The academic catalog is currently being updated for the 2021-22 year. View the Catalog Archive to access the 2020-21 catalog as well as catalogs from previous years.
Laura Peterson (program director)
The interdisciplinary major in environmental studies is designed to provide students with fundamental resources for understanding the complex and dynamic relations between humans and the natural world. The major integrates perspectives from the social sciences, the natural sciences, and humanities to develop the conceptual and analytic skills required for a balanced approach to environmental issues. Students completing a major in environmental studies also gain depth of knowledge in one specific area of study through a concentration.
Required for a major: Twelve courses including six core courses and a six course concentration area. No more than three courses counting for another major or minor may be applied to the environmental studies major. Writing requirement completed with ENVS 485.
Core Courses: ENVS 134, ENVS 250, ENVS 485; PHIL 140, BIO 151, POLS 258.
Plan I: Environmental Policy: ECON 130, ECON 255; POLS 355, POLS 360; one of POLS 247, POLS 340; one of ENVS 240, ENVS 248; PAID 450: Ethics, Energy and Climate Policy, PAID 450: Food and the Environment.
Plan II: Environmental Science: one of the following: CHEM 141, CHEM 151 and CHEM 152, or CHEM 201; BIO 152 or MATH 140 (or higher); ENVS 220; ENVS 210 or BIO 256; one of ENVS 225, BIO 250, BIO 251, BIO 252, BIO 253, BIO 258; one of ENVS 320, BIO 354, BIO 365.
Plan III: Environment, Culture and Society: ANTH 101 or SOC 101; ANTH 203 and HIST 291; SOC 301 or ANTH 210; two courses from ANTH 303, POLS 340, SOC 356, SOC 358, SOC 472 or SOC 475.
Plan IV: Individualized: Students develop a proposed course of study for their concentration in consultation with an environmental studies faculty member. This proposal must explain the six courses to be taken for the concentration, how they link together, and the rationale behind the proposal. This course plan must include two 300 level courses and no more than one 100 level course. Such proposals are typically completed during the spring semester of the sophomore year and must be submitted to the Environmental Studies Steering Committee no later than Dec. 1 of the junior year.
Required for an Environmental Studies minor: ENVS 134 or BIO 151; PHIL 140, POLS 258, ENVS 250 and ENVS 485. No more than two courses counting for another major or minor may be applied to the environmental studies minor.
Required for an Environmental Science minor: BIO 151, ENVS 134; one of the following: CHEM 141, CHEM 151 and CHEM 152, or CHEM 201; two courses (one must be from ENVS) from ENVS 210, ENVS 220, ENVS 225, BIO 250, BIO 251, BIO 252, BIO 253, BIO 258; one course from ENVS 320, BIO 354, BIO 365. No more than two courses counting for another major or minor may be applied to the environmental science minor.
View program learning goals for an explanation of learning outcomes in Environmental Studies.
The unifying theme of energy molds the physical concepts of motion, gravitation, electromagnetism, heat, radiation, and nuclear physics. Solar, wind, nuclear, tidal, hydroelectric, and thermal electric energy conversion processes are also included. This course is intended for the general student with no special background in mathematics or science. (Same as PHYS 112 and SCI 112)
In this course students will explore the relationship between humans and the physical environment by 1) reading seminal texts that address this relationship, such as "A Sand County Almanac" and "Silent Spring", 2) studying basic ideas and concepts central to environmental studies and, 3) using the prairie-forest border region of Northeast Iowa as a laboratory for investigating how humans interact with the natural world.
An introduction to conservation of the natural environment. Emphasizing ecological principles, the course covers the history of environmental conservation, the soil, air, and water components of the biosphere, and biological diversity. Laboratory/field trips emphasize the ecology of major habitats of northeastern Iowa and human efforts to solve environmental problems.
This course is an introduction to the natural and human-influenced processes that govern the interactions among the components of the Earth system: the solid earth, water, the atmosphere, and life. We will covers topics such as geologic hazards, sedimentary processes, mineral and energy resources, and global climate change, all with an emphasis on the ways in which Earth system processes both impact and are impacted by human activities. Laboratories include field-based investigations of Earth system processes in northeast Iowa.
This course is an applied practicum in geospatial technology that fosters effective use of Geographic Information Systems. Students who successfully complete the course will be able to create, manipulate, and manage geographic data to perform analysis tasks, to visualize geographic data, and to use geographic data analyses to support decision making.
This course will explore the earth's climate in the context of earth systems such as the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and biosphere. A primary focus will be to develop an understanding of the complex dynamical characteristics and feedback mechanisms between these components through the implementation of basic mathematical and statistical modeling methods incorporating salient physical, chemical and biological principles. An understanding of climate variability and sensitivity due to perturbations, either internal (e.g. el Nino and the southern oscillation (ENSO) and greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration) or external (e.g. solar input variability) will be explored. Long-term model projections of the earth's climate response to perturbations or trends (e.g. increasing GHG emissions or land-use practices), and the confidence therein, will be examined.
An introduction to the theory and practice of environmental education while providing a foundation of basic environmental science content. Emphasis is placed on learning local and regional natural history as well as phenology and basic ecological processes. Students gain skills and learn methods necessary to effectively teach about the natural world. Focus is placed on planning and implementing environmental education programs, inquiry and interdisciplinary approaches, and place-based education. The course will include training for environmental curricula such as Project Wild and Project Wet.
In this course we will focus on the interacting biological, chemical, and geologic processes that combine to control the properties and behavior of the atmosphere, ocean, and terrestrial environments. Students will apply chemical principles to understand both natural and anthropogenic influences on surface environmental conditions such as nutrient availability, soil and water quality, chemical pollution, ocean chemistry, and global climate. Students will also learn how chemical tracers can be used as tools for understanding environmental processes both now and in the Earth's geologic past. Labs emphasize techniques for chemical analysis and environmental problem solving.
What are natural and anthropogenic controls on the climate system, how has the Earth's climate varied in the past, and how will the climate system respond to anthropogenic influences? This course includes an introduction to the climate system, an exploration of the Earth's climate history, and a consideration of how the study of past climates informs our understanding of future climate change. Additional emphasis will be placed on the tools used by climate scientists to understand both past and future climate change. Labs include a combination of field exploration of the local geologic record, laboratory analyses, and computer-based data and modeling exercises.
This course examines environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest and the policies that are used or proposed to address them. Case studies - on issues such as wilderness, endangered species, mining, hydroelectric dams, water rights, public land management, logging, and outdoor recreation - will be used to better understand the political process in the United States, the role of economics in addressing environmental issues, and the particular challenges in human-nature relations within the intermountain west. The course will be taught at Holden Village, an ecumenical retreat center in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. Students who previously have taken one of the Envs 239 courses at Holden Village will not be permitted to enroll in this course.
Rivers are important environmental, cultural, and economic features in the landscape, yet we struggle to manage them sustainably. Using rivers as an integrating element, the course draws from multidisciplinary perspectives to understand social dependence on river systems, as well as human modification and management of river environments. In particular, we will examine cultural meanings of rivers in the arts; the politics of dams; rivers and pollution policy; water rights and water conflicts; fishing culture and fisheries policy; and river recreation and restoration. We will ground our examination in case studies of rivers, ranging from the local Upper Iowa River, to the Mississippi, to major river systems of the world, such as the Ganges, the Yangtze, and the Nile.
We will explore the natural history and ecology of the boreal forest in northern Minnesota as well as the human experience of wintertime in a wilderness setting. In addition to completing course readings and participating in and leading class discussions, students will learn to make natural history observations and will design and conduct an original field-based research project. Course activities will also include winter wilderness travel by snowshoe, cross-country ski, and/or dogsled in and around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
This course will draw upon concepts in systems thinking to cultivate skills for sustainability and problem solving. Through applied case studies grounded in NE Iowa, students will analyze and practice the ways that communities can work to create more sustainable solutions and systems. Students will work in teams on key sustainability issues such as water, energy and climate, food systems, and social sustainability in order to hone skills in systems thinking, communication, research, data analysis and information literacy. This course serves as an integrative experience that will build common capacities and skills for students in upper level environmental studies coursework, such as the junior/senior seminar. This course is a prerequisite for ENVS 485.
Soils form an interface between the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and anthrosphere, making them critical to Earth system and environmental processes ranging from plant growth to groundwater recharge to the flux of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Students will gain a basic understanding of soil formation processes and of the relationship between soils and other components of the Earth system, including key biogeochemical cycles (the carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles), the climate system, and hydrologic processes. During labs, students will conduct field description of soils, interpret the environmental history recorded in soil profiles, and design and complete an original research project. Offered alternate years.
This course will be an interdisciplinary seminar for students completing the environmental studies major or minor. It will be topical in nature and will combine lecture and seminar approaches to the exploration of environmental issues and policies. Students may complete more than one seminar.