Curently taught

Envs 2: Intro to Environmental Science

Offered: Fall

To understand current environmental problems, we need to consider physical, biological, chemical and other natural science processes that are often the basis of those problems. This course will give you the skills necessary to ask intelligent questions about--and perhaps obtain answers to--some of the environmental problems we are facing today by examining scientific principles and the application of those principles to environmental science. This course is a survey which covers a wide variety of topics at a moderate level of intensity. It is designed to introduce you to a number of topics, many of which you can explore in greater depth in other courses. There will be two hour-exams (during class time) and a final exam. Three environmental problem sets will be assigned to give hands-on experience in examining environmental issues, making calculations and reaching a conclusion. A community profile for your home town will help you gain an in-depth understanding of one aspect of the operation of a community you are familiar with.

Click here for detailed syllabus.

Envs 12: Energy and the Environment

Offered: Winter

Every few years, it seems there is another "energy crisis." In the 1970s, the interruption of oil supplies from the Persian Gulf caused economic upheaval in the United States and other oil-importing nations. Since that time, dueling experts have argued about whether existing energy supplies will be sufficient to satisfy long-run demand, as well as the need for public policies to promote increased supply and/or enhanced energy efficiency. In addition, energy production and use play key roles in a variety of environmental issues such as urban air pollution, acid deposition, the contamination and eutrophication of coastal ecosystems, and global climate change. Hence a "sustainable" energy system must address questions of both resource scarcity and the long-term environmental impacts of energy technologies. This course provides an overview of how energy issues have developed since the 1970s and, especially, the major challenges that lie ahead. Drawing on concepts and methods from energy engineering, environmental science, and economics, the course will teach students to analyze alternative energy futures from a cross-cutting, interdisciplinary perspective.

There will be one hour exam for the course. An Energy/Carbon Audit and Analysis and an Energy Finding Brief will also be assigned to test your understanding of the concepts and allow you to further research a topic that particularly interests you.

Click here for detailed syllabus.

Previously Taught

Envs 1: People and Nature in America (team-taught)

This course will discuss the interactions between humans and nature in North America (primarily the USA) from literary, scientific and historical perspectives. When one asks the question: "What is nature?" or "Why does someone care about a particular place" it can be answered from many different perspectives. These perspectives have changed radically during our history. This course will consider both the literary and scientific aspects of these questions and consider possible responses as we read the following material:

  • Genesis 1-3; "Four Worlds: The Dine Story of Creation"
  • John McPhee, Encounters with the Archdruid (1971)
  • Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Journals (1804-1806)
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
  • Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (1977)
  • Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974) Chaps 1-4, 6, 8, 10, 11
  • Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (1968)
  • Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge (1991)
  • Anne Matthews, Where The Buffalo Roam (1992)
  • Occasional short readings (articles and poems) throughout the term.

Click here for detailed syllabus.

Envs 30: Global Environmental Science

This course examines human influences on the major global biogeochemical cycles (water, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, metals). We will emphasize cycling processes in terrestrial, marine, and--to a lesser extent--aquatic systems in an attempt to understand how human activities such as air pollution, deforestation, desertificaton and soil erosion alter these cycles. You may recall that Envs 2 is a survey course which covers a wide variety of topics at a moderate level of intensity. This course is designed to allow you to explore a few of those topics in greater detail.

There will be one in-class hour exam and a take-home final. The take-home exam might take up to two full days to complete. Two environmental problem set simulations will be assigned to give hands-on experience in understand the dynamics of change in biogeochemical systems. Each class member will prepare a 200-word abstract on a recent development in a topic we have discussed during the term. Two students will present their abstracts at the end of each class throughout the last four weeks of the term.

Click here for detailed syllabus.

Envs 79: Soil Science

This course will explore the nature and properties of soils and examine soil processes in natural and human-manipulated systems. Throughout the course, the soil will be considered as an integral component of the ecosystem. We will begin by developing an understanding of the physical, geological, biological and chemical processes that lead to soil formation and the development of specific soil properties. We will also examine the relationship between soils and underlying bedrock and overlying vegetation and the role of soils in ecosystems. Towards the end of the course, we will examine the situations in which soils impact human beings and in which human beings impact soils.

Problem sets and combined field trip/laboratory reports will be assigned. Students will collect samples during some of the field trips; these samples will be brought to the lab in 408 Steele and analyzed for a variety of physical and chemical properties. Results of these labs will be submitted as part of the field trip report.

Click here for detailed syllabus.

Envs 89: Forest Biogeochemistry

This course will examine elemental cycling and related biogeochemical processes in terrestrial ecosystems, with a primary focus on forests of the temperate zone. We will cover many aspects of major and trace element cycles. The impact of air pollution on elemental cycling processes will be an area of interest throughout the term. The required text will serve as a useful reference. There are no assigned pages--you are expected to find the appropriate sections for each topic and read them. I will be glad to provide guidance to anyone who wants help determining the reading for a given week. This class will be taught somewhat like a "graduate seminar." More class time will be spent discussing articles from the peer-reviewed literature (with presentations by members of the class) than in lecture.

Click here for detailed syllabus.