Environmental science: Urban environment assignment
The immediate environment for most people is an urban area. The urban environment is an ecosystem containing units and pathways for the exchange of energy and
information. It is these pathways that are studied by planners and policy makers, who are increasingly incorporating ecosystem management concepts in their
professional work. In this field activity, you have the opportunity to inventory and analyze a block in a downtown area for various forms of pollution,
infrastructure, social benefits and environmental impacts associated with cities.
Imagine that your company has been hired by the city to apply for an urban renewal grant, and you want to get a handle on conditions by conducting a preliminary, non-
intrusive walkover. First, you will describe the setting. Second, you will inventory the different types of energy pathways (infrastructure) entering and leaving the
unit���driveways, sidewalks, doors, telephones, mail slots, power lines, smokestacks, exhaust vents, any connections into the air, land, or water. Third, you will
estimate the units or range of units used to measure use of these pathways (e.g., number of cars using the driveway, amount of smoke going out of the chimney, etc.)
Activity 1: Streetscape
1. Describe your block setting so that someone from another area can find the town, street location and the block face you studied.
Activity 2: Inventory
3. Inventory the structures & features that you see. Include the primary building material, type of buildings, estimation of number of employees in each building,
age of the building, evidence of modifications or changed to the buildings.
Primary Building Materials
Type of Buildings
Number of Employees
Age of Buildings
Modifications/ Changes
Activity 3: Motorized Vehicles
5. Determine the total number of motorized vehicles on your street for a one-hour period.
6. What do you think are the peak travel hours in the morning and evening?
7. How many vehicles do you estimate are on the road during those times?
8. Does the urban environment accommodate this traffic now at peak and non-peak times? Future? Explain.
Activity 4: CO2 Emissions
6. Estimate the amount of CO2 emitted by vehicles stopped in traffic at the site.
-Avg. gallons of gas per minute: 0.0056
-Each gallon gas burned yields 8788 g CO2.
Time Number of Cars CO2 Emissions
Activity 5: Noise Pollution
7. Measure the level of noise at the site (Estimate low, medium, high)
Present Types Sources Levels
Figure 1. Urban Ecosystems Diagram.
Wagner, T., Sanford, R. Environmental Science: Active Learning Laboratories & Applied Problem Sets. 2nd ed. 2010. Wiley and Sons Inc. New York, New York.
1. Now that you have spent a little time examining an urban ecosystem, what do you see in common with other forms of ecosystems?
2. What recommendations would you have for revitalizing the urban segment you studied?


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