Earth and Environmental Sciences Courses
Course list; formal descriptions are given below.
Prerequisites: • Chemistry | • Physics | • Ecology
• Mixed Research Methods
• Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing
• Ways of Knowing; Mountain Environments in Thought and Practice
• Environment and Development in Mountain Regions
• Science, Impact, and Complexity of Climate Change
• Natural Hazards and Risk Management in Mountain Regions
• Introduction to Geology and Earth Processes
• Introduction to Geologic Materials and Resources
• Surface Processes in Mountain Environments
• Hydrology and hydrogeology
• Advanced GIS and Remote Sensing
Senior environmental science:
• Conservation Science
• Applied Ecology
• Environmental Impact and Risk Assessment
• Environmental Governance; Water, Air, Land, and Biosphere
• Geodynamics and Structural Geology
• Sediments, Stratigraphy and Related Resources
• Minerals, Petrology and Related Resources
Prerequisite courses, taken in yr 3 of 5.
Introductory chemistry for Earth & environmental sciences: Fundamentals of chemical bonding, properties of matter, solution-phase chemistry, thermochemistry, equilibrium, kinetics, and nuclear chemistry. Chemistry at the microscopic and macroscopic level are explored with emphasis on an earth and environmental context, including atmospheric, aqueous, and solid-state chemistry. Applications of chemistry in the modern world and its impact on humans and the environment will be explored.
Introductory physics: This course introduces students to physical processes and ways of thinking quantitatively about the Earth. Includes introductions to: mechanics and gravity (how objects move), thermodynamics (how heat moves), fluid dynamics (how liquids and gases move), atomic structure, waves (e.g., light waves; waves inside the Earth), and electricity and magnetism. Throughout the course, we’ll develop skills of estimation, build ideas of important length-scales and timescales in EES (e.g., age and size of the Earth; melting rate of glaciers; masses of mountains), and think about physics in everyday and EES-specific phenomena.
Ecology I; Evolutionary Ecology: This course is designed to give students a solid basis for furthering their studies related to the biological sciences by striking a balance between mastery of core concepts and exposure to the breadth of the discipline. Students will examine the interrelationships between organisms and their biotic and abiotic environments, and will be introduced to the genetic, evolutionary, and ecological processes governing the patterns we observe in nature. The course covers basic principles of how genetic variation is generated, stored, and transmitted; the origin and evolution of species; and ecological interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems.
Required courses, taken in yr 4 of 5.
Mixed Research Methods: Introduction to methods used in academic and professional endeavors to answer environmental science research questions. Students are exposed to qualitative and quantitative methodologies and research methods including use of academic, public domain or other literature, interviews, ethnographies, experiments, surveys, and primary and secondary data, as well as approaches such as case studies and participatory research. Students will gain practical experience in research design, data collection, and data analysis.
Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing: Students learn foundational concepts and practices in geospatial science including the use of computer systems for environmental research and natural resource management. The course includes surveying, mapping and remote sensing; creating, accessing, handling, and analyzing data; processing and visualization of information; topographic modeling; spatial interpolation; map design; introduction to programming in open-source GIS languages. Contexts include vegetation, soil, water, land use, land cover and infrastructure.
Pre-requisites: Calculus I.
Ways of Knowing; Mountain Environments in Thought and Practice: How different institutions or groups understand, value, and use mountain environments, focusing upon local and indigenous ways of knowing in Central Asia while linking to other mountain based regions. Questions of ethics, responsibility, rights, and justice as applied to human-environment relations, including economic, political, social, legal and epistemological dimensions. Material implications of these issues for environments, societies, and for effective land, resource and risk management policies and practices. Students are exposed to historical and contemporary debates and issues.
Environment and Development in Mountain Regions: The biodiversity of mountain regions is important in sustaining the livelihoods of mountain communities, and also to the food security and socio-economic well-being of people who may not live on the mountain, but rely on its resources. This course investigates the topographic, climatic, and geologic drivers of diversity in mountain environments, which are reflected in cultural and land-use practices. Topics such as agro-pastoralism, land management issues, water management, urban mountain environments, and mountain tourism are addressed. This is a modular course with topics to vary depending upon student needs and faculty priorities.
Pre-requisites: Environmental Governance: Water, Air, Land, and Biosphere and Ways of Knowing: the environment in thought and practice.
Science, Impact, and Complexity of Climate Change: This course investigates the scientific evidence for global warming, examines the causes of climate change, considers the impacts on natural and human systems, and explores options to mitigate and/or adapt to changing climatic conditions. Particular attention is paid to impacts and adaptation in Central Asia. Students are introduced to mountain weather patterns and the relationship to global and regional climate.
Natural Hazards and Risk Management in Mountain Regions: Causes, characteristics, consequences and mitigation strategies of natural hazards encountered in mountainous regions, including earthquakes, glacial lake outbursts, floods, storms, avalanches, landslides, and rockfall. This course focuses on how natural processes interact with societal contexts to give rise to mountain hazards, with particular attention given to the assessment and mitigation of risk and socio-economic impacts of natural hazards.
Pre-requisites: Surface Processes in Mountain Environments.
Introduction to Geology and Earth Processes: Planet Earth as a coupled system of the atmosphere, oceans, geosphere and life; geologic “deep” time; origins of the universe, emergence of life, emphasis on planetary tectonics, orogenesis, the ice age and human evolution.
Introduction to Geologic Materials and Resources: Physical and chemical properties or characteristics of minerals, rocks and soils, including means of measuring or determining their values in the lab and in-situ. Influence of water and biological processes on geologic materials and soils; origins and characteristics of mineral, hydrocarbon, hydrological and geotechnical resources.
Surface Processes in Mountain Environments: The course offers an introduction to quantitative analysis of geomorphic processes in mountainous terrain, and examines the interaction of climate, tectonics, and surface processes in the sculpting of Earth’s surface. Students will examine the mechanics of fluvial, hillslope, and glacial processes through the principles of weathering, soil formation, runoff, erosion, slope stability, sediment transport, river morphology, and glacial erosion.
Prerequisites: Physics I.
Co-requisite: Introduction to Geology and Earth Processes.
Hydrology and hydrogeology: This course is designed to give students an understanding of the processes of water movement at the Earth’s surface and in the subsurface environment. This course covers the hydrologic cycle, the principles governing the flow of groundwater, the interaction of groundwater with surface water, as well as the sustainability and management of surface water and groundwater systems.
Prerequisites: Physics I.
Co-requisite: Introduction to Geological Materials and Resources.
Advanced GIS and Remote Sensing: This course builds upon the introductory course. We focus on advanced GIScience topics such as the nature of geographic data, uncertainty in geographic data, database management systems, and advanced spatial analysis. We also focus on specific data types available for and analysis processes for remote sensing. Overall, the course is aimed at furthering your understanding of how geographic information can be used to solve problems and gain insights, and how GIS and Remote Sensing plays an important role in many areas of Geography–both human and physical–as well as in disciplines ranging from Archaeology and Ecology through to Water Resource Management and Zoology.
Pre- requisites: Calculus II, Physics I, Intro GIS/RS.
Senior courses; environmental stream; taken in yr 5 of 5.
Conservation Science: Conservation Biology is the scientific study of the phenomena that affect the maintenance, loss, and restoration of biological diversity. Topics covered will include: 1) the impacts of global climate change, non-native species invasions, and habitat destruction on biodiversity, 2) strategies developed to combat these threats, and 3) a consideration of key economic and ethical tradeoffs. Special attention will be paid to current debate and controversy within this rapidly emerging field of study.
Pre-requisite: Ecology I.
Applied Ecology: Applied Ecology is the utilization of ecological principles. The discipline focuses on the relationship between biotic (living things) and abiotic (environmental) factors, to address environmental issues. The goal of this course is for each student to build an understanding of ecological principles and theories, then apply these knowledge bases to address enduring and current environmental problems. Critical evaluation of ecological studies; ecological modeling; techniques used in solving problems related to individual, population, community and ecosystem dynamics.
Prerequisite: Ecology I.
Environmental Governance: Water, Air, Land, and Biosphere: Environmental governance refers to the processes through which societies make decisions that affect the environment. Though environmental decision-making has traditionally been done by governments, increasingly the complexity and immediacy of environmental problems calls for innovative, often non-governmental responses. This course examines “wicked” environmental management problems and explores governance solutions with a focus on sustainability. We will discuss the role of technology and the policy setting for managing environmental challenges, environmental trade-offs, and issues of environmental justice.
Environmental Impact and Risk Assessment: Principles, approaches and applications of environmental impact assessments and their relationship with environmental management plans. Students receive exposure to commonly used international systems for conducting EIAs, with emphasis placed on the Central Asia context and trans-boundary projects that have potential environmental consequences. Case examples may include (but are not limited to) EIAs for aquaculture, mining, and oil and gas pipelines.
Pre-requisites: Calculus II, Physics I, Chemistry II, Ecology I.
Senior courses; geoscience stream; taken in yr 5 of 5.
Geochemistry: Thermodynamics and kinetics, aquatic geochemistry, trace elements, radioactive and radiogenic isotope geochemistry, stable isotope geochemistry, use of isotopes in petrology, the study of planetary evolution, geothermometry, sedimentology, paleontology, biogenic and non-biogenic carbon emissions assessments, organic geochemistry, and biogeochemistry.
Pre-requisites: Chemistry I, Introduction to Geologic Materials and Resources.
Geodynamics and Structural Geology: Mechanisms driving plate tectonics, mountain building, earthquakes, faulting, volcanoes, seafloor spreading, etc. in terms of the physical and chemical processes and properties of the Earth. Use of geological maps and field observations to recognize and interpret 3D geological structures in layered, intrusive and metamorphic rocks. Includes field and lab work.
Pre-requisites: Introduction to Geology and Earth Processes, Introduction to Geologic Materials and Resources, Surface Processes in Mountain Environments.
Sediments, Stratigraphy and Related Resources: Origin and distribution of sediments and sedimentary rocks, properties and classification of clastic and non-clastic sedimentary rocks, sedimentary bedding and structures, sedimentary environments and facies in non-marine, coastal and marine settings, stratigraphic principles, relationship between sedimentation and hydrocarbon resources, and basic exploration, extraction and recovery cycles for hydrocarbon resources.
Pre-requisites: Introduction to Geology and Earth Processes, Introduction to Geologic Materials and Resources.
Minerals, Petrology and Related Resources: Physical and chemical properties of minerals and rocks, including basic crystallography. Introduction to mineral associations, resources, and environmental implications. Basic exploration, extraction & recovery cycles for these resources.
Pre-requisites: Chemistry I, Introduction to Geology and Earth Processes, Introduction to Geologic Materials and Resources.