Environmental Studies



Environmental Issues of the Nineteenth Century

(Offered as HIST 104 [C] and ENST 220.)  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.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2023


Ethics and the Environment

(Offered as PHIL 225 and ENST 228) 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. Omitted 2014-15. Professor Emeritus Kearns.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2018


An Introduction to Economics with Environmental Applications

(Offered as ECON 111E and ENST 230.) A study of the central problem of scarcity and of the ways in which micro and macro economic systems allocate scarce resources among competing ends and apportion goods produced among people.  Covers the same material as ECON 111 but with special attention to the relationship between economic activity and environmental problems and to the application of micro and macroeconomic theory tools to analyze environmental issues. A student may not receive credit for both ECON 111 and ECON 111E. 

Two 80-minute and one 50-minute lecture/discussion per week.  Each section is limited to 30 Amherst College students.  Fall semester. Professor Sims.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023


Introduction to Statistics

(Offered as STAT 111E and ENST 240.) 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). This course covers the same statistical concepts as Math 130, but has an environmental focus through examples.  ENST majors are strongly encouraged to take this version of the course, but it is open to all students. Four class hours per week (two will be held in the computer lab).  Labs are not interchangeable between sections due to course content.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor TBA.

2023-24: Not offered
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 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021


Global Environmental Politics

Our global environment as a subject of concern has emerged in recent decades with the rise of scientific and media attention to the ways ecological issues like climate change and biodiversity loss matter in the daily lives of global citizens. But are all “global environmental citizens” equally responsible for and influenced by what are currently considered global environmental challenges?  Why is it that some forms of nature are considered global while others are resolutely local? Are international agreements and development and conservation organizations effective at addressing the problems they intend to solve, or do they create new problems that should be accounted for in our understanding of global environmental politics? In this course, we will explore these questions and others by examining various ecological crises – climate change, deforestation, fisheries management, air and water pollution, hazardous waste disposal, among others – from critical perspectives that raise questions about key political issues, including markets, states, science, power, knowledge and social movements. This course is organized into thematic case studies, through which we will examine the production and negotiation of environmental problems by diverse social actors and institutions, including: producers and consumers, members of different socio-economic groups, actors of institutions and social movements, and citizens of diverse polities.

Limited to 35 students.  Spring semester.  Pick Visiting Professor Stewart.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023


Conservation Social Science

The nascent field known as “conservation social science” is emerging among the major conservation organizations, like the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy, as they realize the need to move beyond their traditional biological foundations towards the social sciences.  Conservation landscapes and species of interest are embedded in complex, and often long-standing, human-environmental relationships that require the retooling of conservation science to better understand and address integrated challenges. This shift towards a “people are the solution” conservation framework requires knowledge about the ecological and social concerns and implications of conservation, which is a well-suited pursuit for interdisciplinary Environmental Studies scholars. This course prepares students to engage with this emerging field by understanding what conservation social science means in the history and trajectory of conservation, and what its foci and approaches should be in the coming years.  We begin the class with a historical review of the "greening" of the World Bank and the scaling up of community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) during the 1980s, which brought "the environment" and the "community" together in development and conservation agendas. Moving forward, we review critical social science literatures that examine the social impact of conservation to refine meaningful ways forward for community-centered conservation endeavors.  Key themes will include: participation, traditional ecological knowledge, ecological baselines, sustainable yields and sustainability.

Requisite:  ENST 120.  Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2014-15.  Pick Visiting Professor Stewart.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023


Wine, History and the Environment

(Offered as HIST 402 [c] and ENST 401.) Wine is as old as Western civilization. Its consumption is deeply wedded to leading religious and secular traditions around the world. Its production has transformed landscapes, ecosystems, and economies. In this course we examine how wine has shaped the history of Europe, North Africa, and the Americas. Through readings, scientific study, historical research, and class discussion, students will learn about such issues as: the environmental impact of wine; the politics of taste and class; the organization of labor; the impact of imperialism and global trade; the late nineteenth-century phylloxera outbreak that almost destroyed the European wine industry; and the emergence of claims about terroir (the notion that each wine, like each culture, is uniquely tied to a place) and how such claims are tied to regional and national identity. Through class discussion, focused research and writing workshops, and close mentoring, each student will learn about wine while designing and executing an independent research project. We will also get our hands dirty with soil sampling, learn the basics of sediment analysis in the laboratory, and have a go at fermentation. Two meetings per week.

This is a research seminar open to juniors and seniors. Priority given to history and environmental studies majors. History majors may take this course either as a research seminar or in place of HIST 301 “Writing the Past.”

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2014-15.  Professors López and Martini.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016


Seminar on Fisheries

The dependence of many countries on marine organisms for food has resulted in severe population declines in cod, bluefin tuna, swordfish, and abalone, as well as numerous other marine organisms.  In this seminar we will examine the biological, sociological, political, and economic impacts of the global depletion of fisheries.  Questions addressed will include: What is the scope of extinctions or potential extinctions due to over-harvesting?  How have overfished species responded to harvest pressures?  How are fisheries managed, and are some approaches to harvesting better than others?  How do fisheries extinctions affect the societies and economies of various countries and marine ecosystems? How do cultural traditions of fishermen influence attempts to manage fisheries? Does aquaculture offer a sustainable alternative to overfishing? What is aquaculture’s impact on marine ecology?  Three class hours per week.

Requisites: ENST 120 or BIOL 230/ENST 210 or consent of instructors. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2014-15. Professors Temeles and Dizard.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2021, Spring 2023


The Social Construction of Wildlife

In the past half century, Americans have witnessed a remarkable resurgence of many wildlife species.  This has occasioned a mixed, even contentious response.  Wolves have gone from reviled to the leading attraction for visitors to Yellowstone.  At the same time, beyond the Park boundaries, there are people eager to shoot wolves.  Neighbors in suburbs across the country fall out over deer:  some feed them and others erect high fences to keep the deer out of their yards and gardens.  Geese befoul parks and golf courses and coyotes kill pet cats and dogs.

In this seminar we will examine the changing and conflicting reputations of wildlife, attending to the ecology of recovery, shifting attitudes toward hunting, the rise of the Animal Rights Movement, and the many challenges of living with wildlife in an increasingly human dominated landscape.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Dizard.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015


Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023


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 Clotfelter and Sims.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023


Senior Honors

Fall semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, January 2021, Fall 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Fall 2023


Senior Departmental Honors

Spring semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Core Courses


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 and solutions. One lecture and one discussion section per week.

Limited to 50 students. Spring semester. Professors Dizard and R. Levin.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Departmental Courses



(Offered as BIOL 230 and ENST 210.) 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 ecosystems, and the effects of humans and other organisms on population, community, and global stability. Three hours of lecture per week.

Requisite: BIOL 181 or ENST 120 or equivalent. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 65 students. Fall semester. Professor Temeles.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2023

Departmental Seminars and Tutorials


Environmental Politics and Policies

Contesting values of and struggles over the control of “nature” are at the heart of environmental politics, and differently positioned political, economic, and social interest groups contend for and exert power through the U.S. environmental policy-making process.  In this course we will examine the politics of U.S. environmental policies, focusing on how local, regional, and national governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations and interest groups, and some publics (but not all) define environmental problems and actionable solutions. We will examine the relationship between science, policy and politics, and critically evaluate when and how "objective" scientific truths are mobilized for particular agendas--while not for others--and what "citizen science" means with respect to the U.S. environmental policy process.  The class will be divided into two parts: Part I will begin with key environmental writings, and move into an overview of the institutions, actors, and concepts that shape our policy process.  Part II will use a case study approach to ground our understanding of how multi-scalar interactions, plurality and uneven power relations influence how and why some issues and interests are validated in the policy process, while others are not. Case studies may include: fracking, Keystone XL pipeline, Endangered Species listings and New England cod fishery regulations.

Recommended requisite:  ENST 120.  Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2014-15.  Pick Visiting Professor Stewart.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023


Knowing Nature:  Examining the Politics of Environmental Knowledge

What we know and how we know about "the environment" is influenced by cultural, political, historical and social contexts.  Why are some knowledges about the environment perceived to be more accurate, objective and true than others?  How might our collective understandings of environmental change shift if multiple forms of knowledge--"western" scientific, indigenous, etc.--were mobilized in the production, dissemination and application of environmental knowledge? These questions are both academic and policy-oriented and sit at the interface of political ecology and science studies scholarship on nature/society and conservation and development practice: environmental management contestations and outcomes are shaped by what counts as valid knowledge. In this seminar we will examine how attention to the politics of knowledge potentially shifts the current formations of environmental studies and policy–in theory and practice--towards more integrated and democratized engagements with social and environmental change. This course is anchored in the field of political ecology, which is a sub-field of geography that is concerned with the complex power dynamics of knowing and making claims on "the environment."  Our readings and discussions will examine critical perspectives on nature/society boundaries; the role of "western" scientific knowledge in the politics of conservation and development; and meaningful ways to integrate "western" scientific and indigenous environmental knowledges in environmental studies.

Requisite:  ENST 120; recommended requisite:  ENST 250.  Limited to 35 students.  Omitted 2014-15.  Pick Visiting Professor Stewart.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016


Conservation Social Science in Practice:  Methods and Realities

Building on the theoretical grounding of the Conservation Social Science course, this class will equip students with social science methods training and practice-based experience in the field of conservation social science.  This practice-driven course will facilitate student interactions and engagement with a conservation organization, preferably within the Pioneer Valley area, to hone their grounded understanding of the barriers, challenges and rewards of conservation practice.  A key goal for this course is to put into practice everything that was learned during the theory-focused fall course.  Our readings and weekly discussions will focus on social science methods training--particularly ethnographic, participatory research methods and related ethical considerations–and select conservation social science articles. Students will be responsible for a semester-long project designed to critically define, research, and analyze an important facet of the organization’s efforts to engage with the growing conservation social science agenda.

Requisites: ENST 120 and 310.  Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2014-15.  Pick Visiting Professor Stewart.

2023-24: Not offered

Related Courses

- (Course not offered this year.)ANTH-251 Anthropology of Natural Wealth (Course not offered this year.)BIOL-181 Adaptation and the Organism (Course not offered this year.)BIOL-320 Evolutionary Biology (Course not offered this year.)BIOL-454 Seminar in Tropical Biology (Course not offered this year.)ECON-210 Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (Course not offered this year.)FYSE-114 Encounters with Nature (Course not offered this year.)GEOL-109 Climate Change, Global Warming and Energy Resources (Course not offered this year.)GEOL-121 Surface Earth Dynamics (Course not offered this year.)GEOL-301 Hydrogeology (Course not offered this year.)HIST-105 Global Environmental History of the Twentieth Century (Course not offered this year.)HIST-265 Environmental History of Latin America (Course not offered this year.)HIST-411 Commodities, Nature and Society (Course not offered this year.)MATH-140 Mathematical Modeling (Course not offered this year.)PHYS-109 Energy (Course not offered this year.)POSC-231 The Political Economy of Petro States: Venezuela Compared (Course not offered this year.)SOCI-226 Footprints on the Earth: The Environmental Consequences of Modernity (Course not offered this year.)SOCI-341 Making Peace with the Planet: Environmental Movements and Ideas (Course not offered this year.)