This course will not be offered in Autumn 2019 due to my sabbatical leave

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


Contact the course instructor: Sharon Doty

Environmental Applications of Plants

Course Description for ESRM 325 and SEFS 523

(Updated 4 Jan 2019)

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. In the two main topics of the course, both the advantages and disadvantages of each method are covered with the goal that the students will learn critical thinking skills. 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 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. This overview is then followed by several lectures on the latest research on how current practices are being improved to make biofuel production economically and biologically feasible.
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. Students are expected to read the reviews prior to class to engage effectively in class discussions.

There will be one midterm (150 pts) and one final examination (200 pts). The questions require essay style answers. To aid in the exams in the undergraduate version of the course (ESRM325), students may bring one note page (2-sided) of their own making (to be turned in with the exams). The graduate student version of the course (SEFS 523) has take-home exams rather than in-class exams with the expectation of more thorough answers based on both lectures and current literature.  There is one writing assignment worth 25 points.

Syllabus for 2018

Sept 27- Overview on environmental applications of plants; standard remediation methods; phytoremediation intro
Oct 2- Phytoremediation of inorganic chemicals (guest lecture by Robert Tournay)
Oct 4- Phytoremediation of organic chemicals
Oct 9- Genetic engineering
Oct 11- Enhancing phytoremediation using g.e.
Oct 16- Enhancing phytoremediation using endophytes
Oct 18- Phytoremediation- Local opportunities and strategies
Oct 23- Exam 1 (phytoremediation)
Oct 25- Bioenergy overview
Oct 30- Bioethanol and cellulosic bioethanol
Nov 1- Biodiesel, biomethanol, and biohydrogen
Nov 6- Biochemicals (guest lecture by Prof. Fernando Resende's graduate student, Gabriel Seufitelli)

Paper is due

Nov 8- Improving the efficiency of biofuel production
Nov 13- Improving the efficiency of biofuel production (continued)
Nov 15- USDA/AFRI PNW Bioenergy Projects: AHB (guest lecture by Prof. Gustafson)
Nov 20- USDA/AFRI PNW Bioenergy Projects: NARA (guest lecture by Prof. Ganguly)
Nov 22- Thanksgiving Day holiday
Nov 27- Global climate change
Nov 29- Photosynthesis and carbon sequestration
Dec 4- Plant responses to climate change; tying together the course
Dec 6- Final Exam (last day of class)

Dec 12- We are not using our assigned final exam day

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