NRCS Online Air Quality, Energy and Climate Change Courses

Animal Manure Management June 10, 2014|Print

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has begun developing online courses in three curriculum tracks: air quality, energy, and climate change. Air Quality, Climate Change, and Energy is the lead-in to the three tracks.

The courses are designed for all Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) employees, but particularly for State Air Quality and Energy Contacts, conservation planners, partnership employees, and conservation technical assistance providers to assist them in integrating air quality, energy and climate change into conservation planning and programs. Although these courses were developed specifically for NRCS employees, the information contained in them may also be useful to NRCS partners and others associated with conservation in agriculture.

Introductory Course

Air Quality Curriculum Track

Energy Curriculum Track

Climate Change Curriculum Track

Environmental Credit Trading

Other courses are either in development or are being planned to supplement the learning modules for each of these curriculum tracks

Air Quality, Climate Change, and Energy

Turkey production. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Define air quality, climate change, and energy as they relate to the NRCS mission and explain how they are interrelated
  • Explain the importance of these issues for land managers and NRCS itself
  • Recognize how soil, water, air, plants, animals and human activity all affect, and are affected by, energy and climate change
  • Identify examples of how air quality, climate change, and energy concepts apply to agricultural conservation
  • List and locate additional resources that can be used to expand knowledge of these topics

Course Link. Air quality is already a functional part of the NRCS conservation portfolio (the first ‘A’ in SWAPA+H). Climate change and energy are now becoming significant considerations in conservation planning. This course will provide a broad overview of these three topics, and how they are related to each other and SWAPA+H components. Students will learn how agricultural activities can contribute to air emissions, sequester carbon, manage greenhouse gas emissions, and better conserve energy. The course also will provide examples of addressing these issues via NRCS planning and programs. 90 minutes Go to Air Quality, Climate Change, and Energy....

Why Should We Care About Air Quality?

Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • State why air is an important natural resource
  • Explain why it is important to take a holistic approach to conservation planning
  • List the major reasons why NRCS addresses air quality and atmospheric change
  • Identify several agricultural activities that can release air emissions
  • Describe various reasons for land managers to address air quality and atmospheric change
  • Identify the role of NRCS employees in addressing air quality and atmospheric change

Course link. As the first “A” in SWAPA+H, air is an important natural resource that is vital to life. Although our agency has addressed issues related to air quality and atmospheric change since its formation, these issues have not been a traditional focus area for the NRCS in most locations. As our partners and the public have begun placing a larger emphasis on air quality and atmospheric change issues, NRCS has needed to develop the technical expertise for integrating conservation of the air resource into our assistance portfolio.

This course will provide a broad overview of air quality and atmospheric change and begin to equip NRCS conservationists and our partners with the knowledge and confidence to address air-related resource concerns. 30 minutes. Go to Why Should We Care About Air Quality?...

 

Manure management system for a swine farm. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

Air Quality Resource Concerns

Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the four primary air quality resource concerns and the emissions that contribute to these concerns
  • Identify the effects of particulate matter, ozone precursors, and odors on air quality
  • Discuss greenhouse gases as an atmospheric change issue
  • Derive potential solutions to reduce agricultural emissions of particulate matter, ozone precursors, odors, and greenhouse gases
  • List and locate additional resources that can be used to expand knowledge of these topics

Course link. The NRCS utilizes the concept of “resource concerns” in conservation planning. There are four broad categories of air-related resource concerns: particulate matter, ozone precursors, odors, and greenhouse gases and carbon sequestration. This course provides an overview of each of these four air quality resource concerns and how they can most effectively be addressed in the NRCS planning framework. Principal air emissions from agricultural operations are discussed, and how each of these is related to one or more of the air resource concerns. Finally, a variety of mitigation strategies are presented for managing emissions and improving these four air quality concerns. 50 minutes Go to Air Quality Resource Concerns...

Greenhouse Gases and Carbon Sequestration

Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Explain the greenhouse effect
  • Discuss the characteristics of sunlight and earth’s radiation balance
  • Determine how changes in greenhouse gas emissions can influence global climate change
  • Identify methodologies in which agricultural and natural resource systems can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and effects
  • Given a scenario, explain the importance of a holistic approach to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

Course Link Climate change and carbon offset trading have gained great interest in many parts of the agricultural community over the past few years. But why should we as NRCS conservationists be interested in these issues? Conservation systems that we design and help implement can often have a positive influence on the emission or storage of gases which, when in the atmosphere, can affect climate change. This course shows the importance of greenhouse gases to life on earth, the potential negative consequences of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, agricultural sources of greenhouse gases, and potential methods in which agriculture can reduce its net emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. 60 minutes Go to Greenhouse Gases and Carbon Sequestration...

Why Do We Care About Energy?

Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Describe why energy costs and energy security are so important to land managers.
  • Describe environmental impacts of fossil fuel exploration, production and use.
  • Describe energy opportunities available to land managers and NRCS

Course Link While energy has not traditionally been addressed in the NRCS planning process, it is receiving unprecedented attention in the national and international news. This short course provides insight into why energy issues are important to agriculture and the nation. It gives participants the opportunity to explore how our energy choices can impact NRCS and the natural resources we work to conserve. 30 minutes Go to Why Do We Care About Energy?...

Tractor loading chicken litter into spreader truck. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

Energy Basics

Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Describe basic terminology and energy concepts.
  • Identify non-renewable and renewable sources of energy and describe their origins, benefits and uses
  • Explain life cycle analysis and it relevance to comprehensive energy planning
  • Describe agriculture’s role in utilizing renewable energy alternatives

Course Link Understanding energy basics is fundamental to effective energy conservation planning. This course establishes a technical foundation to prepare NRCS planners to incorporate energy considerations into conservation plans. It provides general background on the fundamental principles behind energy issues in agricultural settings. 90 minutes Go to Energy Basics...

Why Do We Care about Climate Change?

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand climate change and its key drivers
  • Explain the impacts of climate change on agriculture and natural resources
  • Differentiate mitigation from adaptation
  • Discuss NRCS’ role in helping land managers and owners in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change

Course link. Climate plays a key role in conservation planning, natural resource management and agricultural production. Changes in climate can have significant impacts on managing and protecting agricultural and natural resources.  NRCS is educating its employees and partners about climate change, and communicating climate change impacts to NRCS customers. Understanding climate change and its impacts will help NRCS assist private landowners, producers, and land managers cope and adapt to changing climate.

This course discusses climate change and related concepts, the impacts of climate change on agriculture and natural resources, and NRCS’ role in helping private land owners and land managers address climate change mitigation and adaptation through conservation planning. 30 minutes. Go to "Why Care About Climate Change?"

Technical Contact: Carolyn Olson at Carolyn.olson@wdc.usda.gov

Introduction to Environmental Credit Trading

Course link: This course provides an introductory discussion of environmental credits, environmental credit trading, and market-based approaches providing environmental and economic benefits.

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand environmental credit trading
  • Identify markets for environmental credits
  • Explore the benefits and costs of participating in markets
  • Understand how different environmental practices can produce various environmental credits
  • Outline various ways agricultural producers can benefit from environmental credit trading
  • Explain how producers can participate in environmental credit trading

Course length: 90 minutes. Go to "Introduction to Environmental Credit Trading"

Technical Contact: Carolyn Olson at carolyn.olson@wdc.usda.gov

Page Manager

Greg Zwicke, P.E.
Air Quality Engineer
Air Quality and Atmospheric Change Team
USDA-NRCS, WNTSC
2150 Centre Ave.
Building A, Suite 231
Ft. Collins CO  80526

greg.zwicke@ftc.usda.gov
Ph. 970.295.5621

Connect with us

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube

Welcome

eXtension is an interactive learning environment delivering research-based information emerging from America's land-grant university system.

LOCATE