Environmental Studies
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Amherst College Environmental Studies for 2010-11

12 The Resilient (?) Earth: An Introduction to Environmental Studies

Life has existed on Earth for nearly four billion years, shaped by massive extinction events. In the short span of the last 10,000 years, humans have become important agents in shaping global environmental change. The question this course considers is straightforward: Have humans been modifying the environment in ways that will, in the not distant future, cause another worldwide extinction event? There are no simple, much less uncontested, answers to this question. We will have to consider the ways we have altered habitats and ecosystem processes. We will also consider the economic consequences of disturbed ecosystems and assess contemporary policy responses intended to avert what some claim is an impending catastrophe.

Limited to 75 students. Spring semester. Professor Dizard and Visiting Lecturer D'Andrea.

2013-14: Offered in Spring 2014
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015

20 Environmental Issues of the Nineteenth Century

(Offered as HIST 26 [C] and ENST 20.)  This course considers the ways that people in various parts of the world thought about and acted upon nature during the nineteenth century. We look historically at issues that continue to have relevance today, including: invasive species, deforestation, soil-nitrogen availability, water use, desertification, and air pollution. Themes include: the relationship of nineteenth-century colonialism and environmental degradation, gender and environmental change, the racial dimensions of ecological issues, and the spatial aspects of human interactions with nature. We will take at least one field trip. In addition, we will watch three films that approach nineteenth-century environmental issues from different vantage points.  Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester.  Professor Melillo.

2013-14: Offered in Spring 2014
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2015

21 Ecology

(Offered as BIOL 23 and ENST 21.) A study of the relationships of plants and animals (including humans) to each other and to their environment. We'll start by considering the decisions an individual makes in its daily life concerning its use of resources, such as what to eat and where to live, and whether to defend such resources. We'll then move on to populations of individuals, and investigate species population growth, limits to population growth, and why some species are so successful as to become pests whereas others are on the road to extinction. The next level will address communities, and how interactions among populations, such as competition, predation, parasitism, and mutualism, affect the organization and diversity of species within communities. The final stage of the course will focus on ecosytems, and the effects of humans and other organisms on population, community, and global stability. Three hours of lecture per week.

Requisite: Biology 18 or Environmental Studies 12 or permission from the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Temeles.

2013-14: Offered in Fall 2013
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2014

23 Introduction to Economics with Environmental Applications

(Offered as ENST 23 and ECON 11-04.) A study of the central problem of scarcity and the ways in which the U. S. economic system allocates scarce resources among competing ends and apportions the goods produced among people. We will apply core economic concepts to major environmental/natural resource policy topics such as global climate change, local air and water pollution, over-harvesting of renewable resources, habitat loss, and solid waste management.

Students who have already taken Economics 11 can satisfy the Environmental Studies requirement by taking Economics 25.

Limited to 25 Amherst College students. Fall semester. Professor Sims.

2013-14: Offered in Fall 2013 and Spring 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

24 Introduction to Statistics

(Offered as MATH 17 and ENST 24.) This course is an introduction to applied statistical methods useful for the analysis of data from all fields. Brief coverage of data summary and graphical techniques will be followed by elementary probability, sampling distributions, the central limit theorem and statistical inference. Inference procedures include confidence intervals and hypothesis testing for both means and proportions, the chi-square test, simple linear regression, and a brief introduction to analysis of variance (ANOVA). In a semester when two sections of Math 17 are offered, section 02 is recommended for students interested in Environmental Studies. An exception is spring 2011, where neither section of Math 17 will have an environmental theme. Four class hours per week (two will be held in the computer lab).  Labs are not interchangeable between sections due to course content.

Each section limited to 20 students. Fall semester: Professors Liao and Wagaman.  Spring semester:  Professors Liao and Stratton.

2013-14: Offered in Fall 2013 and Spring 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

28 Ethics and the Environment

(Offered as PHIL 25 and ENST 28.) As our impact on the environment shows itself in increasingly dramatic ways, our interaction with the environment has become an important topic of cultural and political debate.  In this course we will discuss various philosophical issues that arise in such debates, including: What obligations, if any, do we have to future generations, to non-human animals, and to entire ecosystems?  How should we act when we are uncertain exactly how our actions will affect the environment?  How should we go about determining environmental policy?  And how should we implement the environmental policies we decide upon?  What is the most appropriate image of nature?

Limited to 30 students. Professor Kearns. Spring Semester.

2013-14: Offered in Spring 2014
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2015

51 Seminar on Invasive Species

Invasive species are the leading cause of extinction, accounting for 39 percent of known species extinctions on Earth. A recent report noted that invasive species in the United States cause major environmental damage and losses adding up to more than $138 billion per year. There are approximately 50,000 non-native species in the U.S. and the number is increasing. But what, exactly, are invasive species, and why do they pose such tremendous problems for the conservation of biodiversity and the nations’ economies? In this course, we will explore the biological, economic, political, and social impacts of invasive species. We will start by examining the life history characteristics of invasive species which make them likely to become pests, and the features of habitats which make them most susceptible to invasion. We will then consider the consequences of invasive species for loss of native biodiversity and the disruption of ecosystem processes, as well as their global environmental and political impacts. Lastly, we will address the tougher issues of what can be done to halt or eradicate invasive species once they have become established, and how to identify and prevent the introduction of potential pest species.

Requisite: ENST 12, Biology 23, or consent of the instructor. Limited to 14 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2010-11.  Professor Temeles.

2013-14: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008

52 Seminar on Sustainable Agriculture and Human Populations.

The current world human population numbers 6.7 billion people, and the United Nations estimates that 9 billion people will live on Earth in the year 2050.  Will there be enough food for this many people, and can we sustain our current lifestyle and agricultural practices in the future?  These are among the questions asked in this course, which will address the biological, social, economic, and political aspects of agriculture and human population growth.  Other questions to be addressed are:  How have humans managed to sustain their current rate of population growth?  What is the Green revolution?  What are the environmental impacts of current agricultural practices?  Can we feed the growing world population without destroying our environment, and if so, how?  Is genetic engineering of crops a solution to world hunger? 

Requisite: ENST 12 or 21 or BIOL 23 or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 14 students. Omitted 2010-11. Professor Temeles. 

2013-14: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010

70 Senior Seminar

The Senior Seminar is intended to bring together majors with different course backgrounds and to facilitate original independent student research on an environmental topic. In the early weeks of the seminar, discussion will be focused on several compelling texts (e.g., Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring or Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us) which will be considered from a variety of disciplinary perspectives by members of the Environmental Studies faculty. These discussions are intended to help students initiate an independent research project which may be expanded into an honors project in the second semester. For students not electing an honors project, the seminar will offer an opportunity to integrate what they have learned in their environmental studies courses. The substance of the seminar will vary from year to year, reflecting the interests of the faculty who will be convening and participating in the seminar.

Open to seniors. Fall semester. Professors Temeles and Sims.

2013-14: Offered in Fall 2013
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014

78 Senior Departmental Honors

Spring semester. The Department.

2013-14: Offered in Spring 2014
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015

97, 98 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall semester. The Department.

2013-14: Offered in Fall 2013 and Spring 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

Related Courses

BIOL-32 Evolutionary Biology (Course not offered this year.)
CHEM-08 Chemistry and the Environment (Course not offered this year.)
GEOL-45 Seminar in Biogeochemistry (Course not offered this year.)
HIST-91 Commodities, Nature and Society (Course not offered this year.)
LJST-35 Law's Nature: Humans, the Environment and the Predicament of Law (Course not offered this year.)
MATH-14 Mathematical Modeling (Course not offered this year.)
PSYC-46 Environmental Psychology (Course not offered this year.)