Human Ecology

Human Ecology

Human Ecology is the study of the relationship between humans and the natural world. Students may complete an independent capstone project grounded in this discipline because we believe this area of study is a meaningful framework to explore the ways in which we as individuals and communities interact with and impact the natural world, and vice versa.

Maine Coast Semester Capstone in Human Ecology (½ credit)

Required (P/NP/Pass with Honors)

All students at Maine Coast Semester take a half-credit course, the Capstone in Human Ecology. This practical, inquiry-based course supports an individual project aligned with the Maine Coast Semester mission statement and program values. Thematic support and modeling for the project are specifically provided throughout the Maine Coast Semester curriculum, guest lectures, and weekly seminars in energy, farm, and food systems. Through investigations of the Maine Coast, students develop a skill set for learning about a place deeply, and learn to apply these tools wherever they go. Students are led by our faculty through the process of designing a successful research study in their home community. By the end of the course, students will have developed a profile of their home community that identifies and describes its human and natural systems, as well as their interactions. From this profile, students will make informed suggestions of feasible projects that strive to improve some aspect of their community’s relationship to the natural world. This project will culminate in students sharing their process and product with the broader community, both as means of feedback and celebrating student work.

Sustainability Seminar (NC)

Farm and Food Systems is a holistic seminar that uses our farm and food system as a means of investigating the larger implications and opportunities in making day-to-day choices about the food we eat and the farms we support through that process. We explore our farm as an ecosystem, focusing on agricultural practices related to livestock and pasture management, diversified vegetable production, and forestry management. The arc of the course includes an exploration of food and farm economics, labor and social justice issues, food policy and regulation, and food ethics. The course culminates in each student writing a personal statement of belief about their relationship to food and engaging in a dialogue around how to apply what they know about food systems back in their home environments as empowered and thoughtful consumers. We read a wide variety of sources for this course, including current articles about farming and food systems and essays and articles written by farmers. Many of our course materials are resources and records generated on our farm, including economic overviews of cost versus value of different livestock and vegetable systems. 

Energy Systems explores the current state of energy production, use, and efficiency in the United States and globally as we investigate technological and behavioral solutions to our most pressing challenges in sustainability. The course surveys fundamental concepts in the sustainability movement, new techniques and challenges within the conventional energy industry, and emerging technologies in renewable energy and how those are adopted by society at large and implemented on a small scale at Chewonki. We explore the energy systems and infrastructure at Chewonki as the basis for exploring both challenges and solutions in our lived environment.

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