Enrolled students: Background readings and lecture PowerPoint pdfs will be available on the course Canvas site.

For information on Prof. Doty's research, see her lab website at:

Contact the course instructor: Sharon Doty

Environmental Applications of Plants

Course Description for ESRM 325 and SEFS 523

(Updated 22 April 2015)

School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
College of the Environment

The course provides students with information about pressing environmental issues and many possible “green” solutions. The course includes a discussion of global climate change and carbon sequestration by plants, since it links to both of the main topics of the course- phytoremediation and bioenergy. The course is taught with a sense of optimism that environmental problems do have solutions. The students will learn about how plants remove and detoxify organic pollutants and sequester metal pollutants. They will learn the advantages and disadvantages of using phytoremediation compared to current engineering methods, and how the process can be improved. One lecture will focus on genetic engineering of plants, followed by lectures describing how this method can lead to increased degradation of pollutants. The bioenergy part of the course covers bioethanol, biomethanol, and biodiesel as alternative fuels. It complements courses taught in the BSE program by emphasizing the biology rather than the chemistry. This overview is then followed by several lectures on the latest research on how current practices are being improved to make biofuel production more economically and environmentally sustainable.

Required Texts

Since the course covers the latest material on phytoremediation and bioenergy, some of which is not yet published, the reading is based on reviews and current scientific papers, not text books. These will be posted on our Canvas site that you can access through MyUW


There will be two mid-term examinations of 150 points each. The questions require essay style answers (and some multiple choice and short answer). The comprehensive final exam is worth 100 points and focuses on tying together the three main topics of the course. To aid in the exams in the undergraduate version of the course (ESRM325), students may bring one two-sided note page summarizing the lecture notes for that section. The graduate student version of the course (CFR523) has take-home exams rather than in-class exams with the expectation of more thorough answers based on both lectures and current literature. These should include reference citations. Graduate students need not come to class on midterm exam days (the exam will be e-mailed to them).

Syllabus for 2015 (DRAFT)

Oct 1- Introduction to the course; overview on environmental applications of plants; standard remediation methods
Oct 6- Phytoremediation of organic chemicals
Oct 8- Phytoremediation of inorganic chemicals
Oct 13- Genetic engineering
Oct 15- Enhancing phytoremediation using g.e.
Oct 20- Enhancing phytoremediation using endophytes
Oct 22- Phytoremediation- Local opportunities and strategies
Oct 27- Exam 1 (phytoremediation)
Oct 29- Bioenergy overview
Nov 3- Bioethanol
Nov 5- Hydrogen gas as a biofuel-guest lecture by Dr. Kathryn Fixen of Carrie Harwood’s lab
Nov 10- Biodiesel and biomethanol
Nov 12- Improving the efficiency of biofuel production
Nov 17- Improving the efficiency of biofuel production (continued)
Nov 19- USDA/AFRI PNW Bioenergy project: AHB
Nov 24- Exam 2
Dec 1: USDA/AFRI PNW Bioenergy Project: NARA
Dec 3- Global climate change
Dec 8- Photosynthesis and carbon sequestration
Dec 10- Plant responses to climate change; tying together the course.

Dec 16- Final Exam

Disability Accommodations

To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating that you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to the instructor so we can arrange the accommodations needed for this class.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism, cheating, and other misconduct are serious violations of your contract as a student. We expect that you will know and follow the University's policies on cheating and plagiarism . Any suspected cases of academic misconduct will be handled according to University regulations. More information, including definitions and examples of Academic Misconduct, is available at