UT students now have the opportunity to enroll in a new course offered by the School of Information Sciences in the College of Communication and Information.

The course, entitled Environmental Information Science, will be a combination of concepts from evironmental science and information science.

"We will explore the intersection of environmental and information sciences by investigating the role of information and technology in environmental science," Miriam Davis, instructor for the course, said.

Davis said that these two areas are becoming intersected now more than ever before. She said the intersection mainly has to do with collecting and analyzing large amounts of data.

"Environmental scientists now need information science skills that they might not have needed 20 years ago," she said. "And information scientists are interacting with other scientists more and more."

Davis said the class will also focus on the challenges that everyone, not just scientists, face when it comes to dealing with data about the environment.

"We will investigate the challenges scientists, information science professionals, policy makers and citizens face in gathering, communicating, using, interpreting, storing and sharing information and data about our environment, as well as the role of technology and data intensive science in solving environmental problems," she said.

Students will learn about a broad range of topics in the course.

"This course recognizes that overarching issues such as global climate change require widespread access to datasets of all kinds to support interdisciplinary approaches and big-picture solutions," Karen McClanahan, lecturer in the School of Information Sciences, said. "Students will learn how to manage scientific data in ways that maximize their ability to be shared and communicated to researchers from all kinds of fields."

The class is open to all students in any major, and there are no required prerequisites to enroll in the course.

As of now, the class, labeled IS495, would be an elective, but Davis said the School of Information Sciences hopes to incorporate the course into the Information Studies and Technology minor offered by the school. This minor is also open to any student in any major.

Along with no prerequisites, Davis said the course has no required textbook or exams.

"The biggest project will be an Environmental Data Project," she said. "Students will get hands-on experience going through the steps a scientist would go through with managing data."

She said students will collect environmental data from websites, and they will create a data management plan, data set and summary of the data that will all be included in a portfolio.

Davis said there will also be many guest speakers throughout the semester.

"They are all professionals (in information science or environmental science) that are on the cutting-edge of their field," she said. "They will talk about their work and how the intersection of environmental and information science applies to their jobs."

Though this course does focus on information and environmental science, Davis said the course is for everyone.

"(It is for) anyone interested in environmental information, technology, science, or anyone interested in being a more educated consumer," she said.

Suzie Allard, associate professor in Information Science, spearheaded the design of the course. She said this course can be valuable to any student.

"All people need to have a good knowledge of how scientists use data," she said. "A lot of things in our daily lives have to do with science, whether it's how scientists are saving forests or predicting the weather."

Davis said this course has a lot of support from the faculty of the School of Information Sciences.

"There is a cohort of people in the School of Information Sciences and the Center for Information and Communication Studies who are interested in this field," she said. "There are three major projects going on that deal with the intersection of environmental and information science, and we are developing a nexis of expertise and ongoing research (in this field)."

Davis said these projects created an interest and awareness of the field.

She said that the school puts an "emphasis on the education of the next generation," and the new course could further that goal.

"(This course) will be a real opportunity to provide a unique educational experience," she said.

The course will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:40-4:55 p.m. in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building.

Davis said there is still space available in the course.

For more information about the course, contact Miriam Davis at 974-7814 or miriams@utk.edu.