, M.D.A., Dawson, T.P. & Harrison, P.A. (2010). A conceptual framework to assess the effects of environmental change on ecosystem services. Biodiversity and Conservation, 19, 2823-2842.

Steffen, W., Persson, A., Deutsch, L., Zalasiewicz, J., Williams, M., Richardson K., vedin, U. (2011). The Anthropocene: From Global Change to Planetary Stewardship. AMBIO, 40(7), 739¿761.

Santone, S. (2013). Sustainability and Economics 101: A primer for elementary educators. Journal of Sustainability Education. Retrieved

Turner, R. & Daily, G. (2008). The Ecosystem Services Framework and Natural Capital Conservation. Environmental and Resource Economics, 39, 25-35.

UK National Ecosystem Assessment. (2011). The UK National Ecosystem Assessment: Synthesis of the key findings. Cambridge: UNEP-WCMC.

UNEP. (2011). Valuing ecosystem services: Benefits, values, space and time. UNEP ESE working paper series, paper No. 3. Retrieved from

UNESCO. (2012). Climate change in the classroom. Retrieved from

Vira, B. & Adams, W.M. (2009). Ecosystem services and conservation strategy: Beware the silver bullet. Conservation Letters, 2(4), 158-162.

Wilson, E. O. (1992). The diversity of life. London: Penguin.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Keywordsenvironment,nature,ecological economics
Course organiserProf Pete Higgins
Tel: (0131 6)50 9796
Course secretaryMs Marie Hamilton
Tel: (0131 6)51 6678
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