Preparing for a New Term…

My next and final term at SAIT Polytechnic begbins tomorrow.  In preparation, I’ve been cleaning up around the house, but also I have checked out what is already available online.  Some instructors have posted information and assignments already.  Even if it is only the course outline and schedule, it is helpful.

The courses I am enrolled in for this term are:

  • Advanced Environmental Considerations
  • Water & Wastewater Treatment
  • Field Safety
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Environmental Project Management
  • Solid Waste Management
  • Subdivision Planning, Design, and Land Use
  • Environmental Technical Project

That is eight courses, two of which have laboratory components to them, essentially taking the number of courses to ten.

Advanced Environmental Considerations is considered to be a “capstone” course that will include three major term projects.  The very first part of the course, which has already been posted, looks at the analysis and interpretation  of data collected during field school.  Specifically, we collected data on selected parameters of water chemistry at the beaver ponds in Kananaskis Country (see Field School Day 4).  The (seemingly contrived) research question is whether there is “something in the water” that is making some beavers reproduce at a higher rate than others.

The Environmental Technical Project is a week-long work study project that the MacPhail School of Energy calls a “practicum”.  I fail to see how a true practicum can be completed in a single week, but I guess I will see (and hopefully be impressed).  When I hear of practicums (practica?) from other programs or from the University of Calgary, they are semester-long work projects.

I was rather concerned about the Environmental Microbiology course, as I have absolutely zero background in biology.  I studied physics and chemistry in high school, and went straight to geophysics in college/university.  Suffice it to say that my true love has for a long, long time been physics and mathematics.  After talking to the instructor, Shannon Buckley, though, I am really excited about the course.  I don’t delude myself that it will be supremely easy, but I am excited and interested to find out how microbiology is applied to or involved in environmental studies.  For example, one thing that we learned in Site Reclamation (third term course) was that bioluminescent bacteria are used to determine the toxicity of various drilling muds.  I look forward to learning more about this, and possibly doing the test myself.  I’ll keep you posted.

Another course that I am looking forward to is Suburban Planning, Design, and Land Use.  I have joked with my friends many times that city planners don’t actually plan.  Rather, what they do is throw a bunch of needles or toothpicks on a gridded table.  Whatever pattern they form is what the new roads and parking lots in a community will take.  (This is, of course, based on opinion and the experience of living in a city full of labyrinthine communities with more turns than a meandering stream.)  I also was not encouraged after reading James Howard Kunstler‘s The Geography of Nowhere.  If you haven’t read it, I would encourage you to do so.  Kunstler makes many cogent observations while discussing the history of America’s development and geography (Canada follows many, if not most, of the same patterns), examining how we went from beautiful, walkable communities to suburban centres  where walking is all but incomprehensible.  In a way, this is a history of car culture.

Given the number of major projects EVT students suffer through encounter in the third term of the program, Environmental Project Management is a course that might fit better in the second semester than the fourth.  Nonetheless, I’m sure it will be an interesting and useful  project that will allow us to learn from the mistakes of past group projects.

Finally, I am really interested in the (waste)water treatment course.  I really enjoyed the  second-term course involving water chemistry (atmospheric chemistry was the other component) and look forward to learning more.  This course involves a laboratory component, and I rather look forward to actually doing some experiments in water chemistry.  The most disturbing point is that the course text, Chemistry for Environmental Engineering and Science, is available at the SAIT bookstore for approximately CDN$215.  I kid you not!  I managed to find a soft-cover version of the exact same edition of the text for a total of CDN$70 (including shipping) on Amazon.ca (I’ll update if there are any customs charges).  Of course, I cannot say whether such deals will be available for long, let alone for future years, but if you can find a paperback version of the same edition as that required you will certainly pay much less.

I am really hoping that I will be able to keep this blog updated more than I did last term.  Blogging about school and research is fun, and can be useful to future and current students alike, so long as it is understood that this is one person’s opinion rather than a definitive assessment.

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