Environmental Issues – Term Paper Topics



Listed below are some ideas for your term paper in this class.  You can either choose one of these or come up with your own topic (as long as I approve it).  Writing this paper will require a considerable amount of library research to gather background information.  Your paper should start with a history of the issue in Minnesota, then provide case studies that show the why it is a either a problem or an important environmental issue.  This will lead into a discussion of the current status of the issue in Minnesota.  If your paper is on an environmental problem you should discuss solutions to the problem.  If you paper is on a solution to an environmental problem you should indicate how it solves the problem, and the technological and economic barriers to implementing this solution.


The paper is worth 50 points.  From this paper you will also make a 15 minute presentation to the class which will be worth an additional 25 points.



Choose Topic: November 4

Outline of your topic (10 pt.):  November 18

Final Draft (40 pt.): December 4 

Class Presentations (50 pt): Dec 4, 9, 11




A. Renewable Energy Sources


1.  The history and current status on wind generated energy in Minnesota. - Erik Nygren

2.  The history and current status on solar energy in Minnesota.- Mark Laudenbach

3.  Is there a future for geothermal energy in Minnesota? - Brandon Boomgard

4.  Effects of Coal burning power plants on the Great Lakes environment. -

            4.  Biomass energy in Minnesota

B. Pollutants in the Environment


For these issues you should investigate the sources of the contaminent, its distribution in Minnesota, the problems it has caused, and possible remediation strategies


1. Mercury in Minnesota Fish. - Deb DeSmet

2. The current status of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in the Lake Superior ecosystem.

3. Endocrine disruptors in Minnesota waterways. - Theron Steineck






C. Invasive Species

For these topics you should investigate such things as: What is it, how did it get here, what problems has it caused, how can we prevent further spread, how can we eradicate it?



1. Purple Loose Strife in Minnesota. - John Barnsdorf

2. The Eurasian ruffe in the Saint Louis River. - Matt Ahern

3. The spiny water flea in the Great Lakes. -

4. Another species of your choice

5. The zebra mussel in Minnesota - Jared Gall


Genetic Engineering


1. Growing new trees faster:  the development of genetically engineered trees for Minnesota’s forests. - Kristin Thompson

2. Environmental issues associated with the cultivation of genetically modified crops in Minnesota? - Ethan Roe


Waste Disposal


1. The status of alternative methods of sewage treatment in Minnesota

2. Developing an appropriate solid waste disposal solution for Minnesota

            3.  Duluth’s approach to solid waste management

            4.  Duluth sewage treatment system


Lake Superior


1. Protecting Lake Superior’s shoreline: History, current regulations, planning for the future. - Ryan Strain

2. Current Status of the Lake Superior fishery.   This should include a history of the fishery, the problems it has faced, the current problems, and how they are being addressed. - Allison Jacobs

            3. The status of various chemical pollutants in Lake Superior (pick one such as Mercury, Hydrocarbons, a pesticide, or an endocrine disruptor. - Emily Rockwell

            4. Beach closings: the problems of coliform bacteria in Lake Superior.




1. Developing methods to clean contaminated groundwater in Minnesota

2. Methods of cleaning contaminated lake sediments.


Recreational Use Issues


These should include a history of the issue, identify the environmental concerns, cite studies which have been done, and ideas for managing the issue.


1. Effects of ATV use on Minnesota’s public lands

2. Effects of Personal watercraft usage on Minnesota’s lakes - Ben Mathews

3. Effects of Lake shore development on Minnesota lakes