Course Descriptions

Environmental Studies Courses (Full listing)

Courses Offered for Spring ’15-’16

Courses Offered for Fall ’15 – ’16

ENVS 11000: Science, Society & Environment

Despite an ever-expanding body of scientific research about critical environmental problems facing global society, the level of knowledge evident in the public discourse remains quite low. This course will introduce students to a number of complex environmental issues and controversies and teach them the skills necessary to understand, interpret, and translate these issues into a form fit for consumption by a general audience. An underlying theme will be the idea that complex environ mental problem s have social/political causes as well as technological/ biophysical ones.

ENVS 19901: Introduction to Environmental Science

Environmental science is a diverse field that incorporates many disciplines, including physical, chemical, biological, social, economic, and political science.  This course is an introduction to the field of environmental science, focusing on ecology and earth science principles as they apply to environmental issues.  Topics include a survey of general ecosystem and community level ecological principles, with an emphasis on energy flow, nutrient cycling and how natural disturbances and human impacts—such as climate change, air and water pollution, land use change, and loss of biodiversity—potentially affect the environment.

ENVS 20001-20015: Environmental Analysis & Action

Presents a multidisciplinary perspective on environmental topics by examining in depth an issue of global and/or local significance from the perspectives of the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. Students will apply fundamental concepts from various disciplines to understand, formulate and evaluate solutions to environmental issues. Prerequisite: at least one Natural Science course from the cross-listed courses accepted for ENVS credit and one course from the list in either Social Sciences or Humanities. May be repeated for credit as offerings vary; offered once every Fall Semester.

However, no more than two ENVS 200xx credits may count towards the minor.

Prior Offerings:

ENVS 20001: Water & the Environment

A consideration of the chemical properties of water, its importance in religious, economic and cultural contexts, the various was it can be polluted and prospects for allocating and treating it in a sustainable and equitable fashion.

ENVS 20002: Invasive Species

Ecological impacts of biological invasions: a consideration of the consequences of the widespread movement of organisms around the world in a globalized economy.

ENVS 20003: Plastics & Environmental Contamination

The composition, history, social use and ultimate fate of plastics, as well as a wider analysis of contamination of the environment by persistent and endocrine-disrupting synthetic chemicals.

ENVS 20500: Entrepreneurship & the Environment

This course will explore what we mean by the concept of “entrepreneurship”, and apply this definition to three broad areas of society that have com e to define the environmental challenges of the new century: the production of food, the production of energy, and the disposal of wastes. For each of these three areas w e w ill look at (a) the nature of the challenge; (b) what role entrepreneurial activity might p lay in meeting the challenge; and (c) some case studies of entrepreneurship in action to solve these social need s. As a final project, students will produce a project or business plan to address an environmental challenge of their choosing.

 ENVS 22000: From Farm to Table: Understanding the Food System

Food production and consumption interfaces with disciplines from biology and chemistry to political economy, sociology, and business management. The aim of this course is to introduce students to this analysis of the food system and get them thinking critically about where our food comes from, where it goes, and how to make the entire system more sustainable.

 ENVS 23000: Sustainable Agriculture: Theory & Practice

Agroecology is the “science of sustainable agriculture.” It serves as the scientific basis for devising more natural, less environmentally harmful farming practices that build soil fertility and plant resilience while maintaining adequate production levels. The goal of this course is to introduce students to a broad suite of sustainable agriculture principles and practices and to understand the scientific research that underlies them. Students will learn agroecology techniques by actually practicing them  in the campus Learning Garden.  Students registering for the course are strongly encouraged to simultaneously register for ENVS 235: Gardening Practicum.

ENVS 23500: Gardening Practicum

An experiential, quarter-credit practicum that meets once per week for three hours     at a time, for half the semester only (when offered in the fall, it will meet for the first 7  weeks; when offered in the spring, it will meet all weeks after spring break).   The practicum will consist of students working independently or in pairs to variously prepare soil, plant seeds, weed, irrigate, apply fertilizers, manage pests, and harvest and process produce.  The practicum includes lectures and other pedagogical activities depending on garden and weather conditions.

ENVS 31000: Sustainable Development: Principles & Practices

This course will explore the intersection of development and sustainability. We will begin with a historical understanding of the idea of sustainable development, and then shift to a more applied and experiential focus. In the latter portion of the course we will look at sustainable development from the point of view of meeting the basic needs of a population – food, water, shelter, energy – in a sustainable manner. The experiential component will feature a number of hands-on activities and class projects.

ENVS 32000: Rural Society and The Environment

The course focuses on the social patterns that characterize rural societies and their relationship to the environment. We will grapple with what a rural identity means and how natural resource flows situate rural societies within the national and global political economic structure. We will conduct in-depth explorations of empirical work from a variety of subfields that touch on rural society and the environment: the sociology of agriculture; of natural resource extraction; of environmental justice in rural areas; and of natural resource flows in the context of globalization. This is an advanced level seminar that requires a high degree of engagement and participation from students. There is also a strong experiential component.

ENVS 40700, 40800: Internship

In consultation with a faculty member associated with the program, students may arrange academic cred it for supervised work in an applied setting that is relevant to topics in environmental studies. Placement may be on-or off-campus. Examples of on-campus internships might include work through the physical plan t, exploring energy use on campus; through campus grounds, investigating aspects of campus plantings and land use; or through campus dining services, examining ways to promote local foods, reduce energy use, reduce food waste, or develop a composting program . In addition to the work, an internship will include an appropriate set of academic readings and written assignments, developed in consultation with the supervising faculty member, that will allow the student to reflect critically on his or her experience. Prerequisite: prior consultation with the faculty member and permission of the chair of Environmental

Cross-Listed Courses

Natural Sciences

Biology 11100: Foundations of Biology

This introductory course focuses on concepts considered central to understanding biology, including the nature of science, inheritance, gene expression, descent with modification and evolution by natural selection. This course is designed to provide potential biology majors with the fundamental concepts required for the study of biology.

Biology 20200: Gateway to Ecology, Evolution, & Organismal Biology

An introduction to the major concepts in the fields of ecology, evolution, behavior and physiology. These bio-logical  disciplines  are  approached  from  the  population  and  individual  levels  of  biological  organization. Through lecture, laboratory, in-class exercises and readings, this course focuses on the structure and function of individual organisms, as well as their behavior, interactions, origination and conservation.

Biology 35000: Population & Community Ecology

A study of ecological principles as they apply to populations, communities, and ecosystems. Topics include physiological ecology, population growth, competition, predation, and community structure, patterns of energy and nutrient cycling, and species diversity. Laboratory exercises emphasize experimental techniques used to investigate ecological questions.

Biology 35200: Animal Behavior

Why do animals behave the way they do? In this course, we will study this question from a variety of angles including: development, mechanistic causes, functional significance, and evolution. We will draw examples from a wide taxonomic spectrum of animals. The laboratory-field period of the course will emphasize how to address animal behavior questions by involving students in studies in which they learn techniques and tools used for observation, experimental design, conducting experiments, and analyzing and presenting results.

Biology 35600: Conservation Biology

This course examines the theory, methods, and tools by which biologists attempt to understand and to protect biological habitats and their attendant natural populations of organisms. Topics included demographic and genetic conservation, invasive species, fragmentation and habitat loss, design of nature reserves, management for conservation, and sustainable development within a conservation context. We also examine economic, social, and political pressures that influence conservation decision-making. Laboratory exercises include computer simulations, field trips, and group projects.

Chemistry 10103: Chemistry & the Environment – Water

A study of chemistry is undertaken using the world around us as a starting point in developing an under-standing of the facts, theories, and methodology of the chemical sciences. The chemistry involved in environmental topics such as climate change, ozone depletion, acid rain, and water pollution will be emphasized in this course offering. The central importance of water’s physical and chemical properties to these topics will be highlighted as a theme throughout the semester. The popular media’s role in covering environmental chemistry issues will also be addressed, with an emphasis on critical thinking.

Chemistry 21600: Environmental Chemistry

Various aspects of the chemistry of the environment, both unpolluted and polluted, are discussed. Emphasis is placed on chemical reactions in the atmospheric and aquatic realms, the relationship between chemical structure and environmental transport, and the toxicity and effects of common environmental pollutants. Case studies are used from the literature to further explore the course material.

Geology 10500: Geology of Natural Hazards

Survey of the geologic conditions, human and environmental impacts, and regulatory consequences of natural hazards and disasters. Course focus is on earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding, landslides, and destructive coastal processes.

Geology 11000: Environmental Geology

An investigation of how human activities affect and are affected by physical Earth processes. Topics include an overview of Earth’s development; minerals and rocks; internal processes such as plate tectonics, earthquakes, and volcanoes; surface processes; natural resources; waste disposal; pollution and related topics.

Geology 21000: Climate Change

Analyses of the Earth’s ocean-atmosphere system and energy balance, Quaternary dating methods and techniques of reconstructing past climates are outlined. Students will work with paleoclimate data sets from ocean cores, ice cores, tree-rings, lake cores, and corals. Labs include computer modeling, statistical analysis of time series, and various projects.

Geology 22000: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

A lab-intensive introduction to the basic concepts in computer-based GIS. The course is designed to provide interested students a hands-on approach to spatial database design and analysis. Students will depict and evaluate spatial data to produce cartographic results in order to solve problems in a variety of disciplines, with emphasis on the natural sciences. The primary platform used will be ArcMap by ESRI and Microsoft Excel, but the techniques learned are applicable to other software packages.

Physics 19901: Physics of Sustainable Energy

This activity-based course, designed for non-science majors, explores the physical principles that underlie the sustainable generation of energy through concentrated solar power, wind and water turbines, solar photovoltaic cells, and nuclear power plants. The cleanest energy is that which is never used, thus the physics of energy conservation (focusing on heating/cooling, lighting, and electrical use in the home) will also be investigated. Hands-on experiments will be used extensively throughout the semester and students will design and construct a solar water heater and a wind- or water-powered turbine for generating electricity. No mathematics beyond high school algebra is assumed.

Social Science

 Economics 24000: Environmental & Natural Resource Economics

An examination of the economic use of natural resources in society: the economic implications of finite resource supplies, renewable resource supplies, and the use of environmental resources with consideration of policy options regarding optimal resource use.

Education 16000: Fundamentals of Environmental Education

Explores the core components of environmental education including: foundations of environmental education, environmental literacy, planning and implementing environmental education curricula, assessment and evaluation of environmental education curricula, and the fostering of learning in environmental education settings.

History 30141: Problems in History (Environmental History)

Psychology 22500: Environmental Psychology

The field of environmental psychology explores the interrelationships between people and their physical environments, including both built and natural environments. This course covers the major areas of research in environmental psychology, including effects of the environment on humans, human perception of the environment, the relationship between humans and the natural world, and psychological factors affecting human care for the natural environment. We will also consider how this information can be applied to promote a healthier relationship between humans and their environment.

Psychology 34021: Psychology of Sustainability

Using theory and research from multiple areas of psychology, we will examine the relevance of psychology to environmental sustainability. Students will work on term projects in which they consider how psychological tools and techniques can be used to encourage more environmentally sustainable behavior. Prerequisite: Psych 250 or consent of instructor.

Sociology 20300: Environmental Sociology

An investigation of the dynamic relation between society and the environment. Sociology points us beyond mere technical and scientific problems to the social roots of contemporary ecological issues, as well as the justice issues these circumstances entail. We explore the many ways in which environmental issues are, in fact, social issues. The topics we cover include: causes of environmental degradation, environmental movements, environmental activism and organizations, corporate social responsibility, social construction of the environment, collective behavior, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), and locavorism.


English 12019: The Watery Part of the World

This course will consider the ocean as a literary subject, with a special focus on its relation to the economic and political history of empire and globalization, and the ecological crises that have arisen from these historical developments. As an introduction to literary and cultural studies, the course will also explore a wide array of cultural productions from a variety of genres and time periods, including the ancient epic, renaissance drama, the nineteenth-century novel, and contemporary lyric poetry, as well as essays in environmental philosophy, popular journalism, and documentary film. Topics will include: global warming and ocean acidification, animal ethics and the crisis of mass extinction, and the role of the humanities in theorizing our planetary future.

English 16003: Nature & Environmental Writing

This course explores the traditions and current practices of writing connected with the natural world. Along with the exploration of already published works in nature and environmental writing, the course may include off-campus field trips and emphasizes course participants’ own writing and peer feedback workshops.

English 24022: Green Romanticism

This course interrogates the relationship between the Romantic poets and the early nineteenth-century landscape, both “natural” and industrial. The course examines the problematic notion of a unified “Romantic” ethos and establishes the divergent sub-groups within the Romantic movement in addition to raising questions about the Romantics’ relationship to the environment. Students will explore how Romantic poetry shaped the history of Western environmentalism, whether contemporary ecocriticism builds on Romantic tropes and themes, and how the relationship between people and the landscape has been structured by the institutions of class, economics, politics, gender, science, and law.

German 22800: The Nature of Germany: Cultural Landscapes and Environmental History

German culture has a rich canon of philosophical and literary writing on nature, a long history of conservationism, and is known today as a leader in the development, production, and application of alternative energy technologies. At the same time, Germany’s interventionist practices have led to the loss of original forests and wetlands, and the fascination with nature furthermore became uncomfortably enmeshed with fascist ideology during the Third Reich. The central goal of this course is to understand the evolution of the Enlightenment project of a “conquest of nature,” subsequent nature protection movements, and environmental activism in Germany in a cultural and historical context. By drawing on writings and visual images from the fields of art, literature, philosophy, the history of science, and activist writings, we will gain a deeper understanding of tensions between Romantic idealization of nature and the embrace of scientific progress in German culture. This course is taught in English. No prerequisite.

Philosophy 21600: Environmental Ethics

This course is an examination of the ethical obligations that humans have toward the environment. What is the nature and source of our obligations to animals, plants, and the environment as a whole? Can non-human entities have rights? We will evaluate various approaches to these questions including anthropocentrism, bio-centrism, and eco-feminism.

Philosophy 29909: Environment, Justice & Knowledge

Religion 26911: Religion & the Environment

A study of the role of a variety of religious traditions in shaping worldviews, values and behavior related to human interaction with the natural world. The course will look at both the destructive effects religion has had and various religious initiatives that are currently working to generate ecologically sustainable patterns of human interaction with the natural world. At the core will also be the focus on traditional religious values which focus on justice and neighbor love. Embedded in these concepts are the notion that “the affluent must live more simply” so that others may have the resources necessary so that they might “simply live”.

Theatre & Dance 44304: Green Theatre


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