Environmental Studies Courses
The “N/S” designation indicates that this course meets the Nature/Society requirement. The “ESP” designation indicates that this course meets the Environmental Science and Policy (ESP) requirement for the environmental studies major.
101. Our Shared Environment.
This course introduces students to the basic concepts and interrelationships needed to understand the complexities of environmental problems. The course surveys the characteristics of natural environments coupled with diverse human populations, explores how those systems function and interact, discusses causes and consequences of environmental degradation, and assesses multifaceted solutions to environmental problems. Students examine these socio-environmental systems through the lens of many disciplines (including natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities) and frameworks (justice, sustainability, resilience, and limits) to understand the environment and to discover solutions to environmental problems. The course also highlights the impact of economic over-production, governmental policy, and personal lifestyles, including affluence, as well as the environmental, social, and racial injustices associated with environmental degradation. The course emphasizes interdisciplinary thinking.
103. Religion and Ecology.
How does religion shape human understanding of, and participation in, ecological systems? This course samples widely from a range of religious traditions to come to a better understanding of the diverse ways that people have developed for interacting with animals, plants, water, and the land, and how those behaviors work in tandem with systems of knowledge and practice. The class has a substantial focus on environmental ethics, and thinks hard about how different religious systems might contribute to either or both environmental degradation and solutions to environmental problems. Traditions sampled include Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Daoism, Judaism, Buddhism, Native American religions, and Wicca/Neo-Paganism. Also offered as REL 103.
This course covers the nature of energy, its application in modern society and a variety of issues associated with that use. We will study the physical principles of mechanical, thermal, electrical, optical and nuclear energy in order to better understand the role of energy in society, focusing on fossil fuels, electric power plants, automobiles, global warming, the ozone layer and energy conservation, as well as nuclear, solar and other power sources. This course makes extensive use of elementary algebra and scientific notation. 105 is taught in a lecture format with shorter integrated lab activities. Also offered as PHYS 105.
110. Environmental Geology.
Environmental geology is a multidisciplinary field of applied science that involves the study of the interaction of humans with the geologic environment including the biosphere, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, and the atmosphere. The field of environmental geology includes, but is in no way restricted to: 1) the study of the structure and processes of the earth, mineral, and rocks, especially those that are near-surface or have some significant effect upon humans, 2) the study of natural hazards and disasters, including defining and mitigation (or adaptation) of human exposure and threat, 3) managing industrial and domestic waste disposal and minimizing or eliminating effects of pollution, and 4) managing safe and environmentally responsible stewardship of geological resources, including minerals, fossil fuels, and water and land use. This course is designed to give the student basic understanding of the processes and materials of the earth and relate these concepts/products to human activities. Also offered as GEOL 110.
112. Global Climate.
Climate is perhaps the single most important and pervasive factor controlling global ecosystems and human well-being. This interdisciplinary course examines global climate from a historical perspective, beginning with the formation of the solar system and continuing through geologic time to the present. Topics include the development of the atmosphere; the workings of the global “heat engine” of atmosphere, oceans and continents; evidence for past climate change; causes of global climate change; the effects of climate change on human evolution; and the effects of human evolution on the global climate system. This is a studio lab course. Also offered as GEOL 112 and PHYS 112 and through Global Studies.
187. Environment and Society.
This course explores the complex interrelations between human societies and the environment via the sociological perspective. The sociological perspective is a means of making the familiar aspects of our lives, and our understandings of the world, seem strange and new. In doing so we can better analyze our world and our place in that world especially with regard to human and natural interactions. In this course we will learn about the concepts, theories, and methods that sociologists use to understand critical issues of environmental degradation and ecological crises and how these problems are experienced differently depending on one’s location in global society. By the end of the course students will become familiar with analytical tools that enable an understanding of some underlying drivers of environmental degradations and ideas of what can be done to chart a better future. Also offered as SOC 187.
205. Quantitative Analysis. (1.25 units)
An introductory course dealing with the chemical, physical and logical principles underlying quantitative chemical analysis. Among the broad topics treated are data evaluation, titrimetry, solution equilibria, potentiometry and absorption spectroscopy. Lectures plus one laboratory per week. Prerequisites: ENVS 101; CHEM 104 or 105 (with a 2.0 grade or higher) or permission of instructor. Also offered as CHEM 205. Offered only in the spring semester.
209. Vertebrate Natural History.
A field-oriented course that explores the biology of vertebrate animals, with emphasis on understanding the diversity, life history, evolution and unique adaptations of vertebrates. The laboratory focus is on developing scientifically sound skills in observation and on learning to identify local vertebrates. Some extra class meetings are required for regional field excursions and for identifying local vertebrates at the times of day when they are active. Offered alternate fall semesters. Prerequisites: ENVS 101, BIOL 101, BIOL 102 or permission of instructor. Also offered as BIOL 209 and through Outdoor Studies.
Geomorphology, literally “earth-shape-study,” is the study of the landscape, its evolution and the processes that sculpt it. The purpose of this course is to enhance the student’s ability to read geologic information from the record preserved in the landscape. This is achieved through understanding the relationship between the form of the Earth’s surface and the processes that shape that form. Students combine quantitative description of the landscape with study of landscapeshaping processes into a comprehensive investigation of the dynamic landscape system including glaciation, hills, rivers, mountains and plains. Prerequisite: ENVS 101 and GEOL 103. Also offered as GEOL 211.
221. General Ecology.
A study of the factors influencing the abundance and distribution of species, including interactions between individuals and their physical/chemical environment, population dynamics and the structure/function of communities and ecosystems and their responses to disturbance. Labs are field-oriented and emphasize characteristics of local communities or specific techniques such as estimation of population density. Lectures and one lab per week. Prerequisites: ENVS 101; BIOL 101, 102 or equivalent; or permission of instructor. Also offered as BIOL 221 and through Outdoor Studies.
231. Health Effects of Pollution. (N/S)
An introduction to the scientific study of environmental agents and their human health effects. Emphasis is on the environmental causes of disease, including biological agents, hazardous waste, radiation, pesticides, flame retardants, drinking water contaminants, food additives, housing, occupational hazards and stress. Case studies illustrate how health effects are investigated by epidemiology and how theories of disease have evolved. Procedures for establishing regulatory policy and health standards are also discussed. Prerequisite: ENVS 101.
251. Independent Projects in Environmental Studies.
For students desiring to do individual research in environmental studies. May be elected only after submission of a written proposal during the prior semester and approval by core faculty of environmental studies. Prerequisites: ENVS 101 and permission of instructor.
253. Race, Class, and Environmental Justice.
This course focuses on the distribution of environmental degradation and environmental protection, both domestically and globally. The social processes that generate synergistic racism and class stratification, affecting the distribution of ecological costs and benefits, are explored. Substantive topics include the siting of hazardous facilities and thermo-nuclear weapons testing, the socio-ecological conditions of migrant farm workers, extraction of resources from Native lands, and the transnational export of toxic waste to the “Global South.” The course examines the origins and impacts of a distinct environmental justice movement that has emerged in the U.S. Written and oral assignments involve individual and collaborative quests for socially equitable solutions to socio-eco-historical injustices. Prerequisite: ENVS 101. Also offered through Sociology.
Ethnobotany is an interdisciplinary field drawing on concepts from both natural and social sciences to investigate human-plant interactions. This course illustrates the importance of plants in our everyday life and the influence of human activities on plant populations. Independent projects center around surveys and experiments on socio-economically important plants. Field trips and labs explore Native American reservations, botanical gardens, greenhouses, nature reserves and plant population survey techniques. Three hours lecture and one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite: General BIOL 101 and ENVS 101. Also offered as BIOL 258 and ANTH 258.
263. Global Change and Sustainability. (N/S)
This Nature/Society course considers how we relate to planet Earth, our home. The course examines how social systems can be organized to lessen their impact on natural systems, lessen inequalities within generations, and ensure the viability of natural resources for future generations. To do this, the course examines the concept of sustainable development as it develops through the United Nations and enacted by member states. Students also consider case studies that exude principles of sustainability that may be more satisfying than those developed by the UN. The course ends with a thorough critique of the idea of sustainable development and a reflection on alternative models of the human/nature relationship that may be more adequate at our point in history. The central theme of the course is work, how we work and “use” the planet, and our conceptions of that work. The course includes a lab component where students apply the largely theoretical in-class material to hands-on, physical work at our department’s Living Laboratory while critically examining the concept of work in relation to sustainability.
271. Landscape Ecology. (with lab) (N/S)
The course provides theoretical principles of landscape ecology linked with planning and the design of landscapes and the restoration of degraded environments. Lecture explores the ecological processes inherent to landscape ecology. Students will develop spatial assessment skills through the use of GIS in the lab and field. Characterization of landscape patterns and dynamics for detecting or simulating landscape change (i.e. fragmentation) and consequences for species and populations will be the basis of student projects. Pre-requisite: ENVS 101.
275. Energy and the Environment. (N/S)
this course examines the nexus of energy, environment, and economics from an interdisciplinary perspective. To do this, we will begin with a discussion of how the collapse of societies is related (or not related) to resource and energy depletion, evolving into a discussion of topics such as the limits to growth and peak oil. The middle portion of the course is dedicated to an examination of how the major sources of energy for current society impact the environment. The last part of the course focuses on how the idea of economic growth has evolved from the pre-industrial world to today, and how this current understanding of economic growth can lead to overexploitation of both energy and environmental resources. Prerequisite: ENVS 101. Also offered through Peace Studies.
293. Literary Harvest.
This is a creative writing course in literary nonfiction that focuses on food, food security, and farming. In Closing the Food Gap, Mark Winne talks about affordable access to good, healthy food as an issue of social and environmental justice. While environmental writers and activists such as Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, and Vandana Shiva have alerted us to the ecological, ethical, and health problems associated with large-scale industrial farming, the North Country has long been a haven for sustainable, small-scale organic agriculture. The course has both a CBL component and a cross-cultural, comparative focus (India). Students will do their CBL work on a local farm or in a food kitchen, and are required to sign up for the CBL lab as well. Prerequisite: ENVS 101. Also offered as ENG 293.
301. Pollution of Aquatic Ecosystems with lab. (ESP) (1.25 units)
After introducing major physical, chemical and biological aspects of the ecology of lakes, rivers and coastal waters, the course focuses on the consequences of human activities on aquatic ecosystems: cultural eutrophication, oxygen-demanding wastes, persistent toxic chemicals, acidification, oil and metal pollution, global warming, and the effects of water diversions and impoundments. Lab projects emphasize water sampling and analysis, stream assessment using biotic indices, analysis of contaminants in runoff and sediments, and models of phosphorus in lakes and bio-accumulation of persistent toxins. Prerequisite: ENVS 101 or BIOL 101 or GEOL 103.
302. Air Pollution. (ESP)
This course examines the sources, chemistry, transport and ecological and social impacts of major air pollutants. Our scale of study moves from global to regional to local. Issues include global climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, urban air quality, photochemical smog, acidification and local industry. Emphasis is on consequences of industrialization and urbanization in both developed and developing countries. While primary focus is on ecological impacts, we also consider the equity issues, policy and implementation strategies for protecting air quality. Prerequisite: ENVS 101.
303. Land Use Change in the Adirondacks. (ESP)
Using the Adirondacks as a case study, this course examines current activities in land planning and the importance of historical context. Study of Adirondack history begins with 16th century information from European explorers and Native Americans. Emphasis is then placed on industrial and recreational use in the 19th century. The course highlights formation of the State Forest Preserve and the Adirondack Park, and regulations governing private land use. Study of the present utilizes political theory such as internal colonization and coreperiphery. The course employs local examples through discussion and field trips. Prerequisite: ENVS 101. Also offered as ODST 203.
306. Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology.
This course is designed for chemistry majors and students in environmental studies who have a strong background in chemistry. It explores the sources and levels of chemical pollutants, the pathways along which they move through the environment and the toxicological effect they have on humans and other living things. Prerequisites: ENVS 101 and CHEM 221 or permission of instructor. Also offered as CHEM 306. Offered in alternate years, usually in the spring semester.
310. Philosophy of the Environment.
What obligations, if any, do we have towards the environment? What changes should we make in our own lives in light of those obligations? How does material consumption relate to our happiness? If we can be happy consuming less, why do so many of us continue to consume so much? How do our attitudes towards the environment reflect our social position? What is the difference between the natural and the artificial? This course examines such questions in order to come to grips with our relationship with the environment, and what these ideas mean for the way we lead our lives. Students will explore these questions in relation to the global community, to our local community, and in relation to their own lives and choices. Prerequisite: any 100-level philosophy course, or ENVS 101, or permission of the instructor. Also offered as PHIL 310, ODST 310 and also offered through Peace Studies.
318. Environmental Psychology.
This lecture-lab course studies the relationships between humans and physical environments, both natural and built. Topics include environmental assessment, attitudes and behavior toward the environment, and the psychological effects of such environmental factors as crowding, architectural design, extreme environments, pollution and natural disasters. The laboratory is required of all students. Prerequisites: ENVS 101 and PSYC 101NL or 101WL (without lab or with lab). Also offered as PSYC 318 and through Peace Studies.
319. Hydrology and Hydrogeology.
This course provides an introduction to the movement and storage of water on the Earth’s surface (hydrology) and in the subsurface (hydrogeology). We discuss the fundamentals of the water cycle and hydrologic processes at the surface, the transfer of water in and out of the subsurface and the processes of groundwater flow. Human impacts upon water are also examined, including water resources, contamination, changing land-use and climate change. Prerequisite: ENVS 101. Also offered as GEOL 319.
326. Once and Future Forests. (ESP)
This course explores the magnificence of forests and trees. We study both the conservation of old-growth forests as well as the establishment of new forests, hence the title of the course – Once and Future Forest. This is an applied, field-oriented, community service, project-based course with a strong focus on the North Country. The in-class portion of the class focuses on forest and tree ecology, and the history of forest disturbance in the North Country. With the lab portion of the course, we learn and conduct a forest evaluation of a forest stand at the Living Laboratory as part of the ongoing North Country Old-Growth Program initiated in the fall of 2005 (you will conduct an inventory of a forest around your home if campus shuts down). The course deepens our appreciation of forests and trees, our awe-inspiring older brothers. Fulfills NS-L requirement. Prerequisite: ENVS 101.
327. Topics in Environmental Sustainability. (ESP)
A project-based course that utilizes the ecological sustainability landscape. The specific course content varies from semester to semester depending on the interests of the faculty and students. Possibilities include fiber arts, natural sweeteners, woodlot and orchard management, environmental interpretation and landscape carbon accounting. Emphasis is on experiential education in the context of appropriate reading and reflective exercises. Prerequisite: ENVS 101.
329. Adapting to Climate Change (ESP)
This course focuses on how people – non-human and human – adapt to climate change. The course initially focuses on the impacts of climate change, such as increased temperatures, loss of sea ice, phenology change, and increased insurance costs. The course then considers how people are now adapting to these changes, how to plan for further changes, what constitutes maladaptation, options for people who live in areas proving to be uninhabitable (an area of law called loss and damage), and others who are dislocated or need to migrate. In doing so, we critically apply the concepts of resilience and vulnerability. We examine the international adaptation regime under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and then turn our attention to case studies. The course focuses on the Arctic where climate change is happening most dramatically and where the impacts are most severe. Particular attention is given to indigenous peoples living in the Arctic, but other vulnerable peoples around the world also draw our attention. The class is run as a structured seminar with significant student input based on readings, research assignments, and by paying close attention to climate change news as it emerges. Prerequisite: ENVS 101.
331. EcoFibers: Environmental Impacts and Sustainability of Clothing (ESP)
This course examines traditional and modern fibers and textiles, and the environmental impacts of clothing production. We will also look at the usefulness of fiber related businesses in helping to build sustainable, regional economies based on local knowledge and resources. We will explore the techniques of preparing and processing wool, and then spinning and dyeing yarns for knitting. The course will also examine examples of fiber businesses in conservation of biodiversity, sustainable development, and modes of organic production. Some examples of traditional knitting from around the world will be introduced. Fiber types considered will include wool, cotton, silk, and flax. This course has a substantial “hand-on” component. Pre-requisite: ENVS 101.
333. Climate Change Science, Policy and Advocacy. (ESP)
This course focuses broadly on climate change science and policy, that is, the physical causes of climate change and how humans act, or fail to act, on that knowledge. After a survey of policy-relevant climate change science in the first part of the course, our attention turns to the ways scientific knowledge, worldviews, and power affect climate change decision-making at the international level as carried out by the United Nations. The class focuses on treaties developed through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), such as the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement, and we pay close attention to the ongoing negotiations of the UNFCCC. The class incorporates attendant critiques to climate policy and incorporates emergent climate change news as it happens. Prerequisite: ENVS 101. Also offered through Peace Studies.
343. Ecology and Political Thought.
Ecology reminds us that our activities are embedded within natural systems. What is the significance of this fact for politics? This course examines how various actors, such as citizens, consumers, social movements, scientific experts, and governmental agencies, conceptualize the relationship between humanity and the natural world. We will evaluate the merits and shortcomings of a variety of approaches to environmental politics, including survivalism, sustainable development, deep ecology, ecofeminism and the environmental justice movement. The course does not satisfy the department’s major requirement in political theory. Prerequisite: GOVT 206 or permission of instructor. Prerequisite: ENVS 101. Also offered as GOVT 343.
346. American Literature and the Environment.
This course explores the relationship between American culture and the natural environment through the lens of literary expression. We will study the evolution of environmental aesthetics from the colonial period through the Romantic era and into the twentieth century. Students will draw upon the insights of environmental history and apply them to literary analysis. The course will generally take shape around a particular theme (e.g., the history of frontier settlement, the politics of wilderness preservation, Adirondack literature, Arctic/Antarctic exploration, animal studies, environmental justice movements, or the desert/ocean aesthetic). Prerequisite: ENG 250. Meets the EL requirement. Also offered as ENG 346.
349. Outdoor Recreation and Public Land. (ESP)
Land managers are often charged with the contradictory responsibilities of allowing for an unconfined recreation experience while simultaneously maintaining a high degree of resource protection. This course is an interdisciplinary investigation into the field of outdoor recreation management. Emphasis is given to wildland recreation, although activities and events in urban contexts are also explored. The course examines biophysical and social science used to inform outdoor recreation management. Examples of contemporary issues are drawn primarily from US National Parks, although other federal and state public lands are often integrated. Prerequisite: ENVS 101.
351. Internships in Environmental Studies.
Student-arranged study with an environmental organization. The internship comprises three parts: contact with daily operations; intensive work on one particular project; and extensive reading in appropriate areas. May be elected only after submission of a written proposal during the prior semester and approval by core faculty of environmental studies. A letter of support must be received from the sponsoring organization. Prerequisites: ENVS 101 and permission of instructor.
352. Contemporary Literature and the Environment.
A study of the contemporary literary response to rising national interest in the natural world and rising awareness about the danger to natural resources. Readings are predominantly in prose (novels and essays), with some poetry included. Among the questions the authors ask: as we approach the natural world, how can we move beyond metaphors of dominion? What are the biases of gender, geography and culture that we bring to our inquiry? What is the relationship between the human and the “natural”? What does it mean to fully invest ourselves in our local environment? Prerequisite: ENVS 101. Also offered as ENG 352 and through Outdoor Studies.
360. Agriculture and the Environment. (ESP)
This course introduces students to the ecological, economic and social dimensions of agriculture, both food and fiber. We critically examine modern, large-scale, industrialized agriculture—how it has arisen and how it affects land, water, biodiversity and human communities—and analyze whether it is sustainable. We then evaluate a variety of models that might represent more sustainable systems, including Native American, permaculture, urban, regenerative, organic and regional food systems. Students visit several local farms and gain hands-on experience in the gardens at the Ecological Sustainability Landscape. Prerequisite: ENVS 101. Also offered through Peace Studies.
361. Research Seminar in Environmental Studies.
Faculty-directed research designed for small groups of advanced students. The focus is often on environmental problems of northern New York. Topics are usually defined in response to needs identified by local communities. The course draws together the expertise of students from different majors. Basic concepts and methodologies of field research are applied in practice. Prerequisites: ENVS 101 and permission of instructor.
332. Recreation Policy and Planning: Environmental Impacts and Implications. (ESP)
Outdoor recreation can, and often does, have an adverse effect on the environment. This course investigates impacts of recreation on multiple resources and considers their importance in the context of federal law and land management policies. Particular attention will be given to the National Environmental Policy Act, although specific rules and regulations governing natural, cultural, and experiential resources will be examined. Students will explore potential impacts from various recreation activities and consider how they may be managed in light of relevant policy. At the course’s conclusion, each student will be expected to present a case study describing: 1) the resource, experiential, and managerial dimensions of a specific area, 2) potential impacts from recreation activities in that area, and 3) multiple alternatives for managing those impacts. Prerequisite: ENVS 101.
369. Ecological Restoration. (ESP)
This course examines how the principles and techniques of restoration ecology are used in planning and implementing projects in degraded landscapes. An introduction to restoration ecology, conservation of biological diversity, ecological integrity, and sustainable land-use are major themes. Students learn field and analytical techniques pertaining to ecosystem management. Comparisons of restoration frameworks through case study analysis illustrate modeling and analytical techniques for the restoration field. A major course project gives experience in restoration planning and implementation. Where possible, guest lectures by professionals or stakeholders augment student experience. Prerequisite: ENVS 101.
370. Global Amphibian Decline. (ESP)
An introductory theoretical case-based and practical field studies course examining a global perspective on the ecology and conservation of amphibians. Lecture topics include: key aspects of amphibian ecology, habitat destruction, environmental contamination, introduced species, infectious diseases, over-exploitation, and climate change. Approximately 6 hours of night-time field studies are dedicated to learning amphibian survey techniques and collecting geospatial movement data to investigate regional threats to local amphibian species. Pre-requisite: ENVS 101.
372. Transboundary Wildlife Conservation.
North American wildlife can face a perilous existence, particularly across vast complex landscapes, or when protection changes across political boundaries, or when well-intended policy is limited. Bridging science, policy, and ecology, transboundary wildlife conservation-for example, coordination between Canada, US, and Mexico-is an emerging concept in environmental governance with an eye toward aligning protection policies. Today, the plight of biodiversity is strengthened by participatory wildlife conservation involving stakeholders and stewardship initiatives. This course will explore ecological and cultural values as viewed within and beyond political borders, protected areas, and private land using transboundary wildlife case studies. The enigmatic Gray Wolf has had a dramatic chronicle across North America including persecution, protection, and delisting and will be a primary course case study. Students will select a transboundary species and develop a historical 'story-board' spatial analysis for presentation. Written research papers will include a scientific literature review on a transboundary species ecology and a comparative policy paper. A final synthesis will be required and developed as a diagrammatic conceptual model.
379. Renewable Energy Systems. (ESP)
Renewable energy technologies can play a key role in slowing global climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions as countries transition away from fossil fuels. The goal of this course is for students to have an in-depth understanding about how renewable energy technologies blend into the greater energy infrastructure of the U.S. and world. In addition to reading about the various renewable energy options, significant class time is dedicated to field trips, labs, or other hands-on learning activities. In general, this class will cover the following areas within renewable energy: solar power, wind power, bioenergy, hydropower, and efficiency. The class is designed for students that have no prior knowledge of renewable energy. Prerequisite: Prerequisite: ENVS 101 or permission of instructor.
380. Tropical Ecology.
A seminar course based on current research in tropical biology. Emphasis is on the structure, function and biology of tropical organisms and ecosystems. Lectures include South American, Australasian and African tropical ecosystems. The course addresses the role of plant-animal interactions, mutualisms, sustainable development, conservation measures and the roles of indigenous cultures in tropical ecosystems. Prerequisites: ENVS 101 and 221. Also offered as BIOL 380.
4000-4999. Special Topics.
The content of each course or section of these 300-level special topics courses varies and will be announced each semester.