Courses

BIOL 181. Adaptation and the Organism. An introduction to the evolution, ecology, and behavior of organisms and how these relate to the diversity of life. Following a discussion of the core components of evolutionary theory, we'll examine how evolutionary processes have shaped morphological, anatomical, physiological, and behavioral adaptations in organisms to solve many of life's problems, ranging from how to find or acquire food and avoid being eaten, to how to attract and locate mates and how to optimize reproduction throughout a lifetime. We'll relate and compare characteristics of animals, plants, fungi, protists, and bacteria, examining how and why these organisms have arrived at various solutions to life's problems. Laboratory exercises will complement lectures and will involve field experiments on natural selection and laboratory studies of vertebrates, invertebrates, bacteria, and plants. Four classroom hours and three laboratory hours per week.  Second semester.

BIOL 230. Ecology. (Also Environmental Studies 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 ecosytems, and the effects of humans and other organisms on population, community, and global stability. Three hours of lecture per week.

Requisite: Biology 181, Environmental Studies 121, or consent of the instructor. First semester.

BIOL 430. Seminar in Behavioral Ecology. This course will explore the relationship between an animal's behavior and its social and ecological context. The topic will be the evolution of sexual dimorphism in animals. Sexual dimorphism is widespread in animals, yet its causes remain controversial and have generated much debate. In this seminar, we will examine a variety of sexual dimorphisms in different groups of animals and consider hypotheses for how these sexual dimorphisms may have evolved. We will then consider how such hypotheses are tested in an attempt to identify the best approaches to studying the evolution of sexual dimorphisms. Then we will look at evidence that either supports or refutes various hypothesized mechanisms for the evolution of sexual dimorphisms in different animal groups. Finally, we will consider whether some mechanisms for the evolution of sexual dimorphism are more common among certain kinds of organisms (predators) than others (herbivores). Three hours per week.

Requisite: One or more courses from Bio 181, Bio 230, Bio 281, Bio 321 or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 14 students. Second semester.

BIOL 434. Seminar in Ecology. The topic is the ecology and evolution of plant-animal interactions. Most animals on Earth obtain their energy from green plants, and thus it is not surprising that interactions between plants and animals have played a prominent role in our current understanding of how ecological processes such as predation, parasitism, and mutualism shape evolutionary patterns in plants and animals. In this course we will start our analysis with a consideration of how plant-animal relationships evolve by studying examples from both extant systems and the fossil record. Next we will examine the different kinds of plant-animal interactions (pollination, seed dispersal, seed predation, and herbivory, to mention a few) that have evolved on our planet, and the ecological processes promoting reciprocal evolution of defenses and counter-defenses, attraction, and deceit. Finally, we will turn our attention to global change and the implications of human alteration of the environment for the future of plant-animal relationships, such as pollination, which are of vital importance to life on Earth. Three hours per week.

Requisite: One or more courses from Bio 181, Bio 230, Bio 281, Bio 321 or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 14 students. First semester.

ENST 420. Seminar in Sustainable Agriculture and Human Populations.. The current world human population numbers 6.9 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? Three hours per week.

Requisite: One or more courses from ENST 120, ENST 210, Bio 230, or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 14 students. First semester.

ENST 430. 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 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 o harvest pressures? How are fisheries managed, and are some approaches to harvesting better than others? How do fisheries extinctions affect the society and economy of various countries and marine ecosystems stability? 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 ecosystem stability? Three class hours per week.

Requisite: One or more courses from ENST 120, ENST 210, Bio 230, or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 20 students. Second semester.

ENST 498. 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. Three hours per week.

Open to seniors. Fall semester.