Fall 2023
Geos 220: Environmental History of the Southeast
Class times: T, Th 2:00-3:15
Saguaro Hall 225

UA Statement
The University of Arizona resides on ancestral lands of the Tohono O’odham nation, where many today continuously reside in their ancestral land. We acknowledge the privilege it is to teach and learn in this region and we express our gratitude to the nation.

Current UA COVID Protocol

  • Geos. 220 is currently listed as "in-person," so we will meet in-person beginning Tuesday, Aug. 22, and henceforth until instructed otherwise by the UA.
  • Indoor classrooms, including Saguaro Hall 225, are currently signed for "masks recommended," so bring and wear a mask or not during indoor sessions of this course.
  • Lectures will be Zoom accessible and recorded
  • In the event of testing positive, follow these protocols for students.


Paul Sheppard
he, him, his
Lab. of Tree-Ring Research
sheppard @ ltrr.arizona.edu
office hours: MW 11:00-12:00
or by appointment

class map

Course Objectives and Summary

Expected Learning Outcomes


Please be sure that you have fulfilled the stated course prerequisites: two courses from Tier One, Natural Sciences (NATS 101, 102, 104).

UA General Education

Lecture Attendance

According to UA policy, students are expected to be regular and punctual in class attendance and to fully participate in courses. Students themselves are primarily responsible for attendance and class participation, so in this course attendance will not be monitored directly. In general, students who have attended lectures regularly and attentively have done well in this course, and vice versa. Click here for a Daily Wildcat op-ed piece about attending class, and click here for a Daily Wildcat cartoon about attending class.

The UA policy regarding absences for any sincerely held religious belief, observance or practice will be accommodated where reasonable. Assignments and/or exams may be fulfilled late after such absences.

The UA policy on absences preapproved by the UA Dean of Students (or dean's designee) will be honored. Assignments and/or exams may be fulfilled late after approved absences.

Content lectures have a graded exercise for critical thinking, which has the effect of taking attendance. After each lecture, go to D2L to do that day's exercise. The exact topic will be given in lecture. Critical thinking answers should be about 150 words, i.e., approximately a letter to the editor to the newspaper. Critical thinking will be evaluated on the basis of (1) providing an opinion backed up by data about the topic of the day and/or (2) considering multiple sides of the topic of the day. This exercise will be open on D2L from 3:30 to 11:59 PM on each lecture day that has a content lecture.

If you become ill with the flu, do not come to class until you have had no fever for 24 hours. You are responsible for contacting the instructor via email or phone as soon as you can to inform that you are ill. You are also responsible for any work missed while you are ill including assignments and exams.


Course Web Page

Writing Assignments

Grading Guidelines

Lecture critical thinking 50 (2 points per content lecture)
Quizzes 80 (20 pts. each x 4 quizzes)
Outside activities 50 (25 pts. each x 2 activities)
Writing Assignment 200 (100 pts. each for outline/storyboard and essay/video)
Midterm Exams 400 (200 pts. each x 2 exams)
Final Exam
(200-pt. unit exam + 20-pt. comp.)
Total Points 1000  

900-1000 points (90 to 100%) = A
800-899 points (80 to 89%) = B
700-799 points (70 to 79%) = C
600-699 points (60 to 69%) = D
below 600 points (60%) = E

Exams and Other Graded Assignments

Extra Credit

Extra credit is offered, as follows:

Code of Conduct

It is expected that we all—professors, TAs, and students alike—observe rules of common courtesy, such as:

UA Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy

Accessibility and Accommodations

Tentative Lecture Schedule
(subject to change, though not much change)

Part I - Southwest Background

Date Topic Reading Class Events BOD = book of the day, not required nor even expected for now, just encouraged for later
(click here for a cartoon on students & books)
Aug 22
Course introduction: Defining the Southwest   Getting started  
Aug 24
Geology: General and SW Required: US Geological Survey: The Great Ice Age
Optional: Anthropocene #1?
Optional: Anthropocene #2?
Optional: NGM 2014: Goldilocks Earth
Begin studying for Quiz 1: Geological Time
100th Birthday of the National Park System
Roadside Geology

Upheaval from the Abyss
Dave Lawrence
Aug 29
Climate I: General Circulation Required: Gutzler: SW monsoon (password protected pdf file)

Optional: Hurricane Katrina: 10 Years Later
Optional: NGM 2009: Solar Power
Optional: NGM 2016: Surface Albedo
Optional: NGM 2016: Arctic Sea Ice
Optional: Earth Null School
Optional: AGU 2017: Policy statement on geoengineering
  Worst Hard Time
Timothy Egan
Aug 31
Climate II: SW features Required: Gutzler: SW monsoon (password protected pdf file)

Optional: NOAA web pages on El Niño

Optional: NGM 1999: El Niño-La Niña
Take Quiz 1 (D2L): Geological Time Glen Canyon, A Novel
Steven Hannon

The Emerald Mile
Kevin Fedarko

Sep 5
Dating Techniques Required: Emil Haury: Recollections of Dramatic Moment in Southwestern Archaeology
Optional: Try the video version: In the Field of Time (Main E57.H3I5 1995)
An example clip: Haury on Douglass
And another clip Haury on Bridging the Gap
Optional: NGM 1929: Dating SW Ruins
Optional: NGM 2001: How Old Is It?
Optional: Paul's moment of discovery (3.5-min video)
Begin Activity 1:
Crossdating Tree Rings
Tree Rings and Telescopes: The Scientific Career of A.E. Douglass
George E. Webb
Sep 7
Paleo-Ecology and Climate Techniques Optional: Diamond: Packrat Historians

Optional: USGS: Repeat Photography
Optional: Dendro video, LTRR alumnus
Optional: Sierra snowpack by tree rings
  Tree Rings' Tale
John Fleck

Changing Mile
Steven Hannon

Sep 12
SW Ecosystems: Deserts Optional: Buffelgrass Coordination Center
Optional: Geos. 195D website on buffelgrass
Optional: NGM 2013: Number of species worldwide
Optional: NGM 2013: Nitrogen in environment
Optional: PBS 2022: Saguaro cactus and climate change
Turn in (D2L) Activity 1: Crossdating Tree Rings
Begin studying for Quiz 2: SW Rivers

UA Library search engine
Check this out for AZ Rivers
A Sense of Place
Janice Bowers

The Desert Year
Joseph Krutch

Desert Solitaire
Edward Abbey
Sep 14
SW Ecosystems: Mountains Required: Sky Islands video
Optional: Species extinction rates
The Mountains Next Door
Janice Bowers

Sylvester Allred
Sep 19
In-class (online) review
Part I:
Southwest Background

Click here for study guide to Exam I
  Take Quiz 2 (D2L): SW Rivers  
Sep 21
Making a video storyboard
Video making made easy
Have some (at least 4) images downloaded, ready for practice
Download audio files from D2L, as needed
Have Adobe Premiere Pro installed  
Sep 21
Take-home Exam 1 open for submission on D2L   Exam 1 due Fri, Sep 22, 5:00 PM, D2L  
Part II - Prehistoric Environmental Issues
Date Topic Reading Class Events BOD
Sep 26
Deep-time history: Vegetation and climate history Optional: Landscape Changes in the Southwest
Optional: Story of Tucson's Past in Sediment. A Requiem for Arroyos
Sep 28
Early Humans: Megafauna
Required: Martin & Burney: Bring Back the Elephants

Optional: A graceful gazelle becomes a pest: an example of how exotic species introductions might go awry

Optional: La Brea Tarpits, 100th anniversary in 2013
Optional: Bering Land Bridge animation

Optional: Gomphothere-human site

Optional: Paul S. Martin homage UA

Optional: Paul S. Martin homage TW

Optional: Mammoth overkill led to warming?

Optional: Impact theory on the extinction

Optional: Clovis points
Optional: NGM 1979: In Search of First Americans
Optional: NGM 2010: Megafauna Extinctions Worldwide
Optional: NGM 1955: Ice Age Americans
Optional: NGM 1942: Ice Age animals
Optional: Sports Illustrated 1956: Lehner AZ mammoth kill
Optional: First Americans 2000
Optional: 2016: A mammal goes extinct due to climate change
Begin essay/video: Wolf Re-introduction to the SW Silent Sky
Allan Eckert
Oct 3
Ancestral Puebloan:
Chaco Canyon
Optional: NGM 1955: Ice Age Hunters
Optional: Russell Cave: Lifeways of the Archaic period
Optional: Hopi corn farming (4-min. video)
Optional: Provenance study of Chaco timbers
Optional: 2015 provenance study of Chaco timbers
Optional: NGM 1921: Chaco #1
Optional: NGM 1922: Chaco #2
Optional: NGM 1923: Chaco #3
Optional: NGM 1925: Chaco #4
Optional: 2020: Megafauna to agriculture?
Please look over the wolf module and ask questions today as needed New Light on Chaco Canyon, SAR Series
Jared Diamond
Oct 5
Ancestral Puebloan:
Mesa Verde and Kayenta
Optional: Mesa Verde video in 3-D (red & blue glasses needed, very cool!)
Optional: Vanishing in prehistoric American Southwest (3-min. video)
Optional: Haury 1958: Kayenta migration
Optional: NGM 1923: Tsegi Canyon, AZ
Optional: NGM 1979: Navajo National Monument, AZ
Begin preparing for Quiz 3: SW Cultural Geography  
Oct 10
Hohokam Required: Where do the salts go? A 4-page, sobering description of soil salinization in Arizona

Required: Looking at Hohokam may help us live today: A rationale for studying past cultures.

Optional: Pueblo Grande Hohokam
Optional: How to Make a Hohokam pithouse
Optional: The Hohokam Heartland
Turn in wolf outline/storyboard The Hohokam: Ancient People of the Desert
SAR Series
Oct 12
Sinagua and Mogollon Optional: A special field trip to Wupatki (3-min. video)   Black Sand
Harold Colton
Oct 17
14th & 15th Century Transition Optional: Report on 1927 1st Pecos Conference
Optional: NGM 1968: Casas Grandes, Mexico
Optional: Galisteo Basin, NM, Pueblo-IV sites
Turn back wolf outline/storyboard
Start wolf essay/video
Pecos: Gateway to Pueblo & Plains
Oct 19
Spanish Optional: NGM 1992: Spain in Americas, Map 1
Optional: NGM 1992: Spain in Americas, Map 2
Optional: NGM 2020: Bringing a vaccine to the Americas
  Majestic Journey
Stewart Udall

Pueblo Revolt
David Roberts

Guns, Germs, and Steel
Jared Diamond

Saving the World
Julia Alvarez
Oct 20
Wolf "movie night":
Seton's Wolf Story,
a 45-minute PBS film,
an incredible story, told well in a good movie
Online 3:30 PM,
led by Paul
Oct 24
Navajo-Apache   Turn in wolf essay/video (D2L) Navajo Long Walk
Joseph Bruchac

Sing Down the Moon
Scott O'Dell
Oct 26
In-class (online) review Part II - Prehistoric Environmental Issues

Click here for a study guide to Exam II
Oct 31
Start Exam II - Prehistoric Environmental Issues
Open showing of wolf videos, in class; come watch
  Exam II due Wed, Nov 1, 5:00 PM, D2L  
Part III - Modern Environmental Issues
Date Topic Reading Class Events BOD
Nov 2
Anglo-American arrival to SW Required: The Arroyo Problem in the Southwestern United States

Optional: NGM 2014: Eating meat in America
Critical Thinking: Taking Stock on Grazing
Keep reviewing for Quiz #3: SW Human Geography Legacy of Change
Conrad Bahre

View From Bald Hill
Bock and Bock

Kill the Cowboy
Sharman Apt Russell
Nov 7
SW Forest Fire History Critical Thinking: NAm Fire-CO2 numbers
Optional: TED Talk on forest fire
Optional: 15-min. video on a fire lookout
Optional: Paul's video (13 min.) on a fire lookout
Optional: Paul's video (7 min.) on AZ White Mts., including 2011 Wallow Fire
  Fire Season
Philip Conners

Living With Fire
Sara Jensen
Guy McPherson

The Big Burn
Timothy Egan

On The Burning Edge
Kyle Dickman
Nov 9
SW Forest Health Optional: Importance of Forests (6-min. video) Take Quiz #3 (D2L): SW Human Geography
Begin Activity 2: Arizona State Museum
The Forester's Log
Mary Stuever

The Forest Unseen
David Haskell

The Quiet Crisis
Stewart Udall
Nov 14
SW Flooding   Extra credit videos are due
(email or D2L a link)
Floods, Drought, and Climate Change
Michael Collier
Robert Webb
Nov 16
SW Drought Optional: Understanding and Defining Drought. From the National Drought Mitigation Center
Optional: Is "hoping environmental science to be wrong" good public policy? Arizona Daily Star, March 3, 2003.

Optional: North American Drought Atlas
Turn in Activity #2:
Arizona State Museum
Nov 21
Global Change and the SW Required: Southwest may see warmer, wetter climate in the future

Optional: Sonoran Desert may be coming apart at the seams

Optional: Climate Change Effects on Southwest Water resources

Optional: Assessment of Potential Future Vegetation Changes in the Southwestern United States

Optional: Ecosystem Services: Benefits Supplied to Human Societies by Natural Ecosystems. A very readable "white" paper, 13 pages of text with pictures.

Optional: Glacier Retreat. A USGS report on retreating glaciers, perhaps evidence of "global warming."

Optional: Drought and Climate Change. From the National Drought Mitigation Center
Optional: Study predicts dust-bowl Southwest. Are we headed for serious environmental changes?
Optional: Op-ed on sustainability in the SW. Especially good for Business majors.
Optional: The Carbon Bathtub. A National Geographic model.
Optional: Climate Change. AZ Daily Wildcat.
Optional: Millennials Driving Less. Baltimore Sun.
Optional: NGM 2014: Coal.
Optional: CO2 emissions. Sobering numbers.
Optional: NGM 2016: Thoreau's plants flowering earlier.
Optional: NGM 2017: Global change, essential facts.
Optional: NGM 2020: COVID & Global change.
Optional: Planting trees to combat global warming?
Optional: CO2 emissions by cities (Tucson singled out here)
Optional: Trees not migrating fast enough
Critical Thinking: Comparing CO2 and methane.
Optional Critical Thinking: Cutting down on cow methane.
  Cartoon Intro to Climate Change
Yoram Bauman

The Weather Makers
Tim Flannery

A Great Aridness
William DeBuys

Chasing Ice
James Balog

Car Sick
Lynn Sloman

Merchants of Doubt

Earth's Changing Climate
The Great Courses
Nov 23
Thanksgiving Day, no classes      
Nov 28
SW Water

Required: ADWR: Arizona's Water Supplies and Water Demand

Required: ADWR: Tucson Active Management Area

Required: AZ Daily Star: 2007: Pumping of groundwater spurs surge in earth fissures
Follow-up: AZ Daily Star: 2017: Update on earth fissures in Arizona
Optional: Irrigate and die
Optional: 100th Meridian explained
Optional: Agriculture in AZ
Optional: AP report on water use in AZ
Optional: The Colorado River's Future
Optional: 2013: Endangered Colorado River
Optional: 2015: Colorado River Valuation
Optional: 2015: Stop evaporation!
Optional: 2016: The latest on water desalination
Optional: NGM 2016: Ogallala Aquifer
Optional: Saving water at home
Critical thinking: Economic impact of agriculture
Begin reviewing for Quiz 4: SW Cultural Chronology Cadillac Desert
Marc Reisner

Video: Southwest, Are We Running Dry?

Emerald Mile
Kevin Fedarko

Michael Hiltzik

The Water Knife
Paolo Bacigalupi
Nov 30
In-class (online) review Part III - Modern Environmental Issues
Click here for a study guide to Exam III
Dec 5
Final Course Review
Optional: A summary of this course Student course evaluations
(now online)
Take Quiz #4 (D2L): SW Cultural Chronology
Re-survey of course
Final Review Sessions and Final Exam
Date Instructor Time Place  
Dec 11
Final Exam: Part III plus a comprehensive section
3:30 - 5:30 online, take home,
submit by D2L

Subject to Change

Information contained in this course syllabus, other than the grade and absence policy, may be subject to change with advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.

Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona 85721 USA
Comments to Paul Sheppard: sheppard @ ltrr.arizona.edu