Professor of Biology and Environmental Science
Director of Center for Environmental Studies
Biology / Academic
- IDEA Center 258
Our lives of material ease depend upon free services provided by the natural functioning of intact ecosystems (take a breath) and massive quantities of fossil fuel energy. But we are burning through those fossilized products of ancient photosynthesis, fouling the planet in the process, and destroying the ecosystems upon which we and all other living creatures depend. The future is hard to predict, but the status quo is not in the interest of future generations. Unlike us, they won’t have fossil fuels, but like us – and all other species – our descendants will require intact ecosystem services.
We cannot be blamed for being born into this situation, but we owe it to future generations, and to the half of our fellow humans who live on less than $2 per day, to employ the luxury of our circumstances to find a way out. Otherwise grinding poverty will persist, our fellow species will continue to be driven extinct, and our descendants will inherit a depleted, degraded planet with nowhere else to go.* This is not the first challenge humans have ever faced, but it won’t fix itself. Who knows? An inspiring challenge might be good for us.
My biology and environmental studies courses attempt to help Austin College undergraduates understand this challenge. I am an ecologist, so I do ecological research, with some interdisciplinary projects that intersect with engineering or economics.
My students and I are working on two research topics, experimental prairie restoration and the effects of suspended sediments on aquatic ecosystems. I am also writing a book on obstacles to environmental progress. It seeks to explain why, if so many people recognize that the status quo is non-sustainable, we don’t adjust faster. I hope that better appreciation of types of obstacles and how they are manifested will enable them to be dispensed with more quickly.
Prospective students and others are encouraged to contact me at 903.813.2284.
* Forget about moving to another planet. If we can’t keep this one suitable for life we won’t be able to make another one suitable. Besides, NASA pays $70 million for one seat on a round trip flight to the International Space Station – less than 300 miles and 6 hours away.
Evolution, Behavior and Ecology (BIOL 115)
This course provides an introduction to the basic concepts of evolution, ecology, and animal behavior. All upper level biology courses at Austin College are built upon this course and its successor, Cell Biology (Biology 116).
Conservation and Restoration Ecology (BIOL 250)
This course offers an introduction to conservation and restoration ecology based on hands-on conservation and restoration experiments couched in ecological ideas and theory. Course assignments are intended to hone abilities of analyzing data, drawing appropriate conclusions from data, and refining writing and speaking abilities.
Prairie Restoration (ENVS 100)
This January term course provides an opportunity to engage in the actual work of ecological restoration. Fieldwork focuses upon tasks necessary for restoring native vegetation to Austin College’s Sneed Prairie. These tasks are complemented by a series of readings, lectures, and discussions that address topics such as prairie ecology, the history of the North American prairie, the consequences of prairie destruction, the techniques of prairie restoration, appropriate targets for restoration efforts, and ethical considerations in restoration work. The goals of the course are to provide experience in restoration ecology and help students develop an understanding of the consequences of ecosystem degradation and the potential of ecological restoration.
Fundamentals of Environmental Studies (ENVS 135)
The field of environmental studies is motivated by the desire to solve existing environmental problems and avoid future problems. Environmental problems are defined here as problems that result from interactions between humans and the natural environment. This course is designed to provide a conceptual framework for understanding and analyzing environmental problems, an introduction to the scientific basis of selected environmental problems, and an introduction to efforts to find solutions to environmental problems. The course framework is designed to illustrate how particular environmental problems are symptoms of the larger, fundamental challenge of achieving sustainability.
Current Controversies and Emerging Issues (ENVS 350)
This course focuses on current controversies and emerging environmental issues that may not be addressed in other environmental studies courses. Course participants select the issues for consideration. Analyses of those issues provide students with opportunities to summarize areas of active inquiry, distinguish well-understood phenomena from critical remaining questions, and draw appropriate conclusions. Students brief their classmates, lead discussions, and write issue summaries as if they had been asked to summarize the state of understanding for a senior colleague at an agency, NGO, or firm. Issue analyses are complemented with visits, in person or by Skype, with alumni and other environmental professionals who offer insights into the same topics. Guests also reflect on their career paths and preparation, and offer advice for students. Analyses are also complemented, when feasible, with field sampling of relevant variables, thereby broadening fieldwork experience and adding data analysis opportunities.
Environmental Policy (ENVS 379)
This course examines actual and potential responses to environmental problems. The course material provides opportunities to:
- understand the history and current state of U.S. environmental policy.
- understand political forces and factors involved in the resolution or failure to resolve major environmental issues.
- practice critical thinking skills by evaluating and commenting on daily reading assignments, including texts that take different perspectives and reach different conclusions about environmental issues.
- further develop your oral and written communication skills through class discussions, a talk to the class, and written assignments.
WORKS IN PROGRESS
Obstacles to Environmental Progress (tentative book title)
This book attempts to answer the question, why, if so many people understand that we have environmental problems, has progress been so slow. In the process it seeks to prepare readers to anticipate and thus overcome obstacles that they will encounter as they seek to solve environmental problems.
The first 10 years of the Sneed Prairie Restoration (tentative article title)
This paper will evaluate changes during the first ten years of three different, replicated management regimes on the nine experimental fields of the Sneed Prairie Restoration and two reference fields.
Schulze, P.C. (editor), 1999, Measures of Environmental Performance and Ecosystem Condition. National Academies Press. Download the Free PDF.
Schulze, P.C. (editor), 1996, Engineering Within Ecological Constraints. National Academies Press. Download the Free PDF.
|Sprules, W.G., P.C. Schulze, & C.E. Williamson (editors), 1992, Advanced Techniques for in situ Studies of Zooplankton Abundance, Distribution, and Behavior. Archiv für Hydrobiologie / Advances in Limnology 36, 140 p. Visit the Publisher’s website.|
RECENT PAPERS — Italicized names indicate Austin College alumni (email email@example.com to request copies)
Schulze, P.C. (2011) Evidence that fish structure the zooplankton communities of turbid lakes an reservoirs. Freshwater Biology, 56:352-365.
Schulze, P. C., K. J. Wilcox, A. Swift, and J. L. Beckert. (2009) Fast, easy measurements for assessing vital signs of tall grassland. Ecological Indicators 9:445-454.
Schulze, P.C., J.H. Gillespie, J.R. Womble, and A.F. Silen. (2006) The effect of suspended sediments on Lake Texoma Daphnia: field distributions and in situ incubations. Freshwater Biology 51:1447-1457.
Diggs, G. M. Jr. and P. C. Schulze. (2003) Soil-dependent fire frequency: a new hypothesis for the distribution of prairies and oak woodlands/savannas in North Central and East Texas. Sida 20:1137-1151.
Schulze, P.C. I = PBAT. (2002) Ecological Economics. 40:149-150.
Schulze, P.C. and J. Mealy. (2001) Population growth, technology and tricky graphs. American Scientist 89:209-211.