Environmental Studies

The central mission of Carleton's Environmental Studies Program is to educate the next generation of environmental scholars and professionals in the fundamental scientific, ecological, social, ethical, political, and economic forces that govern environmental issues and the long-term quality and viability of society. The complexities of environmental problems dictate that study of the environment be based in multiple disciplines to provide students with skill sets and knowledge bases in the following areas: scientific principles as applied to the environment, the political, economic, social and cultural dimensions of environmental problems, the historical and ethical context for environmental problems and policy, and literary and artistic explorations of the environment. Students who major in Environmental Studies can gain a broad knowledge base in the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities, which is intended to help them understand the complex environmental issues faced by societies around the world.

The major is designed to help students make connections across these key knowledge bases, while also allowing students to focus their studies within specific interdisciplinary content areas supported by the curriculum. Currently those focus areas include: Conservation and Development, Food and Agriculture, Energy and Climate, Environmental Justice, Landscapes and Perception, and Water Resources.

The Environmental Studies major prepares students for meaningful involvement in a wide array of environmental and governmental organizations, as well as for graduate study in many environmental fields, law, public policy, and other areas of inquiry.

Requirements for the Environmental Studies Major

In most cases, majors must complete 78 credits in the course categories listed below, which includes nine credits devoted to a group-based comprehensive exercise. This comprehensive exercise is described in detail on the Environmental Studies website. In exceptional circumstances, majors may do an individual comprehensive exercise for six credits, in which case they must complete 75 credits for the major.

I. Introductory Courses (12 credits):

  • Introductory Lab Science Course (6 credits): Pick any one of the following:
    • BIOL 126 Energy Flow in Biological Systems and Lab
    • CHEM 128 Principles of Environmental Chemistry and Lab
    • GEOL 110 Introduction to Geology and Lab
    • GEOL 115 Climate Change in Geology and Lab (not offered in 2020-21)
    • GEOL 120 Introduction to Environmental Geology & Lab
    • GEOL 125 Introduction to Field Geology and Lab
    • GEOL 130 Geology of National Parks (not offered in 2020-21)
    • GEOL 135 Introduction to Climate Science
    • PHYS 152 Introduction to Physics: Environmental Physics and Lab
    and one of its prerequisites (Physics 131, 132, 141, 142, 143 or 145)
  • Introductory Economics (6 credits)
    • ECON 111 Principles of Microeconomics. This requirement may be waived with an Economics AP score of 5.

II. Quantitative Methods (12 credits): Take both of the following:

  • ENTS 120 Introduction to Geospatial Analysis
  • STAT 120 (formerly MATH 215) Introduction to Statistics or STAT 230 (formerly MATH 245) Applied Regression Analysis or MATH 240 (formerly MATH 265) Probability or STAT 250 (formerly MATH 275) Introduction to Statistical Inference (6 credits). This requirement may be waived with a MATH Stats AP Score of 4 or 5, and with the completion of a higher level STAT course.

III. Research Design and Methods (3 credits)

IV. Core Courses (18 credits): Take all of the following:

  • BIOL 210 Global Change Biology
  • ECON 271 Economics of Natural Resources and the Environment
  • HIST 205 American Environmental History

V. Electives (24 credits):

Twelve credits should consist of Society, Culture, Policy electives and twelve credits should consist of Environmental Science electives. Any one of these elective courses may be used to satisfy the 300-level topical seminar requirement in section VI, below.

In addition, students will work with their adviser to develop an interdisciplinary focus within environmental studies, such as food and agriculture, conservation and development, energy and climate, landscapes and perception, environmental justice, or water resources. This focus will be exhibited and explained in an e-portfolio (the “ENTS Profile”), to be completed by the end of Fall term senior year.  Electives should be chosen to reflect this focus.

  • Society, Culture and Policy: Take 12 credits from the following list:
    • AMST 230 The American Sublime: Landscape, Character & National Destiny in Nineteenth Century America (not offered in 2020-21)
    • AMST 240 The Midwest and the American Imagination (not offered in 2020-21)
    • AMST 287 California Program: California Art and Visual Culture
    • ARTH 267 Gardens in China and Japan
    • ARTS 113 Field Drawing
    • ARTS 140 The Digital Landscape
    • ARTS 211 Topics in Art and the Environment: Drawing the Anthropocene (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ARTS 212 Studio Art Seminar in the South Pacific: Mixed-Media Drawing
    • ARTS 275 Studio Art Seminar in the South Pacific: The Physical and Cultural Environment of New Zealand and Australia
    • ECON 240 Microeconomics of Development
    • ECON 268 Economics of Cost Benefit Analysis (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ECON 269 Economics of Climate Change (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ECON 273 Water and Western Economic Development (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ENGL 236 American Nature Writing (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ENGL 247 The American West
    • ENGL 248 Visions of California (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ENGL 288 California Program: The Literature of California
    • ENTS 215 Environmental Ethics
    • ENTS 244 Biodiversity Conservation and Development
    • ENTS 248 Sustainable Development (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ENTS 310 Topics in Environmental Law and Policy
    • HIST 306 American Wilderness (not offered in 2020-21)
    • HIST 307 Advanced Wilderness Studies (not offered in 2020-21)
    • HIST 308 American Cities and Nature
    • PHIL 214 Ecology, Ethics, and Economics (not offered in 2020-21)
    • PHIL 243 Animal Ethics: The Moral Status of Animals (not offered in 2020-21)
    • POSC 180 Global Politics & Local Communities (not offered in 2020-21)
    • POSC 212 Environmental Justice
    • POSC 224 Measuring and Evaluating Social and Ecological Systems (not offered in 2020-21)
    • POSC 268 Global Environmental Politics and Policy
    • POSC 280 COVID-19 and Globalization
    • POSC 333 Global Social Changes and Sustainability*
    • POSC 379 Political Economy and Ecology of S.E. Asia: Diversity of Social Ecological Systems in Southeast Asia (not offered in 2020-21)
    • RELG 239 Religion & American Landscape
    • RELG 243 Native American Religious Freedom (not offered in 2020-21)
    • SOAN 203 Anthropology of Good Intentions
    • SOAN 233 Anthropology of Food
    • SOAN 323 Mother Earth: Women, Development and the Environment (not offered in 2020-21)
    • SOAN 333 Environmental Anthropology
  • Environmental Science: Take 12 credits from the following list:
    • BIOL 215 Agroecology (not offered in 2020-21)
    • BIOL 216 Agroecology Lab (not offered in 2020-21)
    • BIOL 224 Landscape Ecology (not offered in 2020-21)
    • BIOL 225 Landscape Ecology Laboratory (not offered in 2020-21)
    • BIOL 238 Entomology
    • BIOL 262 Ecological Physiology
    • BIOL 321 Ecosystem Ecology
    • BIOL 350 Evolution
    • BIOL 352 Population Ecology
    • BIOL 366 Seminar: Conservation Biology (not offered in 2020-21)
    • BIOL 374 Seminar: Grassland Ecology
    • ENTS 225 Carbon and Climate
    • ENTS 254 Topics in Landscape Ecology (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ENTS 260 Comparative Agroecology (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ENTS 261 Field Investigation in Comparative Agroecology (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ENTS 265 The Science of the Earth System (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ENTS 274 Applied Spatial Analysis & Lab (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ENTS 288 Abrupt Climate Change (not offered in 2020-21)
    • ENTS 289 Climate Change and Human Health
    • GEOL 210 Geomorphology and Lab
    • GEOL 245 “When the Earth Shook…” Earthquakes in Human History and Lab (not offered in 2020-21)
    • GEOL 258 Geology of Soils and Lab (not offered in 2020-21)
    • GEOL 270 Topics: Tasmania Geology and Natural History (not offered in 2020-21)
    • GEOL 271 Tasmania: Geology, Natural History and Conservation Research (not offered in 2020-21)
    • GEOL 340 Hydrology and Lab
    • GEOL 370 Geochemistry of Natural Waters
    • PHYS 210 Sustainable Energy Principles and Design (not offered in 2020-21)
    • PHYS 211 Sustainable Energy Practice and Prospects (India) (not offered in 2020-21)

VI. Topical Seminar (6 credits):

All students must take one 300-level seminar that includes an individual research paper. This course may also count as an elective. Courses that fulfill this requirement are:

  • BIOL 355 Seminar: The Plant-Animal Interface
  • BIOL 366 Seminar: Conservation Biology (not offered in 2020-21)
  • BIOL 374 Seminar: Grassland Ecology
  • ENTS 310 Topics in Environmental Law and Policy
  • GEOL 340 Hydrology and Lab
  • HIST 306 American Wilderness (not offered in 2020-21)
  • HIST 307 Advanced Wilderness Studies (not offered in 2020-21)
  • HIST 308 American Cities and Nature
  • POSC 333 Global Social Changes and Sustainability*
  • SOAN 323 Mother Earth: Women, Development and the Environment (not offered in 2020-21)

VII. Senior Seminar/Comprehensive Exercise (9 credits): Most students will take a 3-credit senior seminar, which is normally offered fall term, and then pursue a 6-credit group-based comprehensive exercise the following term. In exceptional circumstances, students may pursue an individual comprehensive exercise.

Environmental Studies Courses

ENTS 110 Environment and Society This course offers an interdisciplinary introduction to a number of the pressing environmental changes currently facing human societies around the world. We will seek to understand and integrate the social, economic, scientific and political dimensions of these challenges. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the complexity of environmental issues and the interdisciplinary nature of the search for appropriate solutions. Topics will include global warming, population pressures, energy use, industrial waste and pollution, biological diversity, and sustainable agriculture. 6 credits; SI; Spring
ENTS 120 Introduction to Geospatial Analysis & Lab Spatial data analysis using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, global positioning, and related technologies are increasingly important for understanding and analyzing a wide range of biophysical, social, and economic phenomena. This course serves as an overview and introduction to the concepts, algorithms, issues, and methods in describing, analyzing, and modeling geospatial data over a range of application areas. 6 credits; QRE, SI; Fall, Winter; Tsegaye H Nega
ENTS 212 Global Food Systems The course offers a survey of the world's food systems--and its critics--from the initial domestication of plants and animals to our day. We will begin by examining the critical theoretical and foundational issues on the subject, and then turn to a series of case studies that illuminate major themes around the world. Topics will include land and animal husbandry, the problem of food security, food politics, the Green Revolution, biotechnology, and the implications of global climate change. Throughout the course, students will assess and seek to integrate differing disciplinary and methodological approaches. The class will include field experiences. 6 credits; SI, QRE, IS; Spring; Tsegaye H Nega
ENTS 215 Environmental Ethics This course is an introduction to the central ethical debates in environmental policy and practice, as well as some of the major traditions of environmental thought. It investigates such questions as whether we can have moral duties towards animals, ecosystems, or future generations; what is the ethical basis for wilderness preservation; and what is the relationship between environmentalism and social justice. 6 credits; HI; Fall; Kimberly K Smith
ENTS 225 Carbon and Climate This course will focus on the interconnections between the Earth’s carbon cycle and climate system. Particular interest will be given to how Earth system processes involved in the carbon cycle operate on geologic timescales and how these systems are responding to anthropogenic emissions. Required weekly laboratories will explore carbon cycle processes in local environments and will include outdoor field work, lab analyses, and computer modeling. Prerequisite: One lab science course. 6 credits; LS, QRE; Fall; Dan P Maxbauer
ENTS 232 Research Methods in Environmental Studies This course covers various methodologies that are used to prosecute interdisciplinary academic research relating to the environment. Among the topics covered are: identification of a research question, methods of analysis, hypothesis testing, and effective rhetorical methods, both oral and written. 3 credits; FSR, QRE; Fall; Mark T Kanazawa
ENTS 244 Biodiversity Conservation and Development How can the need for intensive human social and economic development be reconciled with the conservation of biodiversity? This course explores the wide range of actions that people take at a local, national, and international level to address this question. We will use political ecology and conservation biology as theoretical frameworks to examine the role of traditional and indigenous approaches to biodiversity conservation as well as contemporary debates about integrated conservation development across a spectrum of cultures in North America, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. 6 credits; SI, QRE, IS; Spring; Tsegaye H Nega
ENTS 248 Sustainable Development Sustainable development is the internationally and nationally recognized framework for reconciling development (economic development, social wellbeing, and peace and security) with environmental protection and restoration. This course will examine the historical origin of this framework, its meaning, the enormous environmental and poverty challenges that sustainable development is intended to overcome, and its actual and potential effect at the international, national, state, and local levels. It is designed to give students the ability to recognize and address sustainable development issues in any context. There are no prerequisites. 6 credits; SI; Not offered 2020-21
ENTS 254 Topics in Landscape Ecology Landscape ecology is an interdisciplinary field that combines the spatial approach of the geographer with the functional approach of the ecologist to understand the ways in which landscape composition and structure affects ecological processes, species abundance, and distribution. Topics include collecting and referencing spatial data at broad scales, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), landscape metrics, simulating change in landscape pattern, landscape connectivity and meta-population dynamics, and reserve design. Prerequisite: Biology 125 and 126. 6 credits; QRE, SI, IS; Not offered 2020-21
ENTS 255 Ecology & Anthropology Tanzania Program: Field Methods in Ecology and Anthropology This course enables students with interests in both Ecology and Anthropology to conduct studies in partnership with Tanzanian host communities. The challenges facing cultural groups and socio-ecological systems in northern Tanzania are inherently multi-disciplinary, and students must be able to bridge disciplines. This Field Methods course provides students with a common set of skills from both the ecological and anthropological disciplines to be applied in their Independent Study projects. Topics covered in the course include: introduction to research ethics; conducting a literature review; design and implementation of data collection protocols and survey questionnaires; summary, analysis and presentation of qualitative and quantitative data. Prerequisite: Participation in Ecology & Anthropology Tanzania Program. 3-4 credits; NE; Fall; Anna B Estes
ENTS 260 Comparative Agroecology As the world human population continues to expand, while at the same time the arable land base and fossil fuel supply shrink, the need for a sustainable food system is imperative. This course explores factors influencing food production and distribution at both local and national levels, with an eye towards how these factors affect choices made by the ultimate stewards of the land--the farmers. While the course focuses on the scientific aspects of agroecosystem sustainability, comparisons will be made among various production models both in the U.S. and China, bringing in social, economic and policy issues. This course is part of the OCS winter break China program, involving two linked courses in fall and winter terms, this class is the first class in the sequence.  Prerequisite: Biology 125 or 126 or Chemistry 123 or 128 or Geology 110 or 120 and instructor permission. 6 credits; NE, QRE; Not offered 2020-21
ENTS 261 Field Investigation in Comparative Agroecology This course is the second part of a two-term course sequence beginning with Environmental Studies 260. The course begins with a two-week visit in December to Beijing and Sichuan province. Field work will include visits to Chinese farms at the forefront of an incipient sustainable agriculture movement in China, as well as discussions with Chinese sustainable agriculture researchers. In regular weekly meetings during the winter term on campus, data will be analyzed and presented in oral and written reports. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 260. 6 credits; NE, IS; Not offered 2020-21
ENTS 265 The Science of the Earth System An interdisciplinary approach will be employed to understand the science behind major environmental issues such as pollution and climate change. The initial focus of the class will be to develop a good general understanding of the movement of energy and matter among the global biogeochemical cycles. Case studies will draw from recent literature. Prerequisite: One introductory course in Biology (125 or 126), Chemistry 123 or 128 or any 100-level Geology or Physics (two five-week courses or one ten week course from 131 through 165) or instructor's permission. 6 credits; NE, QRE; Not offered 2020-21
ENTS 274 Applied Spatial Analysis & Lab This course offers students with existing skills in data manipulation and analysis using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing to expand their knowledge of spatial information science and GIS procedures. Students will develop and apply advanced data analysis techniques to propose, construct and carry out a small research projects in an area of interest. The course has a strong practical focus, and students will gain experience in modeling spatially correlated data, quantifying spatial association and autocorrelation, landscape connectivity, spatial point patterns and exploratory analysis. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 120 or consent of the instructor. 6 credits; LS, QRE; Not offered 2020-21
ENTS 288 Abrupt Climate Change Abrupt climate change is very fast change, related to "tipping points" and thresholds, evident in current and historical climate records. Includes interpretation of historical climate data and measurement methods, evolving theories for abrupt change, the role of complex earth systems processes, and trends in global climate change today. The course will address our future through examining cases studies on past human civilizations and discussion of how to reduce our vulnerability to an unstable future climate. Includes a term-long project at the intersection of abrupt climate change and an issue of human concern. Prerequisite: One introductory course in Biology 125 or 126, or Chemistry 123 or 128 or any 100-level Geology, or Physics (two five-week courses or one ten week course from 131 through 165). 6 credits; NE; Not offered 2020-21
ENTS 289 Climate Change and Human Health This course will survey the relationship between climate change and human health. The course will begin by exploring the science of the Earth’s climate before turning to an exploration of topics that illuminate the intimate relationship between climate change and human health. These include short-lived climate forcers and the climate and health impact of mitigation measures, extreme heat/drought, mosquito-borne diseases, indoor air pollution/biomass combustion/cookstoves, and biodiversity conservation. Project proposals for the off-campus component will be developed. This course is part of the OCS winter break program involving two linked courses in fall and winter terms. This course is the first in the sequence, students must register for Chemistry 289 winter term. Prerequisite: One introductory course in Biology 125 or 126, Chemistry 123 or 128, any 100-level Geology, or Physics (two five-week courses or one ten week course from 131-165). 6 credits; SI, QRE; Fall; Deborah S Gross, Tsegaye H Nega
ENTS 310 Topics in Environmental Law and Policy This seminar will examine topical issues in domestic and international environmental law and policy. We will aim to understand how environmental laws work to achieve policy objectives, with attention also to debates about the role of markets and community-based environmental management. The specific topics may change from year to year, but may include approaches to sustainable development, sustainable agriculture, protection of endangered species, and conservation and management of water resources. This course has no prerequisites and is suitable for students of environmental studies, political science, international relations and political economy. 6 credits; SI; Winter; Kimberly K Smith
ENTS 355 Ecology & Anthropology Tanzania Program: Ecology and Conservation of Savanna Ecosystems in Northern Tanzania This course focuses on the foundational principles necessary to understand the ecology and conservation of savanna ecosystems in northern Tanzania, and the important roles that people and protected areas play within them. The course is based on the premise that a thorough understanding of Tanzania’s ecosystems and the challenges facing them cannot be achieved without understanding the human and political contexts in which they exist. The course incorporates primary literature, frequent guest lecturers, stakeholder interactions and student-facilitated discussions. The experiential, site-based approach allows students to gain insight into the practical application of ecological concepts in monitoring and maintaining savanna ecosystems. Prerequisite: One Anthropology, Biology or Environmental Studies course or instructor consent. 7-8 credits; NE; Fall; Anna B Estes
ENTS 392 Ecology & Anthropology Tanzania Program: Independent Research Students spend three weeks of the program working on a field research project with a small team of other students. The research projects are designed to be carried out in collaboration with local communities, NGOs or regional research organizations. The multi-disciplinary nature of the projects encourages students to identify roles on the team which align with their academic interests and abilities. Projects may be carried out over a number of years, giving each year’s students the opportunity to build on the research carried out in the previous year. Students present their research at the end of the ISP. Prerequisite: Environmental & Technology Studies 255. 3-4 credits; NE; Fall; Anna B Estes
ENTS 395 Senior Seminar This seminar will focus on preparing Environmental Studies majors to undertake the senior comprehensive exercise. The seminar will be organized around a topic to-be-determined and will involve intensive discussion and the preparation of a detailed research proposal for the comps experience. The course is required for all Environmental Studies majors choosing the group comps option. Prerequisite: Completion of all other Environmental Studies core courses except comps. 3 credits; SI; Fall; Mark T Kanazawa
ENTS 400 Integrative Exercise In this course, ENTS majors complete a group-based comprehensive exercise. Each group is expected to research and execute a group project on the topic chosen by the group, under the guidance of an ENTS faculty member. Toward the end of winter term, all groups present their research at a symposium sponsored by ENTS. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 395. 6 credits; S/NC; Winter