By Maha Ansari

From earthquakes and landslides to tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, there’s no shortage of riveting material covered in Carleton’s Natural Disasters course.

Professor Jason Mah is a longtime instructor of ERTH 2415. He says he looks forward to teaching the course again this summer.  He particularly enjoys seeing students engaged in the course material.

“I find ERTH 2415 has a very broad interest amongst all types of students,” says Mah. “A lot of students are curious about natural disasters.”

Students enrolled in the course learn how energy systems create disasters and study natural disasters that have occurred throughout history. Another aspect of the course is what Mah calls “mitigation strategy.”

“It’s looking at what have we learned from the past, and how can we prevent similar disasters or mitigate their cost,” Mah explains.

Mah has a background in engineering, but he says the bridge from engineering to natural disasters isn’t as wide as one might think. Engineers are responsible for designing structures that can withstand damage from natural disasters, he explains.

While teaching ERTH 2415, Professor Mah says he often uses technology to help his class better understand course material. Students complete online quizzes, in which they use the Internet to find examples of natural disasters occurring around the world.

“Technology really provides an opportunity to branch out, and use modern day examples,” says Mah. “Natural disasters are occurring around the world every single day – it’s just that we live in a very safe environment here in Canada.”

Apart from helping enhance his students’ understanding of natural disasters, Mah says using real-world examples piques their interest. In his view, one of the highlights of teaching ERTH 2415 is watching students develop an interest in geology and the science behind natural disasters.

“Theory itself can be pretty boring,” Mah admits, “but when I bring in a case study or I talk about, for example, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, everybody’s eyes perk up.”

Mah’s use of online polling also keeps students engaged, and encourages them to reflect on course material.  The answers to each poll question are delivered in real-time and projected onto a screen.

“It’s a great way to get everybody to interact and bring their attention back to the course,” says Mah.

Looking to the future, Professor Mah says he hopes to continue using technology to the benefit of the course. He also looks forward to incorporating more Canadian examples into ERTH 2415.

If you are interested in this course, the next offering is in July/August 2017. Registration is through Carleton Central.  For more details see our CUOL course page.