Environmental Science Major

The major in Environmental Science brings together core courses in Environmental Studies with relevant coursework in a specific scientific discipline. The goal of the major in Environmental Science is to provide training in one of the natural sciences as well as an understanding of the complex array of natural, social and political factors involved in environmental issues.

Five courses are common to all Environmental Science majors; there is also a methods requirement and three disciplinary tracks, each comprised of five additional courses. The three disciplinary tracks are a) Environmental Biology, b) Environmental Chemistry, and c) Environmental Geoscience.

Students majoring in Environmental Science should investigate the courses required for their chosen track and consult their advisor to plan an appropriate schedule for completing the major, including any prerequisites not listed below. Courses cannot be double–counted within the major; for example, a course used to fulfill the methods requirement cannot also be used as an elective. The availability of required courses may vary slightly from year to year, and substitutions may be authorized occasionally by the Director of CES. Students seeking to place out of particular courses on the basis of AP, IB or A–level exams should consult the Director.

Core Courses (Required)

ENVI 101(F)Nature and Society: An Introduction to Environmental Studies

This course introduces environmental studies as an interdisciplinary field of learning. It will provide a survey of a broad range of environmental problems, cases, and questions, from climate change to sustainable agriculture, from toxic waste to species extinction. We will also examine the intellectual traditions, authors, and historical developments that have most profoundly shaped our understanding of these issues. Keeping a constant eye on the complexities of life in the twenty-first century, we will explore the many different theories and methods that inform environmental scholarship, activism, and policy-making in a variety of cultural arenas and across geographical scales. Along the way, we will read works by philosophers, economists, journalists, historians, sociologists, and many others. [ more ]

ENVI 102(S)Introduction to Environmental Science

Environmental science is the interdisciplinary study of the Earth's systems through the synthesis of physical, chemical, geological, and biological perspectives. This course introduces students to the scientific methods used to assess human impacts on the environment. Weekly readings on local, regional and global issues will include scientific literature. Part of each class will be spent on the discussion of scientific data and any related policy issues. While class time will focus primarily on a broad range of environmental issues, in the lab students will focus on the local Hoosic River Watershed. Field and laboratory exercises will generate data that students will analyze, interpret and compare to historic data sets. As the Hoosic River is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River, knowledge gained through the exploration of the local watershed in the lab will be applied where possible to other regions of the world in class. Examples of topics explored are: the hazards of everyday things, climate change, human impacts on water quality and quantity, atmospheric pollution, tracing pollution through the environment, water use, waste treatment, ocean resource management, and how science happens/works. Students will design and complete an independent project on one of these subjects as it pertains to their hometown. There will be an all-day field trip through the Hoosic River Valley early in the semester. [ more ]

BIOL 203 / ENVI 203(F)Ecology

This course combines lectures with field and indoor laboratory exercises to explore factors that determine the distribution and abundance of plants and animals in natural systems. The course begins with an overall view of global patterns and then builds from the population to the ecosystem level. An emphasis is given to basic ecological principles and relates them to current environmental issues. Selected topics include population dynamics (competition, predation, mutualism); community interactions (succession, food chains and diversity) and ecosystem function (biogeochemical cycles, energy flow). [ more ]

ENVI 302(F)Environmental Planning Workshop

This interdisciplinary course introduces the theories, approaches, methodologies, and legal framework of environmental planning and provides students with experience in the planning process through project work in the Berkshire region. The first part of the course introduces the students to planning literature through analysis and discussion of case studies. In the second part of the course students tackle an actual planning problem. Small teams of students, working in conjunction with a client in the community and under supervision of the instructor, conduct a planning project, using all the tools of an environmental planner. The project work draws on students? academic training, extracurricular activities, and applies interdisciplinary knowledge and methodologies. The course includes several class presentations and culminates in a public presentation of each team's planning study. This course also includes field trips, town meetings, interviews, survey work, and computer mapping labs. [ more ]

ENVI 402 / MAST 402(S)Senior Seminar: Perspectives on Environmental Studies

TThe Environmental Studies and Maritime Studies programs provide students with an opportunity to explore the myriad ways in which humans interact with diverse environments at scales ranging from local to global. As the capstone course for Environmental Studies and Maritime Studies, this seminar will bring together students who will have specialized in the humanities, social studies and/or the sciences and will provide an opportunity for exchange across these disciplinary streams. Readings and discussion will be organized around a common theme. Over the course of the seminar, students will develop a sustained independent research project on a topic of their choice with numerous opportunities for collaboration. [ more ]

Environmental Studies Methods Courses

STAT 201(F, S)Statistics and Data Analysis

Statistics can be viewed as the art (science?) of turning data into information. Real world decision-making, whether in business or science is often based on data and the perceived information it contains. Sherlock Holmes, when prematurely asked the merits of a case by Dr. Watson, snapped back, "Data, data, data! I can't make bricks without clay." In this course, we will study the basic methods by which statisticians attempt to extract information from data. These will include many of the standard tools of statistical inference such as hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, and linear regression as well as exploratory and graphical data analysis techniques. [ more ]

GEOS 214 / ENVI 214(S)Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems

This class provides a practical look at fast-evolving methods used to integrate information about the Earth's surface with spatial data collected by disciplines such as archaeology, economics, the field sciences, history and political science. Remote sensing involves collection and processing of data from satellite and airborne sensors to yield environmental information about the Earth's surface and lower atmosphere. Remote sensing allows regional mapping of rock materials, analysis of vegetation cover and measurement of urban areas and land-use change over time. A Geographic Information System (GIS) links satellite-based environmental measurements with spatial data such as topography, transportation networks, and political boundaries, allowing display and quantitative analysis at the same scale using the same geographic reference. This course covers concepts of remote-data capture and geographic rectification using a Global Positioning System (GPS), as well as principles of remote sensing, including linear and non-linear image enhancements, convolution filtering, and image classification. Principles of GIS include display and classification, spatial buffers, logical overlays and techniques of spatial analysis. Weekly labs focus on training in the application of techniques using data from the region and other areas of North America. [ more ]

STAT 231 TStatistical Design of Experiments

Not offered this year

What does statistics have to do with designing and carrying out experiments? The answer is, surprisingly perhaps, a great deal. In this course, we will study how to design an experiment with the fewest number of observations possible to achieve a certain power. We will also learn how to analyze and present the resulting data and draw conclusions. After reviewing basic statistical theory and two sample comparisons, we cover one and two-way ANOVA and (fractional) factorial designs extensively. The culmination of the course will be a project where each student designs, carries out, analyzes, and presents an experiment of interest to him or her. Throughout the course, we will use the free statistical software program R to carry out the statistical analysis. [ more ]

MATH 310 / BIOL 214Mathematical Modeling of Ecological Systems

Not offered this year

Mathematical models are extensively used to understand biological phenomena. In this course we will study how differential and difference equations can be used to model various ecological systems ranging from predator-prey interactions to infectious disease dynamics. We will explore how to formulate these models, and methods for analyzing these systems including local and global stability analysis will be introduced. [ more ]

CHEM 364 / ENVI 364(F)Instrumental Methods of Analysis

This course provides the student an understanding of the applicability of current laboratory instrumentation both to the elucidation of fundamental chemical phenomena and to the measurement of certain atomic and molecular parameters. Experimental methods, including absorption and emission spectroscopy in the x-ray, ultraviolet, visible, infrared, microwave, and radio frequency regions, chromatography, electrochemistry, mass spectrometry, magnetic resonance, and thermal methods are discussed, with examples drawn from the current literature. The analytical chemical techniques developed in this course are useful in a wide variety of scientific areas. The course also covers new developments in instrumental methods and advances in the approaches used to address modern analytical questions. [ more ]

Taught by: Patrick Barber

Catalog details

Environmental Biology Track Electives

Group A

BIOL 302 / ENVI 312Communities and Ecosystems

Not offered this year

An advanced ecology course that examines how organisms interact with each other and with abiotic factors. This course emphasizes phenomena that emerge in complex ecological systems, building on the fundamental concepts of population biology, community ecology, and ecosystem science. Lectures and workshops explore how communities and ecosystems are defined, and how theoretical, comparative, and experimental approaches are used to elucidate their structure and function. Field laboratories emphasize hypothesis-oriented experiments, some of which will continue with laboratory analyses; field trips introduce the diversity of natural communities and ecosystems of the region. There will be one all-day field trip to Mt. Greylock State Reservation. Extensive use will be made of the 75-year database of the Hopkins Memorial Forest. Students will engage in self-designed term project. [ more ]

BIOL 305(S)Evolution

This course offers a critical analysis of contemporary concepts in biological evolution. We focus on the relation of evolutionary mechanisms (e.g., selection, drift, and migration) to long term evolutionary patterns (e.g., evolutionary innovations, origin of major groups, and the emergence of diversity). Topics include micro-evolutionary models, natural selection and adaptation, sexual selection, speciation, the inference of evolutionary history among others. [ more ]

BIOL 308(S)Integrative Plant Biology: Fundamentals and New Frontiers

Plants are one of the most successful groups of organisms on Earth and have a profound impact on all life. Successful use of plants in addressing global problems and understanding their role in natural ecosystems depends on fundamental knowledge of the molecular mechanisms by which they grow, develop, and respond to their environment. This course will examine the molecular physiology of plants using an integrative approach that considers plants as dynamic, functional units in their environment. Major emphasis will be on understanding fundamental plant processes, such as photosynthesis, growth and development, water transport, hormone physiology, and flowering, from the molecular to the organismal level. Environmental effects on these processes will be addressed in topics including photomorphogenesis, stress physiology, mineral nutrition, and plant-microbe interactions. Discussions of original research papers will examine the mechanisms plants use to perform these processes and explore advances in the genetic engineering of plants for agricultural, environmental, and medical purposes. Laboratory activities stress modern approaches and techniques used in investigating plant physiological processes. [ more ]

MATH 310 / BIOL 214Mathematical Modeling of Ecological Systems

Not offered this year

Mathematical models are extensively used to understand biological phenomena. In this course we will study how differential and difference equations can be used to model various ecological systems ranging from predator-prey interactions to infectious disease dynamics. We will explore how to formulate these models, and methods for analyzing these systems including local and global stability analysis will be introduced. [ more ]

MAST 311 / BIOL 231(F, S)Marine Ecology

Using the principles of evolutionary biology and experimental ecology, this course examines the processes that control the diversity, abundance and distribution of marine organisms. Major marine communities, including estuaries, the rocky shore, sandy beaches, salt marshes, coral reefs, and the deep sea are discussed in detail. [ more ]

BIOL 315(F)Microbiology: Diversity, Cellular Physiology, and Interactions

Bioterrorism and the alarming spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria are but two of the reasons for the resurgence of interest in the biology of microorganisms. This course will examine microbes from the perspectives of cell structure and function, genomics, and evolution. A central theme will be the adaptation of bacteria as they evolve to fill specific ecological niches, with an emphasis on microbe:host interactions that lead to pathogenesis. We will consider communication among bacteria as well as between bacteria and their environment. Topics include: microbial development, population dynamics, bioremediation, plant and animal defenses against infection, and bacterial strategies to subvert the immune system. In the lab, major projects will focus on horizontal gene transfer, metagenomics, and the isolation and characterization of bacteria from natural environments. Students will also use flow cytometry to investigate fundamental aspects of the mammalian immune system. The lab experience will culminate in multi-week independent investigations. Readings will be supplemented by articles from the primary literature. [ more ]

Taught by: Anne Farewell

Catalog details

CHEM 341 / ENVI 341(F)Toxicology and Cancer

What is a poison and what makes it poisonous? Paracelcus commented in 1537: "What is not a poison? All things are poisons (and nothing is without poison). The dose alone keeps a thing from being a poison." Is the picture really this bleak; is modern technology-based society truly swimming in a sea of toxic materials? How are the nature and severity of toxicity established, measured and expressed? Do all toxic materials exert their effect in the same manner, or can materials be poisonous in a variety of different ways? Are the safety levels set by regulatory agencies low enough for a range of common toxic materials, such as mercury, lead, and certain pesticides? How are poisons metabolized and how do they lead to the development of cancer? What is cancer and what does it take to cause it? What biochemical defense mechanisms exist to counteract the effects of poisons?
This course attempts to answer these questions by surveying the fundamentals of modern chemical toxicology and the induction and progression of cancer. Topics will range from description and quantitation of the toxic response, including risk assessment, to the basic mechanisms underlying toxicity, mutagenesis, carcinogenesis, and DNA repair.
[ more ]

CHEM 364 / ENVI 364(F)Instrumental Methods of Analysis

This course provides the student an understanding of the applicability of current laboratory instrumentation both to the elucidation of fundamental chemical phenomena and to the measurement of certain atomic and molecular parameters. Experimental methods, including absorption and emission spectroscopy in the x-ray, ultraviolet, visible, infrared, microwave, and radio frequency regions, chromatography, electrochemistry, mass spectrometry, magnetic resonance, and thermal methods are discussed, with examples drawn from the current literature. The analytical chemical techniques developed in this course are useful in a wide variety of scientific areas. The course also covers new developments in instrumental methods and advances in the approaches used to address modern analytical questions. [ more ]

Taught by: Patrick Barber

Catalog details

BIOL 422 / ENVI 422(S)Ecology of Sustainable Agriculture

A seminar / field course investigating patterns, processes, and concepts of stability in human-dominated, food production ecosystems. As a capstone course, the course will draw upon the experiences that students have had in biology and environmental studies courses. Topics will include: the relationships among diversity, ecosystem function, sustainability, resilience, and stability of food production and distribution systems, nutrient pools and processing in human?dominated ecosystems. Two extensive field trips will be taken to agricultural operations in the region. Each student will present a seminar on a topic requiring extensive reading of primary resources and is responsible for leading the discussion that ensues. Reading question paper assignments will be due prior to the seminar. Criticism paper assignments will be made at approximately bi-weekly intervals and due two days after the seminar to which they relate. [ more ]

Group B

GEOS 101 / ENVI 105(F)The Co-Evolution of Earth and Life

Our planet is about 4.6 billion years old, and has supported life for at least the last 3.5 billion of those years. This course will consider the inter-related nature of Earth and the life that inhabits it, starting with the first living organisms and progressing to the interaction of our own species with the Earth today. Students will investigate the dynamic nature of the Earth-life system, examine many of its feedbacks, and learn about the dramatic changes that have occurred throughout the history of the Earth. We will ask questions such as: How did the Earth facilitate biologic evolution, and what effects did those biologic events have on the physical Earth? When did photosynthesis evolve, how can we detect that in the rock record, and how did this biological event lead to profound changes in the environment? How and why did animals evolve and what role did environmental change play in the radiation of animal life? How did the rise and radiation of land plants affect world climate? How do plate tectonics, glaciation, and volcanism influence biodiversity and evolutionary innovation? What caused mass extinctions in the past and what can that teach us about our current extinction crisis? Labs will involve hands-on analysis of rocks, fossils, and real-world data as well as conceptual and analytical exercises; field trips will contextualize major events in Earth history and will help students learn to read the rock record. Through these investigations, the class will provide a comprehensive overview of Earth history, with special attention paid to the geological and paleontological history of the northeastern United States. [ more ]

BIOL 102(S)The Organism

This course focuses upon the developmental and evolutionary processes that have given rise to a wide diversity of multicellular organisms. We consider many levels of biological organization, from molecular and cellular to individuals and populations. Topics include meiosis and sexual reproduction, animal and plant development, evolutionary mechanisms, and speciation, with examples from the three main groups of multicellular organisms (animals, plants, and fungi). Readings are drawn from a variety of sources, including the recent biological literature. [ more ]

GEOS 103 / ENVI 103(F)Global Warming and Natural Disasters

The destruction caused by recent storms such as Irene and Sandy, devastation of prolonged drought in the African Sahel, catastrophic flooding and mudslides in SE Asia and sea level encroachment on the Alaska coast are visible examples of natural disasters that may be modulated by climate change. Global climate change, together with environmental degradation and the explosive growth of urban areas, has the potential to increase the severity and impact of natural disasters. In this course we globally examine geological and climatological processes that "set up" natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, landslides, droughts, extreme temperatures, and coastal surges, as well as the processes that condition availability of water resources. We study in detail the causes and anticipated consequences of human alteration of global climate and its impact on the spectrum of natural hazards and resources. During laboratory sessions we use local field sites and computer models to analyze recent disasters/hazards, trends in weather and climate and options for mitigating future impacts. [ more ]

MAST 104 / ENVI 104 / GEOS 104(S)Oceanography

The oceans cover about 72% of Earth's surface, yet we know the surface of Venus better than our own ocean floors. Why is that? This integrated introduction to the oceans covers formation and history of the ocean basins; the composition and origin of seawater; currents, tides, and waves; ocean-atmosphere interactions; oceans and climate; deep-marine environments; coastal processes; productivity in the oceans; and marine resources. Coastal oceanography will be investigated on an all-day field trip, hosted by the Williams-Mystic program in Connecticut. [ more ]

BIOL 134 / ENVI 134The Tropics: Biology and Social Issues

Not offered this year

Intended for the non-scientist, this course explores the biological dimensions of social issues in tropical societies, and focuses on specifically on the peoples and cultures of tropical regions in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceanea, and the Caribbean. Tropical issues have become prominent on a global scale, and many social issues in the tropics are inextricably bound to human ecology, evolution, and physiology. The course begins with a survey of the tropical environment of humans, including major climatic and habitat features. The next section focuses on human population biology, and emphasizes demography and the role of disease particularly malaria and AIDS. The final part of the course covers the place of human societies in local and global ecosystems including the challenges of tropical food production, the importance of organic diversity, and the interaction of humans with their supporting ecological environment. This course fulfills the EDI requirement. Through lectures, debates and readings, students confront social issues in the tropics from the perspective of biologist. This builds a framework for lifelong exploration of human diversity. [ more ]

MAST 211 / GEOS 210(F, S)Oceanographic Processes

This course examines ocean and coastal environmental science issues including carbon dioxide and the ocean's role in climate, El Ni?o and other ocean-atmosphere oscillations that influence our weather, coastal erosion and other hazards, coastal pollution, and fisheries. The focus is on controlling processes with regional comparisons. Blue water oceanography is conducted in the Atlantic and comparative coastal oceanography includes trips to southern New England shores, and the West and Gulf coasts of the US as part of the Williams-Mystic program. [ more ]

GEOS 215 / ENVI 215(F)Climate Changes

In recent years, there has been a growing public and scientific interest in the Earth's climate and its variability. This interest reflects both concern over future climate changes resulting from anthropogenic increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases and growing recognition of the economic impact of "natural" climate variability (for example, El Ni?o events), especially in the developing world. Efforts to understand the Earth's climate system and predict future climate changes require both study of parameters controlling present day climate and detailed studies of climate changes in the past. In this course, we will review the processes that control the Earth's climate, like insolation, the greenhouse effect, ocean circulation, configuration of continents, and positive and negative feedbacks . At the same time, we will review the geological record of climate changes in the past, examining their causes. Laboratory exercises and problem sets will emphasize developing problem solving skills and using quantitative analyses to assess if a given explanation is possible and reasonable. These exercises will include developing and applying numerical models of the radiative balance of earth and the carbon cycle. [ more ]

BIOL 220 / ENVI 220(F)Field Botany and Plant Natural History

This field-lecture course covers the evolutionary and ecological relationships among plant groups represented in our local and regional flora. Lectures focus on the evolution of the land plants, the most recent and revolutionary developments in plant systemics and phylogeny, and characteristics of plant families and cultural and economic uses of plants, native species. The labs cover field identification, natural history, and ecology of local species. [ more ]

MAST 226 T / ENVI 226 / GEOS 226(S)The Oceans and Climate

The oceans are a fundamental part of Earth's climate system. Ocean currents redistribute heat and water vapor around the globe, controlling temperature and precipitation patterns. Marine phytoplankton blooms and air-sea gas exchange modulate the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. The dynamic interaction of the atmosphere and the sea surface results in multi-year climate variations such as the El Ni?o-Southern Oscillation. This course will examine gradual and abrupt climate shifts from Earth's history and the ocean's role in driving, amplifying or dampening the changes, the ocean's response to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and the projected impacts of continued emissions and climate change on the ocean in the coming decades and millennia. We will analyze articles from the scientific literature that lay out the theory on the ocean's influence on climate, reconstruct past climate and ocean changes, test the mechanisms responsible for those changes, and with that knowledge, project the consequences of continued anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Topics may include the climate effects of opening and closing seaways with plate tectonics, ocean feedbacks that amplify the intensity of ice ages, the instability of ocean circulation during ice-sheet retreat, the evolution of the El Ni?o-Southern Oscillation with changing carbon dioxide through the geologic past and the next century, ocean heat and carbon dioxide uptake during the last century and into the future, and the impact on sea level, seafloor methane reservoirs, ocean acidification, oxygenation and marine ecosystems. [ more ]

Environmental Chemistry Track Electives

Group A

CHEM 151(F)Introductory Concepts of Chemistry

This course provides a general introduction to chemistry for those students who have had at most one year of chemistry at the high school level. The course presents an overview of chemical concepts. Principal topics include introductions to the nature of atoms and molecules, stoichiometry, solubility rules and equilibria, gas laws, chemical equilibrium, acid-base reactions, periodic relationships, chemical bonding, molecular structure, intermolecular forces, oxidation-reduction reactions, and related applications. Laboratory work comprises a system of qualitative analysis and quantitative techniques. The course provides preparation for further study of organic chemistry, biochemistry, physical and inorganic chemistry and is intended for students who are anticipating professional study in chemistry, in related sciences, or in one of the health professions, as well as for those students who are interested in exploring the fundamental ideas of chemistry as part of their general education. [ more ]

CHEM 153(F)Introductory Concepts of Chemistry: Advanced Section

This course furthers the foundation in chemistry for students who have had one year or more of chemistry at the high school level. Familiarity with stoichiometry, basic concepts of equilibria, and the model of an atom is expected. Principal topics for this course include kinetic theory of gases, modern atomic theory, molecular structure and bonding, states of matter, chemical equilibrium (acid-base and solubility), and an introduction to atomic and molecular spectroscopies. Laboratory work includes synthesis, qualitative and quantitative chemical analysis, and molecular modeling. The course is of interest to students who anticipate professional study in chemistry, related sciences, or one of the health professions, as well as to those who want to explore the fundamental ideas of chemistry as part of their general education. [ more ]

CHEM 155(F)Principles of Modern Chemistry

This course is intended for students with strong preparation in secondary school chemistry, for example through advanced placement courses (or equivalent) and laboratory experience. Topics include chemical thermodynamics, kinetics, structure and bonding, coordination chemistry, electrochemistry and spectroscopy and their application to fields such as materials science, industrial, environmental, biological, and medicinal chemistry. Laboratory work includes synthesis, characterization, and reactivity of coordination complexes, electrochemical analysis, materials chemistry, qualitative analysis, and molecular modeling. This course is of interest for students who are anticipating professional study in chemistry, related sciences, or one of the health professions, as well as for students who want to explore the fundamental ideas of chemistry as part of their general education. [ more ]

Group B

CHEM 155(F)Principles of Modern Chemistry

This course is intended for students with strong preparation in secondary school chemistry, for example through advanced placement courses (or equivalent) and laboratory experience. Topics include chemical thermodynamics, kinetics, structure and bonding, coordination chemistry, electrochemistry and spectroscopy and their application to fields such as materials science, industrial, environmental, biological, and medicinal chemistry. Laboratory work includes synthesis, characterization, and reactivity of coordination complexes, electrochemical analysis, materials chemistry, qualitative analysis, and molecular modeling. This course is of interest for students who are anticipating professional study in chemistry, related sciences, or one of the health professions, as well as for students who want to explore the fundamental ideas of chemistry as part of their general education. [ more ]

CHEM 156(S)Organic Chemistry: Introductory Level

This course provides the necessary background in organic chemistry for students who are planning advanced study or a career in chemistry, the biological sciences, or the health professions. It initiates the systematic study of the common classes of organic compounds with emphasis on theories of structure and reactivity. The fundamentals of molecular modeling as applied to organic molecules are presented. Specific topics include basic organic structure and bonding, isomerism, stereochemistry, molecular energetics, the theory and interpretation of infrared and nuclear magnetic spectroscopy, substitution and elimination reactions, and the addition reactions of alkenes and alkynes. The coordinated laboratory work includes purification and separation techniques, structure-reactivity studies, organic synthesis, IR and NMR spectroscopy, and the identification of unknown compounds. [ more ]

CHEM 251(F)Organic Chemistry: Intermediate Level

This course is a continuation of Chemistry 156 and it concludes the systematic study of the common classes of organic compounds with emphasis on theories of structure and reactivity. Specific topics include radical chemistry, an introduction to mass spectrometry and ultraviolet spectroscopy, the theory and chemical reactivity of conjugated and aromatic systems, the concepts of kinetic and thermodynamic control, an extensive treatment of the chemistry of the carbonyl group, alcohols, ethers, polyfunctional compounds, the concept of selectivity, the fundamentals of organic synthesis, an introduction to carbohydrates, carboxylic acids and derivatives, acyl substitution reactions, amines, and an introduction to amino acids, peptides, and proteins. The coordinated laboratory work includes application of the techniques learned in the introductory level laboratory, along with new functional group analyses, to the separation and identification of several unknown samples. Skills in analyzing NMR, IR, and MS data are practiced and further refined. [ more ]

CHEM 255(F)Organic Chemistry: Intermediate Level--Special Laboratory Section

This course is a continuation of CHEM 156 and contains the same material as CHEM 251 except for the laboratory program described below: The aim of this advanced laboratory section is to enrich and enhance the laboratory experiences of motivated students of recognized ability by providing a laboratory program that more closely resembles the unpredictable nature and immediacy of true chemical research. Students synthesize, isolate, and characterize (using a range of modern physical and spectroscopic techniques) a family of unknown materials in a series of experiments constituting an integrated, semester-long investigation. A flexible format is employed in which the students are responsible for helping to plan the course of their laboratory work based upon discussions with the instructor about the previous week's experimental results. Students are drawn from CHEM 156 with placement based upon student selection and nomination by the CHEM 156 instructor. Participants attend their regular CHEM 251 lecture but attend the special laboratory section instead of a CHEM 251 laboratory section. [ more ]

CHEM 256(S)Advanced Chemical Concepts

This course treats an array of topics in modern chemistry, emphasizing broad concepts that connect and weave through the various subdisciplines of the field--biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry. It provides necessary background in chemical science for students who are planning advanced study or a career in chemistry, biological science, geoscience, environmental science, or a health profession. Topics include coordination complexes, thermodynamics, electrochemistry, kinetics, and nuclear chemistry. Laboratory work includes experiments involving synthesis, characterization, and reactivity studies of coordination and organic complexes, spectroscopic analyses, thermodynamics, electrochemistry, kinetics, and nuclear chemistry. [ more ]

CHEM 341 / ENVI 341(F)Toxicology and Cancer

What is a poison and what makes it poisonous? Paracelcus commented in 1537: "What is not a poison? All things are poisons (and nothing is without poison). The dose alone keeps a thing from being a poison." Is the picture really this bleak; is modern technology-based society truly swimming in a sea of toxic materials? How are the nature and severity of toxicity established, measured and expressed? Do all toxic materials exert their effect in the same manner, or can materials be poisonous in a variety of different ways? Are the safety levels set by regulatory agencies low enough for a range of common toxic materials, such as mercury, lead, and certain pesticides? How are poisons metabolized and how do they lead to the development of cancer? What is cancer and what does it take to cause it? What biochemical defense mechanisms exist to counteract the effects of poisons?
This course attempts to answer these questions by surveying the fundamentals of modern chemical toxicology and the induction and progression of cancer. Topics will range from description and quantitation of the toxic response, including risk assessment, to the basic mechanisms underlying toxicity, mutagenesis, carcinogenesis, and DNA repair.
[ more ]

Environmental Geoscience Track Electives

Group A

GEOS 101 / ENVI 105(F)The Co-Evolution of Earth and Life

Our planet is about 4.6 billion years old, and has supported life for at least the last 3.5 billion of those years. This course will consider the inter-related nature of Earth and the life that inhabits it, starting with the first living organisms and progressing to the interaction of our own species with the Earth today. Students will investigate the dynamic nature of the Earth-life system, examine many of its feedbacks, and learn about the dramatic changes that have occurred throughout the history of the Earth. We will ask questions such as: How did the Earth facilitate biologic evolution, and what effects did those biologic events have on the physical Earth? When did photosynthesis evolve, how can we detect that in the rock record, and how did this biological event lead to profound changes in the environment? How and why did animals evolve and what role did environmental change play in the radiation of animal life? How did the rise and radiation of land plants affect world climate? How do plate tectonics, glaciation, and volcanism influence biodiversity and evolutionary innovation? What caused mass extinctions in the past and what can that teach us about our current extinction crisis? Labs will involve hands-on analysis of rocks, fossils, and real-world data as well as conceptual and analytical exercises; field trips will contextualize major events in Earth history and will help students learn to read the rock record. Through these investigations, the class will provide a comprehensive overview of Earth history, with special attention paid to the geological and paleontological history of the northeastern United States. [ more ]

GEOS 103 / ENVI 103(F)Global Warming and Natural Disasters

The destruction caused by recent storms such as Irene and Sandy, devastation of prolonged drought in the African Sahel, catastrophic flooding and mudslides in SE Asia and sea level encroachment on the Alaska coast are visible examples of natural disasters that may be modulated by climate change. Global climate change, together with environmental degradation and the explosive growth of urban areas, has the potential to increase the severity and impact of natural disasters. In this course we globally examine geological and climatological processes that "set up" natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, landslides, droughts, extreme temperatures, and coastal surges, as well as the processes that condition availability of water resources. We study in detail the causes and anticipated consequences of human alteration of global climate and its impact on the spectrum of natural hazards and resources. During laboratory sessions we use local field sites and computer models to analyze recent disasters/hazards, trends in weather and climate and options for mitigating future impacts. [ more ]

MAST 104 / ENVI 104 / GEOS 104(S)Oceanography

The oceans cover about 72% of Earth's surface, yet we know the surface of Venus better than our own ocean floors. Why is that? This integrated introduction to the oceans covers formation and history of the ocean basins; the composition and origin of seawater; currents, tides, and waves; ocean-atmosphere interactions; oceans and climate; deep-marine environments; coastal processes; productivity in the oceans; and marine resources. Coastal oceanography will be investigated on an all-day field trip, hosted by the Williams-Mystic program in Connecticut. [ more ]

Group B

GEOS 201 / ENVI 205(F)Geomorphology

This course is designed for Geosciences majors and for environmental studies students interested in surficial geologic processes and their importance in shaping the physical environment. Geomorphology is the study of landforms, the processes that shape them and the rates at which surface processes change the landscape. This class emphasizes the influence of climatic, tectonic, and volcanic forces on landform evolution over relatively short periods of geologic time, generally thousands to a few millions of years. At this time scale, the influence of human activity and climate change on landforms may be strong, perhaps dominant, in many geologic environments. Many of our examples analyze human interaction?planned or unplanned-- with geomorphic processes. Labs focus on field measurements of channels and landscapes in the Williamstown area as well as on the analysis of topographic maps and stereo air photos. [ more ]

MAST 226 T / ENVI 226 / GEOS 226(S)The Oceans and Climate

The oceans are a fundamental part of Earth's climate system. Ocean currents redistribute heat and water vapor around the globe, controlling temperature and precipitation patterns. Marine phytoplankton blooms and air-sea gas exchange modulate the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. The dynamic interaction of the atmosphere and the sea surface results in multi-year climate variations such as the El Ni?o-Southern Oscillation. This course will examine gradual and abrupt climate shifts from Earth's history and the ocean's role in driving, amplifying or dampening the changes, the ocean's response to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and the projected impacts of continued emissions and climate change on the ocean in the coming decades and millennia. We will analyze articles from the scientific literature that lay out the theory on the ocean's influence on climate, reconstruct past climate and ocean changes, test the mechanisms responsible for those changes, and with that knowledge, project the consequences of continued anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Topics may include the climate effects of opening and closing seaways with plate tectonics, ocean feedbacks that amplify the intensity of ice ages, the instability of ocean circulation during ice-sheet retreat, the evolution of the El Ni?o-Southern Oscillation with changing carbon dioxide through the geologic past and the next century, ocean heat and carbon dioxide uptake during the last century and into the future, and the impact on sea level, seafloor methane reservoirs, ocean acidification, oxygenation and marine ecosystems. [ more ]

Group C

GEOS 206 / ENVI 206(S)Renewable Energy and the Sustainable Campus

Rising oil and electricity costs disrupt the economy and help fuel global insecurity. Extraction of fossil fuels degrades the environment. Clearer understanding of how fossil-fuel consumption contributes to global climate change is increasing the demand for renewable sources of energy and for more sustainable campus environments. What sources of energy will supply Williams College and nearby areas in the twenty-first century? How will campus buildings, old and new, continue to be attractive spaces while making far more efficient use of heat and light? How can the College's operations and purchasing become more sustainable? This course is a practical introduction to renewable sources of energy, including conservation, principles of sustainability, and to their application to the campus environment. Topics covered include: biological sources of energy (biomass, biogas, liquid fuels), wind energy, geothermal and solar energy, energy efficiency and the environmental impacts of using renewable energy. Lectures, field trips and individual projects emphasize examples from the campus and nearby area. [ more ]

MAST 211 / GEOS 210(F, S)Oceanographic Processes

This course examines ocean and coastal environmental science issues including carbon dioxide and the ocean's role in climate, El Ni?o and other ocean-atmosphere oscillations that influence our weather, coastal erosion and other hazards, coastal pollution, and fisheries. The focus is on controlling processes with regional comparisons. Blue water oceanography is conducted in the Atlantic and comparative coastal oceanography includes trips to southern New England shores, and the West and Gulf coasts of the US as part of the Williams-Mystic program. [ more ]

GEOS 231 / ENVI 231(S)The River

Rivers are everywhere. They fill our reservoirs, carry shipping, provide electrical power and feed millions of people. Rivers flush away our waste, potentially profoundly affecting the ocean. Rivers build land and destroy land: they transport the sediment and nutrients that construct agricultural land, and sometimes they flood that land. In this course we will consider a wide range of questions about rivers: How do they form? Where does the water come from? Where does the water go? How do rivers erode their banks and carve their channels? How do they move sediments? What is the chemistry of river water? How do our activities change river chemistry, and how does that affect the environment? When, how, and why do rivers flood? How can we predict and control flooding? What happens when rivers reach the ocean? How do rivers evolve over time, and how does that affect people and their livelihoods? Three lectures a week, and 4-6 local field trips. This course is linked to an all-expenses-paid seven-day Spring Break field trip to the Mississippi River (Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Cajun country, the delta swamps, and barrier islands), during which students will get first-hand experience with topics covered during the course. Participation in the Spring Break trip is not required for successful completion of the course, but course enrollment is necessary to attend the trip. [ more ]