Human Footprint

Humans have become an increasingly significant force on Earth system, including the atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere. This course explores the influence of humans on natural systems and how environmental solutions and consequences link to social, political, economic, health, and justice issues. Specifically, we will discuss topics related to population growth, energy, agriculture, urbanization, and environmental justice. 2000 level.

 hoto Credit: Mitya Ku

 hoto Credit: Mitya Ku

A Perfect Moral Storm: Science and Ethics of Climate Change

Climate change is arguably the defining issue of our time, and it raises an array of scientific and moral questions:  How do we know the climate is changing, and what is the role of human activities?  What values should guide global and national climate policies?  What responsibilities do we have toward future generations, nonhuman species, and our planet?  This course introduces you to how the climate system works, the scientific basis for climate change and its societal implications.  Building on our study of ethics in the fall semester, it provides an introduction to environmental ethics and the moral challenges posed by climate change.  Our goal is to help you appreciate the complexity and moral gravity of climate change. 1000 level.

Photo Credit: Peter Hellberg

Environmental Isotope Geochemistry

This course will examine the application of isotope geochemistry to the investigation of the earth systems. Principles of radioactive decay and isotope fractionation will be developed and applied to topics such as element cycling at global and watershed scales, the origin and evolution of surface water, vadose water, and groundwater compositions, dating of the geologic record, and paleoenvironmental and paleoclimate reconstructions. 4000/5000 level

Photo Credit: dimnikolov

Photo Credit: dimnikolov

Paleoclimate - Proxies

The course explores how past climate information can be reconstructed from geologic deposits (e.g., ice cores, marine and lake sediments, glacier deposits, speleothems, tree rings). Topics will include the earth system processes governing physical, chemical, biological, and isotopic variability in such deposits, sampling and analytical methodologies for constructing paleoclimate records, techniques for dating and creating age models, and common approaches to interpreting past climate variability from climate archives. 4000/5000 level.

Global (and watershed) Biogeochemical Cycles

Biogeochemical cycles are pathways through which nutrients (e.g., carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus) transform and move between the components of the earth system (e.g., biosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere). The field is broad, so this course will focus on the global carbon cycle and the interactions between carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in oceans and watersheds. We will extensively draw from recent research articles to learn about the many different approaches for investigating biogeochemical cycles. 4000/5000 level.