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Center for Environmental Studies

Environmental Science

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.

Requirements for the Major in Environmental Science

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 T (F)Statistical 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 214 (S)Mathematical 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 lower level electives

Environmental Biology track upper level electives

Environmental Chemistry track electives

Environmental Geoscience track electives