Environmental Science Courses

Coordinator: Stuart Belli (Chemistry); Steering Committee: Robert Fritz (Biology), Marshall Pregnall (Biology), Marianne Begemann (Chemistry), Brian McAdoo (Geology), Kristen Menking (Geology), Christine O’Reilly (Environmental Science); 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 208. Plant Structure and Diversity (1)

Biology 226. Animal Structure and Diversity (1)

Biology 241. Ecology (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 350. Physical Chemistry: Thermodynamics and Kinetics (1)

Chemistry 362. Instrumental Analysis (1)

Eligible Courses in Geology:

Geology 151. Earth, Environment and Humanity (1)

Geology 161. The Evolution of Earth and its Life (1)

Geology 201. Earth Materials: Minerals and Rocks (1)

Geology 211. Sediments, Strata, and the Environment (1)

Geology 221. Soils and Terrestrial Ecosystems (1)

Geology 231. Geomorphology-Surface Processes and Evolution of Landforms (1)

Geology 251. Global Geophysics and Tectonics (1)

Geology 280. Oil (1)

Geology 298. Independent Work* (1)

Geology 331. Paleoclimatology: Earth’s History of Climate Change (1)

Geology 361. 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 111. Earth System Science and Environmental Justice (1)

Biology 206. Environmental Biology (also Science, Technology, and Society 206) (1)

Geography 265. Population, Environment, and Sustainable Development (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 302. 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

Course Offerings

(See biology, chemistry, and geology)

100. Global Change (1)

This class offers an interdisciplinary introduction to the climate and ecosystem principles needed to understand human impact on the natural environment. We discuss the issue of global change prediction and the scientific basis for global change assessments and policy measures. Key topics are the physical climate system and its variability, the carbon cycle and related ecosystem processes, land use issues, nutrient cycles, and the impact of global change on society. Common threads in all of these topics include the use of observations and models, the consideration of multiple scales (temporal and spatial), the interaction of human behaviors and choices with natural systems, and the linkages among aspects of the global change issue.

224. Essentials of Environmental Science (1)

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: One laboratory course in Biology, Geology, or Chemistry or permission of the instructor.

[254. Environmental Science in the Field] (1)

The environment consists of complex and often elegant interactions between various constituents so that an interdisciplinary approach is required to understand how human interactions may affect it. In this course, we study a variety of aspects of a specific environment by considering how biological, chemical, geological and human factors interact. We observe these interactions first hand during a weeklong field trip. Some of the questions we may consider are: How does a coral polyp create an environment that not only suits its particular species, but also helps regulate the global climate? How has human development and associated water demands in the desert Southwest changed the landscape, fire ecology, and even estuary and fisheries’ health as far away as the Gulf of California? How have a variety of species (humans included) managed to survive on an island with the harsh environment of the exposed mid-ocean ridge of Iceland? The course is offered every other year, usually in the fall semester and topics vary with expertise of the faculty teaching the course.

Prerequisite: Prior Biology or Geology coursework at the 200-level and permission of the instructor.

Alternate years: not offered in 2004/05.

281. Biogeochemical Cycles (1)

Our planet is basically a closed system with chemical cycles of certain elements dictating 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 for Sunset Lake on Vassar College campus. The course consists of lectures, laboratories, problem sets, and discussions.

Prerequisites: Two courses in either Biology, Geology, or Chemistry.

Two 75 minute lecture periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

302. Environmental Science Seminar (1)

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.

One 2-hour period.

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor is required.

399. Senior Independent Research (1)

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.