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David W. Kelley
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Geography
University of St. Thomas
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever 

In this case study, developed for an introductory environmental studies course, students grapple with the issue of air pollution, specifically the causes and effects of haze and smog as ubiquitous, persistent air quality problems that plague urban and rural areas alike. In analyzing local conditions in Minnesota, students explore the wider environmental, political, social, and human health implications of air pollution.

The Fate and Transport of Toxic Releases: A GIS Case Study

The release of toxins into the environment and the federal government's tracking of that using the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are the focus of this case study, which uses GIS to explore the potential impacts of the release of such substances. The case was developed for an introductory environmental studies course. It would also be appropriate for use in an introductory GIS course or cartography course where some analysis is required, an introductory chemistry course for non-majors (with some more prep work on partitioning coefficients and fate and transport), or a basic soils course where remediation techniques are emphasized. The case study requires ESRI’s ArcView 3.3 software in a computer lab setting, although it could easily be adapted for use with ArcGIS 9.x.

White Bear Lake: A Disappearing Lake and Efforts to Restore It

This case study reviews the hydrologic cycle and uses a water balance equation to examine the hydrology of White Bear Lake, a 2,531-acre natural water body near St. Paul, Minnesota. Since 2004, lake water levels have fallen five feet below their ordinary high-water mark, resulting in broad areas of exposed lakebed. In 2012, a group of area residents filed a joint lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), claiming mismanagement of the region's groundwater resources by allowing too many permits to be issued for groundwater extraction. The suit alleges that neighboring cities pumped increasing amounts of groundwater out of the underlying Prairie du Chien and Jordan aquifers, which are known to supply groundwater to the lake. The central activity of the case involves students using a supplied spreadsheet (Supplemental Materials) to model the roles of various water pathways on the surface water levels in White Bear Lake. The case was written for either an undergraduate hydrology or hydrogeology course, although the assignment could be modified for graduate students.