E.S.300 - Ecology

At Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, students are required to take Ecology. This course provides students with a solid foundation in earth system processes. It helps them become aware of past, future, and present environmental problems and solutions. After taking this course, the students become better equipped to make informed, environmentally responsible decisions!

Agriculture and food make up a big portion of the course. In the U.S., agriculture comprises a significant portion of the economy, and consumes about 17% of commercial energy use. Most of this is fossil-fuel energy for manufacture and distribution of fertilizers and pesticides, pumping water for irrigation, mechanization (machines replace labor), and processing and distribution of food. Appropriating land for agriculture is a HUGE land-use impact by humans, not just converting diverse natural ecosystems into mono-culture farm systems, but re-directing surface water on a massive scale, depleting groundwater aquifers, and contributing to nutrient pollution through fertilizer runoff and concentrated animal rearing waste.
With all of that covered in class, students taking this ecology course particitpate in service learning at Pearson's Town Farm to explore alternative ways of producing food. They learn about the emphasis of local, small scale, less energy intensive systems focused on reducing the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Because Pearson's Town Farm products translate directly to their dinner plates at Bon Appétit, the course helps the students connect with their college community. The combination of class material and the farm work experience gets the student to think more about what they eat, where it comes from, and what the full consequences of their food choices entail!