A Natural History of Water

TEST 331  Winter 2005 University of Washington, Tacoma
M-W 6:45-9PM GWP 101
Michael Kucher     kucher at u dot washington dot edu
phone: 253-692-3859
Fax:  253-692-5718
Office hours:  3-4PM M-W and by apt
Course URL: http://courses.washington.edu/tande/hw/
For Campus Info in case of snow, seismic activity, etc.: 253-383-INFO (unless the Chancellor closes the campus, you can assume class will meet as scheduled.  I will also post a note on this web site, email the class list, and leave a message on my office telephone if I cancel class)

Course Description:
A Natural History of Water is a reading- and research intensive course that will examine the historical impact of human activities upon the regional and global environment. Each time the course is taught it will address a different theme. The course will be organized around case studies of various topics with an emphasis on the sources and methods historians use to study environmental change over time. Students will complete a major research paper in which they apply the methods they learn to studying the history of an environmental issue in the Pacific Northwest.

In Winter 2005 this course will focus on the water and water-related issues in the Puget Sound and Commencement Bay Watersheds, but will place them in a global context using Vandana Shiva's book, Water Wars. We will adapt the methods of environmental history and ecological history to the study of the Puget Sound Watershed. Individual projects will place a local change in the environment into a global context. Students will actively contribute to the class through discussion, peer reviews of drafts of their papers, projects in which they analyze the work of major environmental historians, and a final presentation of their research project. Diligent research, careful analysis, and thoughtful interpretation--presented through quality writing--will be essential features of the course. Together we will strive for the highest quality of written work through a combination of peer review and re-writing multiple drafts of each paper. The importance of carefully crafted writing in the course can be seen in the choice of required texts and in the grading system.

Course Objectives:
Students will gain an understanding of major water issues confronting the environmental  historian through course lectures, readings, and (perhaps) field trips. Class discussion of the readings as well as writing several review essays on recent works in the field will give students training in critical thinking. In addition, students will gain essential research, writing, and speaking skills through a written research project and in a final presentation to the class. Finally, students will learn how to interpret the human impact on the water cycle through slide lectures and field work

Required Readings: (click here for schedule at http://courses.washington.edu/tande/hw/schedule.htm)

Alice Outwater, Water: A Natural History (New York, 1996).
Vandana Shiva, Water Wars (Boston, 2002).

Also, strongly suggested (especially if it has been a long time since you have written a research paper for a history class) are:

Arthur Kruckeberg, The Natural History of Puget Sound Country (Seattle, 1991).
Mary Lynn Rampolla , Pocket Guide to Writing History, 3d ed. (Boston, 2001).
William Kelleher Storey, Writing History:  A Guide for Students.  (New York, 1998).
All can be found in the Tacoma Campus Library.

Some E-Reserve Readings, filed under the course name and number at the UWT Library E-Reserve site and noted on the attached reading schedule, will also be required.

Required and suggested readings are available at the University Bookstore.

Course Bibliography your starting point for all research projects. Click here:  http://courses.washington.edu/tande/hw/bibliogr.htm

Grading and Evaluation:

Note: each written assignment will be given two grades of equal weight: one for the quality of your writing, the other for its content. Grading is based on a 100 point system. 100-90=A; 89-80=B; 79-70=C; 69-60=D; <59=F. Exceptional work will earn an A; work well-above average a B; average work a C; below average a D. The exam will cover all readings, discussions, and presentations. You are responsible for finding out from other students what happened during any class you miss.

Class Preparation and Participation:
This is not a lecture course. Attendance is required.  More than two absences will hurt your grade. The success of the class for each student will depend on how well he or she is prepared and to what extent each student contributes to furthering the class discussion. The quality of preparation and participation will be as important as the quantity.  If I notice a lot of students are unprepared any week I may even offer a pop quiz for your enjoyment. Finally, whereas these guidelines may at first glance seem draconian, upon closer inspection they will reveal the value I place on each student's contribution to everyone's education.

One Précis for each class meeting and one longer research paper, which will be a traditional 15 page term paper as well as an annotated bibliography, to be submitted on disk, in HTML. You will also make a presentation of your final project to the class, as well as occasional "works-in-progress" reports to your classmates.

Water in the News

Each week you will bring in a news story and be prepared to discuss its significance in light of the class readings and your own research.

I will not accept work that has not been proof read or any précis that is late. A "Spell check" on your word processor does not constitute proof reading. Failure to proof read your work will automatically drop your grade. If you have any doubts about the need to proof read your writing consult the UW Writing Center. The people at the Writing Center will not proofread your paper, but they can tell you if your writing needs it and they can give you instruction about how to do so yourself.

All assignments will be graded for clarity of composition and grammar as well as content. All assignments must be typed, double-spaced, with at least one-inch margins, in 12-point type (Roman preferred). Sources will be cited in footnotes or endnotes using Sally Barr Ebest, , et. al. Writing from A to Z: The Easy-to-Use Reference Handbook.  If you have any doubts you may also consult The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed. (available in the library) or contact the Writing Center. All assignments must be turned in on time.

Late assignments will be dropped 1.0 point per day (every day counts) late, except in extreme circumstances (death certificates must be notarized with raised seals). No extensions will be granted except for a written medical excuse presented before the due date of the assignment. Work returned for failure to proofread will be counted as late.  Don't send me MS Word documents as attachments to your email because too often this fails and I can't be responsible.  Please print your work out.  Précis will only be accepted on the dates due.  They cannot be turned in late.

General Evaluation of Written Work:
Writing effectively means writing clearly and concisely and using correct grammar. Excellent papers will meet all of the following criteria:

  1. The paper addresses all of the questions and issues posed in the assignment.
  2. The paper draws upon relevant readings and class discussions. The paper applies what you have been learning.
  3. The paper adds your own insights to the analyses. The quality of your own ideas is important. Show your own independent thinking as much as possible.
  4. The paper is convincing. You have the responsibility to justify your arguments. You must back up your points and conclusion. Support your argument by using evidence from the class readings or other sources. Use explicit examples to illustrate what you say. Do not assume anything on the part of the reader.
  5. The paper is well organized. It has an introduction with a thesis (argument), it has a body supporting this thesis, and it ends with a conclusion summarizing the main points.
  6. The paper has no spelling or grammatical errors.
  7. You have completely documented each and every source used, following the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) citation method.  Failure to properly document even a single source can result in a zero for the assignment.  Documentation is covered in A to Z, Rampolla, and Storey.
  8. The final draft shows substantial and significant improvement over earlier drafts.
Analytic, Critical Book Reviews
Each student will analyze two books during the course from your own research bibliography. You are responsible for obtaining your books in a timely manner so you can submit your analysis on the due date. These analyses are intended to get you to think critically about the ways in which other authors write history. The presentations will provide an opportunity to present your comments and work, in addition to giving the rest of the class an idea of the different research and analytical methods for studying the history of the environment. 

Research Paper:  see additional guidelines at: http://courses.washington.edu/tande/checklist.htm
Each student will write a 10-15 page research paper and give a brief oral presentation of its contents at the end of the term. The paper topic should focus upon an individual species, watershed, or watercourse; or upon a technology, industry, or person who has had an impact on the environment in the Puget Sound Watershed.

The paper will be made up of several components which will be due over the course of the quarter. By submitting your work in increments you will be able to get feedback from both me and your peers and thereby improve the quality of the project before its final due date. The components are as follows:

  1. Paper Proposal: a one or two page statement describing your research topic, a summary of the primary and secondary sources you will use (say, ten (10) of each), and any particular difficulties you anticipate. The nature of the primary sources you find will vary according to the topic you choose. You may wish to note collections you will use and the contacts you have made in order to secure access to those collections. If you have any doubts about what constitutes a primary or secondary source in the context of your project that Rampolla (pages 2-3) has not clarified, do not hesitate to ask.
  2. Annotated bibliography in HTML (1-4 pages): a list of pertinent primary and secondary sources. Many of these will be found in local archives, such as the Northwest Room at the Tacoma Public Library, the UW Tacoma Library, the Tacoma Public Utilities Archives, the National Archives in Sand Point, the Pacific Northwest Collection in Seattle, the Seattle Public Library, the Washington State Archives in Olympia, and through other sources such as interviews, newspapers, census records, and the course bibliography. Do not forget to include a personal inspection of the place you are writing about. The bibliography will conform to CMS.  A photocopy of the section of USGS 7.5' map pertaining to your topic would be useful.
  3. First draft (optional): A fully proofread, near-perfect draft of part or all of the final paper. This draft should be as well thought out and as well written as possible at this stage and should not be submitted in outline format. The draft should include your complete text and revised bibliography. A list of illustrations should accompany it; you may include the illustrations themselves if you have time. You will submit your rough draft to peer review and incorporate suggestions that you find useful into the final draft.
  4. Final draft: Combine all the revised components, including your peers' comments and mine, into one final, perfect package. Additional materials such as maps, photographs, and drawings should be included. Color photocopies are ideal (but not required) for the final version.
  5. Presentation: Each student will give an approximately 10-minute long presentation followed by questions and answers from the class on his or her project at the end of the quarter. The presentation should clearly summarize your project and address any issues concerning the topic you have chosen to study. The use of visual aids such as charts, slides, photographs, and maps, etc. is strongly encouraged, but, please, focus on making a well wrought argument. You will be evaluated on the clarity of your thesis and the degree to which your evidence supports it.  Glitzy visuals are no substitute for excellent content.
The end result should be a piece of first-class writing suitable for inclusion in your portfolio or submission as a writing sample for a job or graduate school application.

Computer literacy and familiarity with the Internet are givens in today's academic environment, and I would be doing you a disservice to let you think you can be a fully functioning university student without surmounting the computer hurdle. Email is the best way of reaching me and asking questions that arise between classes. Those of you who are working full time will find it particularly convenient. With an email account you will be able to access the UW Library Catalog, course reserve lists, dictionaries, and two formidable encyclopedias--from your own home if you have a computer and modem. Otherwise you may use computers on campus.

Computer literacy includes knowing how to use footnotes and endnotes, not assuming everyone in the world uses MS Word, backing up your work, and saving copies of anything you turn in;  in short, computer literacy means understanding that computers are imperfect beasts on good days.

Pace of the Course:
By now you may be thinking "so much work." Actually, what I have done is simply shifted a lot of the work to the beginning and the middle of the quarter. I have done this in response to student comments about how bad it is to have all your courses demanding work in the final two weeks. You will be able to sit back after 31 May and focus on your other courses and finals because I have scheduled nothing for finals week.


If you choose to drop the course, you are responsible for reporting the change to the registrar's office. If you stop coming to class and do not contact the registrar, you will end up receiving a failing grade even if you attended only once.

Don't send me MS Word documents as attachments to your email, too often they can carry viruses.  Print your work out and bring it to class please.

If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a permanent or temporary physical, sensory, psychological/emotional or learning disability, please contact Lisa Tice, counselor for Disability Support Services (DSS). An appointment can be made through the front desk of Student Affairs (692-4400), by phoning Lisa directly at 692-4493 (voice), 692-4413 (TDD), or by e-mail (ltice@u.washington.edu). Appropriate accommodations are arranged after you've presented the required documentation of your disability to DSS, and you have conferred with the DSS counselor.

"Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech. . . ."
The right to free speech applies in our classroom as well as in your written work. In light of the potentially controversial topics we will be studying, let me assure you that you will not be graded on your opinions, but on the quality of the evidence and the cogency the argument with which you support your position. We will probably disagree often, but we will strive to remain polite and respectful to each other. Heated discussions can enliven a class, but they are only worth it when conducted with the utmost courtesy to our classmates.

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© Copyright 1997-2005  Michael Kucher   updated: 3 January 2005