Skip to main content


Information on this website is posted for historical reference only. Please visit the Office of the Registrar for current requirements.

Environmental Studies Program

1. Humans and Nature in America

10W, 11W: 10

“The land was ours before we were the land’s,” Robert Frost wrote, summarizing in one line the history of American environmentalism. This course will look at the changing relation between Americans and their land over the past two centuries. Reading will include the journals of Lewis and Clark, and writings by Toni Morrison, Leslie Silko, Terry Tempest Williams and Edward Abbey. The course brings an interdisciplinary analysis to these writings, with an emphasis on appreciating the literary, scientific, social, and historical contexts that shape our view of nature.

Limited enrollment. Dist: LIT; WCult: W. Osborne.

2. Introduction to Environmental Science

09F, 10F: 12

To understand current environmental problems, we need to study the physical, biological, chemical and social processes that are often the basis of those problems. This course will give the skills necessary to ask intelligent questions about—and perhaps obtain answers to—some of the environmental problems our planet is facing today by examining scientific principles and the application of those principles to environmental issues. This course will survey a variety of topics including pollution, biodiversity, energy use, recycling, land degradation, and human population dynamics. It is designed to introduce environmental science and environmental issues, topics which are explored in greater depth in other Environmental Studies courses. Dist: SCI. Friedland, Mikucki.

3. Environment and Society

10S, 11S: 12

An examination of the human sources of a variety of environmental problems and of human responses to environmental problems at the local, national, and international levels. The course will describe the actors in controversies over these problems and the institutions and rules which have so far been created to deal with the issues. The course will then proceed to the question: Will those current institutions and laws, originally devised to deal with the pollution of our natural environment, be able to resolve the more fundamental issues arising out of the increasing conflicts over land use, energy, food, and growth? Faculty from a number of different disciplines will participate. Dist: SOC. Kapuscinski, Sneddon.

7. First-Year Seminars in Environmental Studies

Consult special listings

12. Energy and the Environment

10W, 11W: 10A

Energy, in a variety of forms, is a fundamental need of all societies. This course explores the scientific concepts and applications to society of the issues regarding energy extraction, conversions and use. It will examine the scientific basis for environmental and social concerns about our present energy mix including global climate change, toxic emissions and wastes from energy combustion, and nuclear proliferation. We will also consider choices that are made in the development and utilization of energy resources and the role of public policy. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 2 or permission of the instructor. Dist: TAS. Friedland.

15. From Pole to Pole: Environmental Issues of the Earth’s Cold Regions

10S, 11S: 10

The Earth’s high northern and southern latitudes share an extreme climate, but are vastly different in their histories, ecological systems and human cultures. Polar regions are increasingly under threat from climate change, resource extraction, and the loss of indigenous cultures. This course examines the major physical, ecological and human systems of high latitudes, including the circumpolar northern Arctic regions and the continent of Antarctica. Using an interdisciplinary perspective the course examines the science, societies, politics and policies that shape our viewpoints of major environmental issues facing cold regions. The connections of the polar regions to global processes and international issues (climate change, biodiversity, cultural preservation) will be emphasized.

Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 2 or 3 or permission of the instructor. Dist: TAS. Virginia.

20. Conservation of Biodiversity

10W, 11W: 2

On a global scale we are witnessing an unprecedented decline in what has come to be called Biodiversity. Human population growth and increasing rates of material consumption and technological development have increased the rate and scale at which we impact populations of native animals and plants. One goal of the course will be to address the biological aspects of this issue. What is Biodiversity? How is Biodiversity distributed geographically and taxonomically? What does humankind do to cause animal and plant extinctions? Is there a Biodiversity crisis? What is the current rate of extinction and what is the natural extinction rate? What properties of individual species make them vulnerable to extinction? What are the major threats to Biodiversity? The second objective is to examine the social dimensions of Biodiversity. How do our cultural and political perceptions and institutions contribute to the loss of Biodiversity? What value is Biodiversity to humankind? What is being done to preserve Biodiversity in the realms of science, technology, and policy? These questions will be addressed through lecture material, course readings, and writing assignments.

Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 2 or Biology 16, or permission of the instructor. Dist: TAS. Bolger.

25. Ecological Agriculture

10X, 11X: 11, Laboratory Monday 2:00-5:00 or Wednesday 2:00-5:00

This course will introduce the principles of ecological agriculture. Concepts from ecology and ecosystem science will be applied to the study of agriculture and the design of sustainable production systems. An introduction to soils and their management and controls on plant growth will be emphasized in the field and in the laboratory. Environmental issues associated with conventional and low-input agriculture will be considered. Visits to local farms and field exercises at the Dartmouth student organic farm will supplement the classroom material.

Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 2 or Biology 16 or permission of the instructor. Dist: TLA. Mikucki, Smith.

28. Global Environmental Health

10S, 11S: 11

This course will focus upon the scientific and public health principles that govern environmental health outcomes at the individual to the global scale. Case studies will be used to illustrate the principles. Some of the issues that will be discussed include lead poisoning, mercury in the food web, the epidemic of tobacco use that is sweeping the world, the global movement of persistent organic pollutants, and natural contaminates in the human supply. These cases will increase in complexity with regards to causative agents and health outcomes. Lastly, trends of environmental diseases coupled with the prevention of these diseases will be emphasized.

Prerequisites: Environmental Studies 2 or Biology 16 or permission of the instructor. Dist: TAS. Roebuck.

30. Global Environmental Science

10S: 12

This course examines human influences on the major global biogeochemical cycles (water, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur). The emphasis is on understanding cycling processes in terrestrial (and, to a lesser extent, aquatic) systems and how human activities (e.g., air pollution, deforestation, desertification, changes in biodiversity) can disrupt these cycles, changing the ability of our global environment to support life. Important feedbacks between biological and physical processes and their effects on the atmosphere are emphasized. The response of natural and managed ecosystems to changing climate and resource availability will be discussed along with prospects for the future. The course also examines international science policies and programs to limit human interference in global cycling processes.

Prerequisite: Mathematics 3 or the equivalent, and Chemistry 5 (or Chemistry 3), and Environmental Studies 2, or the permission of the instructor. Dist: SCI. Ball.

39. Natural Resources, Development, and the Environment

10X, 11X: 10A

How do countries develop their natural resources and also maintain environmental quality? How are water resources and food security maintained in the face of pressures for economic development? Using a multidisciplinary and comparative approach, this course explores the social, political, and scientific issues behind economic development and environmental preservation. Agricultural practices, resource conservation strategies, and tensions between development and conservation are interrogated. The course examines these issues in the historical, social, and political contexts of developed and developing countries, with an emphasis on the emerging nations of sub-Saharan Africa.

Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 2 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor. Dist: SOC. Fox.

40. Foreign Study in Environmental Problems I

09F, 10F: D.F.S.P.

Natural Resources and Environmental Issues in Southern Africa. This course will examine the natural resource constraints and policy dilemmas faced by developing countries and the impacts of people on the environment. Topics will include land and water use, biodiversity and wildlife management, population and environmental health, agricultural practices and community dynamics, and development economics. These topics will be illustrated through field work at National Parks and safari areas, farming areas, and at community-based development projects. Dist: SOC. Mbora.

42. Foreign Study in Environmental Problems II

09F, 10F: D.F.S.P.

Social and Political Aspects of Development and Conservation in Southern Africa. This course will examine the historical, social, and political context of the interplay between resource use, economic development and environmental conservation in southern Africa. The impact of colonial and ethnic traditions and international institutions, on strategies for economic development, urban growth, wildlife management, ecotourism, resource conservation (especially water and soil) and land use will be discussed. Issues of gender in agricultural development and environmental protection will be considered. Dist: INT. Roebuck.

44. Environment and Politics in Southeast Asia (Identical to Geography 44)

09F, 10F: 2

Over the past several decades, the people and environments of Southeast Asia have confronted a host of political, economic and cultural processes commonly grouped together under the heading “development”. As witnessed by recent media reports detailing massive forest fires in Indonesia and dam controversies in Malaysia and Thailand, these development processes have resulted in drastic transformations in the landscapes, forests, and river systems of the region. These processes have likewise produced dramatic alterations in the livelihoods of the people who depend on and interact with the region’s ecological systems. Dist: SOC or INT; WCult: NW. Sneddon.

45. Colonialism, Development and the Environment in Asia and Africa (Identical to and described under History 75, also AAAS 50)

10S: 10

Open to all students. Dist: INT or SOC; WCult: NW. Hayes.

50. Environmental Problem Analysis and Policy Formulation

10S, 11S: 2

Students working together in groups will formulate and justify policy measures that they think would be appropriate to deal with a local environmental problem. The purposes of this coordinating course are to (1) give students an opportunity to see how the disciplinary knowledge acquired in their various courses and departmental major programs can be integrated in a synthetic manner; (2) provide a forum for an in-depth evaluation of a significant environmental policy problem; and (3) give students the experience of working as a project team toward the solution of a real-world problem. Considerable field work may be involved, and the final examination will consist of a public presentation and defense of student-generated policy recommendations.

Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 1, 2 or 3, and at least one upper-level Environmental Studies course, or permission of the instructor. Open only to seniors or to other classes with permission of the instructor. Satisfies the Culminating Experience requirement. Dist: SOC. Sneddon.

52. Environmental Issues in Indian Country (Identical to Native American Studies 52)

Not offered in the period from 09F through 11S

This course will explore a variety of approaches to studying environmental issues in Indian Country (in both the United States and Canada). While a number of academic disciplines will be investigated over the semester, students should form a synthetic understanding of the issues scholars face when taking on “Indian” and “environmental” issues in their studies. We will focus on three key issues: (1) The impact of the ‘invented’ Indian on understandings of Indigenous environmental practices, (2) The differences between Native and non-Native approaches to Indigenous environmental knowledge; (3) Resistances to colonialism and the maintenance of Indigenous knowledge within contemporary political and legal contexts. Open to all classes. Dist: SOC; WCult: NW.

53. Science for Sustainable Systems

09F: 12

A great challenge of our age is to understand the dynamics of complex biological/environmental/human systems and to control destabilizing forces. Lecture and discussion topics include ecological resilience, adaptive management, hierarchy and scale, systems dynamics modeling, methods and traditions in systems thinking, theory and practice of sustainability in terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems, research priorities, real-world case studies of current projects, leadership for convening multiple stakeholders, and relevant principles of social and organizational learning.

Prerequisites: One of Environmental Studies 20, 25, 28, 30 or 55; or one of Biology 21-23, 25, 29 or 31; or one of ENGS 41 or 51; or Chemistry 63; or one of EARS 26, 28 or 86.1; or permission of the instructor. Dist: TAS. Peart.

55. Natural Resource and Ecological Economics (Identical to Economics 55)

10W, 11W: 10

This course examines the use of economic concepts and methods in the management of natural resources and ecological systems. Topics including welfare economics, common pool resources, non-market valuation, and discounting procedures are developed and applied to problems such as fisheries management, forest management, and biodiversity conservation. The course explores the links between economic growth, resource depletion, and global environmental change and the use of economic and ecological indicators in measuring and achieving sustainable development. Emphasis is placed on both the disciplinary aspects of economic analysis and the role of economics in interdisciplinary problem-solving.

Prerequisites: Economics 1 and Mathematics 3 or the equivalent; Environmental Studies 2 or 3; or permission of the instructor. Dist: SOC. Howarth.

56. Environmental Economics, Policy and Management (Identical to Economics 55)

10S: 11

This course applies economic methods and concepts to issues of the environment, environmental policy analysis, and management. Topics include property rights, externalities, cost-benefit analysis, economic instruments for pollution control, and environmental policy and management applications (e.g. acid rain, global climate change, ozone, local air pollution, solid and hazardous waste). The course will combine lectures that introduce methods and concepts of environmental economics with classroom discussion of case studies.

Prerequisites: Economics 1 and Mathematics 3, or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor. Dist: SOC. Webster.

58. Environmental Justice Movements

10S: 10

This class explores how marginalized communities have responded to the incidence, causes, and effects of environmental racism. Special attention is given to how the critiques offered by these communities challenge the knowledge and procedural forms of justice embedded in environmental policy making. Case studies will be drawn from readings on African-Americans, European-Americans, Chicano and Latino Americans, Native Americans and other constituents.

Open to all classes. Dist: SOC; WCult: CI. Dorsey.

60. Environmental Law

09F: 10

Today’s struggles over establishing environmental law and policy are not simply based on questions of ‘what to do,’ i.e., of what regulations to implement or law to pass, but rather of what should humanity’s relation be to its surroundings, i.e., ‘what to think.’ This course will therefore consider an understanding of the historical attitude toward the environment, particularly in America; the role of the lawyer in effecting environmental policy today; and the lawyer’s role in defining our future relation to the environment. Enrollment is limited. Dist: SOC. Jones.

65. International Environmental Issues

10W, 11W: 10A

This course will examine key international environmental issues such as desertification, wildlife, fragile ecosystems, ocean issues, environmental health, and land use. The approach is from a social science, human ecology perspective. The United Nations Environment Programme will also be focused upon. Case histories will be drawn from the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, China, East Africa, and elsewhere. Readings will be from original materials and the current literature. Dist: INT. Dorsey.

72. Nature Writers

10S: 10A

This course combines reading, writing and field work to explore the breadth and richness of the Nature Writing genre. It will be a literature class that will expose you to a variety of nature writing forms; a field course, in which you will take to the field a number of times during the term to put yourself in the practical position of a nature writer; and a writing workshop in which you will write your own literary nature-related essays and critique each other’s pieces in class.

Enrollment is limited, and students interested in the course must apply. Applications will include a writing sample-a 3-page personal narrative based on a nature-related experience; the forms should be requested from the instructor. Applications are due on the last day of classes of winter term (the term before the class is offered), and students who are accepted will be informed on or before the first day of class. Dist: LIT; WCult: W. Osborne.

79. The Soil Resource (Identical to and described under Earth Sciences 79)

Not offered in the period from 09F through 11S

Dist: SLA.

80. Seminar in Environmental Studies

09F: 11 10W: 3A 10S: 2

This course may be offered any term and the content varied according to the interests of the instructor. Seminars explore contemporary issues and problems in environmental science, environmental policy, and environmental topics from the humanities and social sciences. Seminars are primarily designed for juniors and seniors and generally require the permission of the instructor. Others may seek to apply by permission. Dist: Varies.

In 09F at 11, Achieving Carbon Neutrality. In this class, students will attempt to prioritize the recommendations made by ENVS 50 Spring 2009 and select a project to research and develop and work toward implementing on the Dartmouth campus. Prerequisites: permission of the instructor. Kawiaka.

In 10W at 3A, Natural Autobiography. Prerequisites: permission of the instructor. Williams.

In 10S at 12, Arctic Environmental Change and Its Human Dimensions. Virginia.

84. Seminar on Environmental Issues of Southern Africa

09F, 10F: D.F.S.P.

This seminar will coordinate and supplement the material in courses and field work of the program, using guest speakers and student presentations. Students, working in small sub-groups, will undertake multidisciplinary studies of specific regional environmental issues in southern Africa. These projects will lead to a single major paper produced by the group on an environmental topic selected in consultation with the instructor. The paper will be -printed in a volume for use by future students and by interested individuals in the U.S. and in southern Africa. Satisfies the Culminating Experience requirement. WCult: NW. Roebuck.

86. Advanced Conservation Science (Identical to Biology 52)

10S: 2A

Rigorous scientific methods are essential to the effective conservation of biodiversity and management of natural resources. This course will examine a range of analytical techniques employed in conservation and natural resource management. Techniques covered will include trend detection, population viability analysis, mark-recapture methods for the estimation of population size and demographic parameters (birth, death, migration), and movement and dispersal models. An important goal will be to understand the strengths and limitations of these methods and their practical applications. The emphasis will be on reading and discussing primary literature and working real-world examples using data collected on species of conservation and management significance. Students will be instructed in the use of a number of computer software packages useful in the analysis of population data. Grading will be based on exams, homework, and a term project.

Prerequisites: Environmental Studies 20 or Biology 21/51, or permission of the instructor. Dist: TAS. Bolger.

90. Independent Study and Research

All terms: Arrange

Permission is required from the faculty advisor and the Program Chair.

91. Thesis Research in Environmental Studies

Independent study of an environmental problem or issue under the supervision of a member of our staff. Open only to Environmental Studies majors. May be taken two terms, both for course credit, but can only count once toward the major. Credit requires completion of a suitable report. See description of the Honors Program in Environmental Studies.

Prerequisite: Permission is required from the faculty advisor and the Program Chair.