13 November 2009

Cool Class: Land Change Science

This looks like a great grad seminar...

Land Change Science (16:450:511). Spring 2010. Geography.
Meetings: Thursday 10:20 am -1:20 pm- Lucy Stone Hall B-120, Livingston Campus
Instructor: Laura C. Schneider, B-228, Lucy Stone Hall, laschnei@rci.rutgers.edu
Land change science seeks to understand land dynamics and their various consequences through an examination of coupled human-environment systems. Changes in land-use (human use) and land-cover (biophysical condition) are persistent, and when aggregated at a global scale affect key aspects of the earth system functioning. Such changes also affect economies and human welfare and the vulnerability of places and people to climatic, economic and socio-political perturbations. This seminar examines the development of land change science and the theoretical and methodological challenges to linking biophysical, socio-economic, and remote sensing/GIS analysis.

The course readings draw on recent peer reviewed articles and edited books dealing exclusively with land change science as well as other fields of expertise, mainly ecology, remote sensing, geography and economics. The course begins with a critical examination of key concepts in land change science and the development of its current research plan. Then we examine the following themes : 1) current trajectories of land change (e.g. deforestation, urbanization, increase in agricultural land), taking examples from different regions of the world at different spatial scales; 2) consequences of land use/cover change, specifically those linked to ecosystem services (climate change and biodiversity); and 3) socio-economic drivers of land change. For the last topic, we will discuss an array of explanations ranging from broad generalizations (e.g.: IPAT) to explanations that look closer at complex sets of social relations (political and cultural ecology).

Discussion of methodological challenges facing land change science is central to this seminar. Methodological issues to be discussed will be divided in four topics: 1) The use of remote sensing analysis for monitoring change; 2) the linkage of socio-economic data to ecological data in a spatially explicit form; 3) characterization and discussion of the importance of spatially explicit models to understanding processes and patterns of land change; and 4) the use of landscape metrics (landscape ecology) to understand patterns of land change.

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