In Fall 2014, the Russian Studies program is offering a new online course taught in English, “Environmental Issues in Modern Russia.” The course enrolled to capacity within a week of registration and has attracted students from a wide array of academic disciplines. We have asked Prof. Lidia Skrynnikova, the course instructor, a few questions about the class.
1. What does the course deal with / what is the course about?
The course focuses on the environmental history of Russia and the Soviet Union and current ecological issues facing the country.Students read about and discuss such issues as radioactive contamination, air and water pollution, deforestation, endangered species, strictly protected areas (zapovedniks), the plight of indigenous and other environmental issues. They also learn about Russian culture, society, politics and even introduce some Russian vocabulary.
2. What motivated you to design this course?
Dr. Olga Mesropova (director of the Russian Studies Program) suggested that, since I am Russian ecologist, I could teach a class on ecology of Russia. It appeared that the Russian curriculum had many language, literature, and culture classes, but a course on Russia’s environmental issues has never been offered at ISU. In fact, I am really excited to teach this course as it combines my interests and expertise with regard to Russia and environmental issues.
3. What is interesting or unique about this course?
Although from the title of the course you would think that we would be dealing exclusively with the Russian environment, in reality we discuss much broader issues of global interconnectedness in the 21st century. For example, few people ever think that deforestation in Russia is a driving force of global warming and climate change. It is difficult to believe but there is a connection between rapid deforestation in Russian Far East and the higher frequency and greater intensity of floods and droughts here in Iowa.
4. What are the ways in which students will benefit from taking this course?
The course will give the students a good understanding of global environmental problems, present basic concepts of environmental science, and introduce them to environmental activism. Students will also acquire a better understanding of natural resources management (and mismanagement) in the largest country in the world. They will learn about environmental problems facing Russia and possible solutions for the future.
5. Talk a little bit about yourself and your academic background.
I received my undergraduate degree in Biology from St. Petersburg University and Bowdoin College. I earned my graduate degrees in International Peace Studies and Ecology from University of Notre Dame and University of Michigan. I teach environmental science, animal ecology and wildlife management and foundations in natural resource policy and history.