All ECSTATIC Materials

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2015


The science and management of aquatic ecosystems is inherently interdisciplinary, with issues associated with hydrology, atmospheric science, water quality, geochemistry, sociology, economics, environmental science, and ecology. Addressing water resources issues in any one discipline invariably involves effects that concern other disciplines, and attempts to address one issue often have consequences that exacerbate existing issues or concerns, or create new ones (Jørgensen et al. 1992; Lackey et al. 1975; Straskraba 1994) due to the strongly interactive nature of key processes (Christensen et al. 1996). Thus, research and management of aquatic ecosystems must be interdisciplinary to be most effective, but such truly interdisciplinary work is often difficult to implement. Interdisciplinary modeling is a useful approach for managing and understanding aquatic ecosystems, but there are several challenges to the implementation of successful interdisciplinary modeling of aquatic ecosystems, including (1) different spatial and temporal scales that specific disciplines are concerned with (Nilsson et al. 2003); (2) differences in degrees of uncertainty of data and models (Crockett 1994; Minns et al. 1996), and (3) lack of awareness of what modeling options are available in an interdisciplinary sense. All of these are intertwined with (4) difficulties in communication between disciplines, where different terminology and perspectives can get in the way of discussing common issues or concerns (Cullen 1990; Nicolson et al. 2002; Nilsson et al. 2003). And finally, (5) scientists and modelers need to be educated and trained about interdisciplinary approaches (Nicolson et al. 2002; NSF 2000; USGS 1999).

This course is designed to address many of the challenges identified above by introducing students to models that are available in different disciplines and how such models might be applied together to address aquatic ecosystem issues, addressing issues of variability and uncertainty in implementing interdisciplinary approaches, and giving students experience in working in interdisciplinary teams to apply interdisciplinary modeling approaches to increase knowledge about aquatic ecosystems. These students will then be better-prepared for professional or academic careers in which they interact with peers from other disciplines to address real-work aquatic ecosystem issues. Faculty from different disciplines at different universities participated in this course by giving lectures on modeling topics.

Much of the material being used in this course is based on outcomes from the Interdisciplinary Modeling for Aquatic Ecosystems Curriculum Development workshop that was held at Granlibakken Conference Center and Resort on July 17-22, 2005. This workshop resulted in the development of course materials for a graduate level course with an overall objective of engaging interdisciplinary discourse in modeling aquatic ecosystems.

The submission includes materials from the 2015 and 2012 offerings of the course. Materials for the 2005, 2008 and 2010 course have not been included in this package. As an interinstitutional course, the course had different numbers at different institutions (e.g., NRES 730 at University of Nevada Reno, RGSC 618 at New Mexico State University, and GEOS 697 at Boise State University). The materials are organized in the as follows:

  • Syllabus and schedule for the 2012 offering at New Mexico State University (618_syll_sched_2012.pdf) and syllabus and schedule for the 2015 offering at Boise State University (697_syll_sched_2015.pdf) are in the root directory.
  • Folder “info_faculty” includes the individual schedule and syllabus files for each course year. Each lecturer was also asked to fill out a lecture information worksheet (the base worksheet is included in this folder) to provide information for students to review before each lecture.
  • Folder “evolving_curric” includes course materials for lectures, labs, exercises, and projects
    • Folder “lectures” includes folders for each lecture and associated labs as appropriate. The folders are ordered according to the class schedule for each year. Most lecture folders contain a lecture information file (“lectinfo_.pdf”), lecture slides, and associated lab files if a lab was associated with the lecture topic. It is recommended to review the “lectinfo_.pdf” file first to see lecture goals, required reading, context, and preparatory work. Each folder also includes a .pdf file of the associated wiki page. In some cases, a “readme_.docx” file is included to indicate of special software is needed or other guidance to complete exercises.
    • Folder “other_ex” includes the following additional exercises that were done during the classes:
      • Folder “conceptual_mod” includes the interactive exercise that was done early during each class offering to get students thinking about issues with linking models between disciplines.
      • Folder “stella_lab” includes the wiki page about this lab that introduced students to Stella software. In teaching the class, we had education licenses for Stella, an object-oriented software that was useful for interacting across disciplines about modeling. The software was used for several lab exercises during the class. A purchased license is required to do those exercises.
      • Folder “interdisc_toolbox” in the “2015” folder contains pre- and post-surveys that were used for group interactions about collaboration and communication. This exercise was only done in 2015.
    • Folder “projects” includes class projects assigned to students during the class. Each time the class was offered, students were put into interdisciplinary groups to develop modeling approaches and do preliminary modeling of complex water resources issues. Faculty provided materials and gave presentations for these projects that are included in the project folders. Each student group prepared a presentation and report on their project, and some also shared their modeling materials are included in the project folders.
  • Folder “wiki_items” includes two pages about the class that were on the wiki that may be of interest. Some of the links on these pages may not work.

As noted, a wiki was used each time the course was offered, and the submission includes .pdfs of the wiki pages that may have links to pages for the 2008 and 2010 course offerings that are on a google sites page that will probably be discontinued in 2021.Materials on those pages may not be accessible.

Award Number

NSF EAR-0509599; NSF EPS-0814372; NSF EPS-0814378; NSF EPS-0814449; NSF CNH 1010516; NSF EPS-0919514; NSF EPS-0919123; NSF EPS-0918635


This course was offered in 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2015. Materials here are to the 2012 and 2015 course, but do not include 2005, 2008, and 2010 materials. An article about this course was published in 2013. A wiki was used each year the course was offered. Attachments that were linked to the CUAHSI wiki site for 2012 and 2015 were placed in the file.

NRES730 is the course number for the course at UNR. The 2012 course has "618" as the prefix because the course number at NMSU was RGSC 618. The 2015 course has "697" as the prefix because the course number at Boise State was GEOS 697. They were all considered NRES 730 at UNR.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Referenced by

Saito L, Link T, Fernald AG, Kohne L. 2013. Lessons learned from an inter-institutional graduate course on interdisciplinary modeling for water-related issues and changing climate. Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education 152:4-13.

Link T, Saito L, Fernald AG. 2013. Interdisciplinary modeling, research, and education. Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education 152:1-3.

Saito L, Segale HM, DeAngelis DA, Jenkins S. 2007. Developing an interdisciplinary curriculum framework for aquatic ecosystem modeling. Journal of College Science Teaching 37(2):46-52.

Additional Files

697_syll_sched_2015.pdf (50 kB) (828949 kB)

saito14.pdf (1485 kB)
journal article about course

saito07_jcst.pdf (3466 kB)
journal article about course