Environmental Science Courses

Coordinator: R. Fritz, Biology; Faculty: see Biology, Chemistry, and Geology.

Environmental Science is designed for students who are considering a career or further education in an area of environmental science. Environmental Science consists of a correlate sequence that is structured to allow students to enhance their knowledge in environmental science, to provide them with a solid foundation with which to pursue environmental science in the future, and to expose them to current issues in environmental science and public policy. The way a particular student satisfies the requirements for the correlate sequence is flexible, however, all students must participate in the Environmental Science seminar during their junior or senior year.

Students who elect the Environmental Science correlate sequence must choose a correlate sequence advisor in their correlate department and pursue a correlate option (see below) in one of the participating departments.

Requirements for the Correlate Sequence: 6 units, chosen as described below, are required to complete the correlate sequence. Ordinarily, one course fulfilling the correlate sequence requirements may be used to satisfy requirements in the student's major.

One 100-level unit, two 200-level units, and one 300-level unit in one of the Correlate Departments: (Biology 151 and 152 and both Chemistry 108 and 109 are required before advancing to the 200-level courses in these departments)

Eligible Courses in Biology:
Biology 151 Evolution of Biological Diversity (1)
Biology 208 Plant Structure and Diversity  
Biology 226 Animal Structure and Diversity (1)
Biology 241 Ecology (1)
Biology 280 Environmental Science Field Trip* (1)
Biology 298 Independent Work* (1)
Biology 350 Evolutionary Biology (1)
Biology 354 Plant-Animal Interactions (1)
Biology 356 Aquatic Ecology (1)
Eligible Courses in Chemistry:
Chemistry 108 General Chemistry (1)
Chemistry 109 General Chemistry (1)
Chemistry 244 Organic Chemistry: Structure and Properties (1)
Chemistry 245 Organic Chemistry: Reactions and Mechanisms (1)
Chemistry 298 Independent Research* (1)
Chemistry 335 Advanced Environmental Chemistry (1)
Chemistry 350 Physical Chemistry: Thermodynamics and Kinetics (1)
Chemistry 362 Instrumental Analysis (1)
Eligible Courses in Geology:
Geology 151 Earth, Environment and Humanity (1)
Geology 152 The Evolution of Earth and its Life (1)
Geology 201 Earth Materials (1)
Geology 230 Soils and Terrestrial Ecosystems (1)
Geology 240 Global Geophysics and Tectonics (1)
Geology 250 Sediments, Strata, and the Environment (1)
Geology 260 Geomorphology - Surface Processes and Evolution of Landforms (1)
Geology 280 Oil (1)
Geology 280 Environmental Science Field Trip* (1)
Geology 298 Independent Work* (1)
Geology 320 Advanced Topics in Environmental Geology (1)
Geology 340 Field Geophysics (1)
Geology 350 Advanced Sedimentology (1)
Geology 360 Paleoclimatology: Earth's History of Climate Change (1)
Geology 380 Computer methods and Modeling in Geology (1)
*With correlate adviser's permission
One unit to be chosen from the following courses or an alternative course approved by the correlate sequence adviser:
Geology 103 Earth System Science and Environmental Justice (1)
Biology 206 Environmental Biology (also Science, Technology,and Society 206) (1)
Geography 265 Population, Environment, and SustainableDevelopment (1)
Geography 355 Environment and Land-Use Planning (1)
Economics 267 Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (1)
The following course is required of all students:
Environmental Science 301 Environmental Science Seminar (may be completed in the junior or senior year) (1)

Students are urged to determine in advance if there are prerequisites for courses that will be part of their correlate sequence

Advisers: Biology: Mr. Fritz, Mr. Pregnall; Geology: Ms. Menking, Mr. McAdoo; Chemistry: Ms. Begemann and Mr. Belli.

Course Offerings

(See biology, chemistry, and geology)

224.   Essentials of Environmental Science
A lecture/laboratory course in which basic topics in environmental biology, geology, and chemistry are covered with examples from current environmental issues used to illustrate the application and interdisciplinary nature of these fields. This course treats the following topics: energy sources and waste products, atmospheric patterns and climate, biogeochemical cycles, properties of soils and water, and ecological processes. Using these topics as a platform, this course examines the impact humanity has on the environment and discusses strategies to diminish those effects. The laboratory component includes field trips, field investigations, and laboratory exercises.
       Two 75-minute periods one 4-hour laboratory.
       Prerequisites: Two 100-level introductory courses in Biology, Geology, or Chemistry or permission of the instructor.
[254a.   Field Ecology and Geology of the Bahamas]
(Same as Biology 245, Geology 254) Study of significant ecological, geological, and environmental areas on Andros Island, Bahamas. Students and faculty study karst geological features, including current deposition, blue holes, and fossil reefs, sands, coral reef structure and biological diversity, and ecology of mangrove, intertidal, and scrubland habitats. Field trips will study endemic and migrant birds and fish communities. The course involves readings, lectures, and videos for seven weeks prior to the field trip. During Fall Break students and faculty fly to Andros Town, Bahamas and spend from seven to nine days at the George Mason University Field Station studying the field sites. Mr. Fritz, Mr. McAdoo.
       Prerequisites: Prior Biology or Geology coursework at the 200-level and permission of instructors is required.
       Not offered in 2002/03.
281a.   Biogeochemical Cycles
(Same as Biology, Chemistry and Geology 281) This course examines the chemistry of the surface of the Earth. Our planet is basically a closed system and chemical cycles of certain elements dictate life-determining processes. In particular, we look at nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon cycles, and examine how interactions between biological processes (like productivity) and geological processes (like rock weathering) influence nutrient availability and climate. With this understanding, we investigate means by which humans are affecting these cycles and the time scales associated with these alterations. In laboratory, we develop nutrient budgets fro Sunset Lake on Vassar College campus, and come up with recommendations regarding proposed restoration projects for the lake. The course consists of lectures, laboratories, problem sets, and discussions. Ms. O'Reilly
       Prerequisites: One science laboratory course.
       Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.
302b.   Environmental Science Seminar
(Same as Environmental Studies 302) The Environmental Science Seminar, taken during the junior or senior year consists of critical analyses of current issues in the interdisciplinary field of Environmental Science. Ms. O'Reilly
       One 2-hour period.
       Prerequisite: Permission of instructor is required.
399.   Senior Independent Research
Execution and analysis of a field or laboratory study. The project, to be arranged with an individual instructor, is expected to have a substantial paper as its final product. Open to seniors only.
       Prerequisite: Permission of instructor is required.