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, which traditionally have been pursued largely in disciplinary isolation. In order to facilitate making these connections, the major is organized into a multidisciplinary set of core courses. In addition, we ask students to work with their advisors to develop a specific interdisciplinary focus, which will be explained and exhibited in an electronic “Profile.”  Examples of interdisciplinary foci supported by our curriculum 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 & Lab
    • GEOL 110 Introduction to Geology & Lab
    • GEOL 115 Climate Change in Geology & Lab
    • GEOL 120 Introduction to Environmental Geology & Lab
    • PHYS 152 Introduction to Physics: Environmental Physics & 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
  • MATH 215 Introduction to Statistics or MATH 245 Applied Regression Analysis or MATH 265 Probability or MATH 275 Introduction to Statistical Inference (6 credits). This requirement may be waived with a MATH Stats AP Score of 5.

III. Research Design and Methods (3 credits)

  • ENTS 232 Research Design and Methods

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 advisor 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 2017-18)
    • AMST 240 The Midwest and the American Imagination (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ARTH 267 Gardens in China and Japan (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ARTS 113 Field Drawing
    • ARTS 140 The Digital Landscape
    • ARTS 212 Studio Art Seminar in the South Pacific: Mixed-Media Drawing (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ARTS 275 Studio Art Seminar in the South Pacific: The Physical and Cultural Environment (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ECON 240 Microeconomics of Development
    • ECON 268 Economics of Cost Benefit Analysis (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ECON 269 Economics of Climate Change
    • ECON 273 Water and Western Economic Development
    • ENGL 236 American Nature Writing
    • ENGL 247 The American West (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ENGL 248 Visions of California
    • ENTS 215 Environmental Ethics
    • ENTS 244 Biodiversity Conservation and Development (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ENTS 248 Sustainable Development
    • ENTS 284 Ethiopia and Tanzania Program: Cultural Studies (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ENTS 310 Topics in Environmental Law and Policy
    • HIST 227 The American West (not offered in 2017-18)
    • HIST 306 American Wilderness
    • HIST 307 Wilderness Field Studies: Grand Canyon
    • HIST 308 American Cities and Nature (not offered in 2017-18)
    • PHIL 214 Ecology, Ethics, and Economics
    • PHIL 243 Animal Ethics: The Moral Status of Animals (not offered in 2017-18)
    • POSC 180 Global Politics & Local Communities
    • POSC 212 Environmental Justice
    • POSC 224 Measuring and Evaluating Social and Ecological Systems
    • POSC 225 Global-Local Commons: Sustainability, Diversity & Self-Gov't in Complex Social-Ecological Systems (not offered in 2017-18)
    • POSC 268 Global Environmental Politics and Policy
    • POSC 333 Global Social Changes and Sustainability*
    • POSC 379 Political Econ & Ecology of S.E. Asia: Diversity of Social Ecological Systems in Southeast Asia (not offered in 2017-18)
    • RELG 243 Native American Religious Freedom (not offered in 2017-18)
    • SOAN 203 Anthropology of Good Intentions
    • SOAN 233 Anthropology of Food
    • SOAN 251 Guatemala Prog: Resource Management and Sustainable Development in the Maya World (not offered in 2017-18)
    • SOAN 302 Anthropology and Indigenous Rights (not offered in 2017-18)
    • SOAN 323 Mother Earth: Women, Development and the Environment (not offered in 2017-18)
    • SOAN 333 Environmental Anthropology
    • SPAN 219 Envisioning a Sustainable Future and an Equitable and Fair World
    • SPAN 260 Forces of Nature (not offered in 2017-18)
  • Environmental Science: Take 12 credits from the following list:
    • BIOL 238 Entomology (not offered in 2017-18)
    • BIOL 250 Australia/New Zealand Program: Marine Ecology (not offered in 2017-18)
    • BIOL 252 Environmental Animal Physiology
    • BIOL 321 Ecosystem Ecology
    • BIOL 350 Evolution
    • BIOL 352 Population Ecology
    • BIOL 366 Seminar: Conservation Biology
    • BIOL 374 Seminar: Grassland Ecology (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ENTS 254 Topics in Landscape Ecology (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ENTS 260 Comparative Agroecology
    • ENTS 261 Field Investigation in Comparative Agroecology
    • ENTS 262 Materials Science, Energy, and the Environment (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ENTS 265 The Science of the Earth System (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ENTS 272 Remote Sensing of the Environment (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ENTS 288 Abrupt Climate Change (not offered in 2017-18)
    • ENTS 289 Climate Change and Human Health
    • GEOL 205 Geology of Energy and Mineral Resources (not offered in 2017-18)
    • GEOL 210 Geomorphology & Lab (not offered in 2017-18)
    • GEOL 245 “When the Earth Shook…” Earthquakes in Human History & Lab
    • GEOL 258 Geology of Soils & Lab
    • GEOL 270 Topics: Tasmania Geology and Natural History (not offered in 2017-18)
    • GEOL 271 Tasmania: Geology, Natural History and Conservation Research (not offered in 2017-18)
    • GEOL 340 Hydrology & Lab (not offered in 2017-18)
    • GEOL 370 Geochemistry of Natural Waters (not offered in 2017-18)
    • PHYS 210 Sustainable Energy Principles and Design (not offered in 2017-18)
    • PHYS 211 Sustainable Energy Practice and Prospects (India) (not offered in 2017-18)

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 366 Seminar: Conservation Biology
  • BIOL 374 Seminar: Grassland Ecology (not offered in 2017-18)
  • ENTS 310 Topics in Environmental Law and Policy
  • GEOL 340 Hydrology & Lab (not offered in 2017-18)
  • HIST 306 American Wilderness
  • HIST 307 Wilderness Field Studies: Grand Canyon
  • HIST 308 American Cities and Nature (not offered in 2017-18)
  • POSC 333 Global Social Changes and Sustainability*
  • SOAN 323 Mother Earth: Women, Development and the Environment (not offered in 2017-18)

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.

  • ENTS 395 Senior Seminar
  • ENTS 400 Integrative Exercise
  • ENTS 400 Integrative Exercise: Individual option

Environmental Studies Courses

ENTS 100 Mining and the Environment Diamond and copper--we use these mined resources in electronics, computers, homes, and cars every day. We will explore rich and intersecting issues that arise with this type of resource extraction in landscapes at risk, globally and in Minnesota. These perspectives include the environment, science, climate change, wilderness, water quality, social justice, employment, risk management, war and atrocity, history, politics, and culture. The course will include a required three-day field trip to Northern Minnesota to talk with parties connected to copper-nickel mines proposed by PolyMet and Twin Metals Minnesota near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. 6 credits; AI, WR1; Fall; Trish Ferrett
ENTS 100 Science, Technology & Public Policy Science and technology have led to profound effects upon public life over the past century. This course will study the social and political impacts of scientific and technological developments on modern life. We will investigate particular cases drawn from across the sciences, such as genetics, energy production and consumption, nuclear weapons, and the information revolution. The relationship between government, the public, and the science/technology enterprise will be examined. What is, and what should be the role of the practitioners themselves? 6 credits; WR1, AI, QRE; Fall; Joel M Weisberg
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; Kimberly K Smith
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; Winter; Papia F Rozario
ENTS 209 Public Rhetoric and Environmental Science In this course, students will pursue projects based in environmental science and aimed at public audiences. Forms may include grant proposals, articles for the popular press, talks aimed at peer scientists, the general public, or school groups, and posters for various audiences. In all cases, purpose, audience, and form will be carefully considered for effective communication of science. Students can expect frequent revision, assiduous peer review responsibilities, and presentation of individual projects orally and in more than one form of writing. 6 credits; NE, WR2, QRE; Not offered 2017-18
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; Not offered 2017-18
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 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; Spring; Kimberly K Smith
ENTS 238 Ethiopia and Tanzania Program: Energy and Society in Developing Countries This course will examine the determinants of household energy use in developing countries, with special emphasis in Ethiopia. Specifically, the course will examine the technical, economic, and cultural factors that affect energy choice and the ways in which these factors can be incorporated in the design of new improve cookstoves to increase their adaption. Students will explore these issues in Addis Ababa and Debre Berhan in Ethiopia. Through readings and discussions with local experts as well as fieldwork, they will develop a better understanding of the opportunities and obstacles towards designing improved cookstoves that are affordable, fuel efficient, and less polluting. Prerequisite: One of the following courses are highly recommended: Environmental and Technology Studies 244, 265, 271, 287 or Geology 258. 6 credits; SI, QRE, IS; Not offered 2017-18; Tsegaye H Nega
ENTS 239 Ethiopia and Tanzania Program: Urban Agriculture In this course students learn about the role of urban agriculture in meeting the demand of urban population, explore its productivity, and evaluate the effect of biochar on urban agricultural productivity. Visiting and evaluating existing experiments on the effect of biochar on soil productivity will make up the core of the course. Through readings, conversations, and field research, students understand the possibilities for expanding urban agriculture. 6 credits; SI, IS; Not offered 2017-18; Tsegaye H Nega
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; Not offered 2017-18; 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; Spring; John C Dernbach
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 2017-18
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; Fall; David Hougen-Eitzman
ENTS 261 Field Investigation in Comparative Agroecology This course is the second part of a two-term course sequence beginning with Environmental and Technology 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 and Technology Studies 260. 6 credits; NE, IS; Winter; David Hougen-Eitzman
ENTS 262 Materials Science, Energy, and the Environment Drawing on chemistry and physics principles, this course will focus on the relationship between the structure and physical properties of materials, how materials science can address environmental and energy challenges, and the technological and societal impacts of materials development. Topics to be covered will vary from year to year, but may include material life cycle assessment, traditional plastics and biodegradable alternatives, materials and technologies for solar energy conversion, and the role of materials in developing energy efficient buildings. Students who have taken Physics 260 may not take Environmental and Technology Studies 262. Prerequisite: Two five-week or one ten-week Physics course numbered 151-165 or Chemistry 123 or 128. 6 credits; NE, WR2; Not offered 2017-18
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 2017-18
ENTS 272 Remote Sensing of the Environment This course provides an introduction to the use of remotely sensed imagery and the application of remote sensing in environmental and natural resources management. Topics include raster-vector integration, geometric and atmospheric correction, spatial and spectral enhancement, image classification, change detection, and spatial modeling. This course will involve both lecture classes that will be used for presentation of fundamental topics and theory and sessions devoted to providing hands-on experience in the processing and interpretation of remotely sensed imagery. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 120 is recommended not required. 6 credits; NE; Not offered 2017-18
ENTS 280 Ethiopia and Tanzania Program: Research Projects on Conservation and Development This course will cover basic research methods in the social and natural sciences including how to collect, analyze, integrate, and report social and ecological data. We will give a particular attention to the role of Requirement Analysis in designing and introducing new technologies, with particular emphasis to improved cookstoves. Requirement Analysis involves understanding both functional and non-functional requirements that are key for product success. Students will work in small groups to develop and execute research projects, which will be conducted in both countries in consultation with local faculty. 4 credits; NE; Not offered 2017-18; Tsegaye H Nega
ENTS 284 Ethiopia and Tanzania Program: Cultural Studies The course is intended to expose students to the cultural heritages of Tanzania and Ethiopia. Among the cultural activities involved in the course include visits to historical cultural sites and museums, guest lectures, and lessons in local cuisines. 2 credits; S/CR/NC; NE; Not offered 2017-18; Tsegaye H Nega
ENTS 286 Cameroon Program: Theoretical and Practical Approaches to Globalization and Development This course provides students with foundational knowledge of globalization and development issues while surveying a variety of local approaches to sustainable development as responses to the effects of globalization in Cameroon. Through lectures, seminars, and site visits, students will gain an understanding of the historical foundations of contemporary approaches to development, the nature and breadth of sustainable development, and the controversies surrounding development, including the universality of human rights, ethnocentrism, neocolonialism, corruption, and economic dependence. 7-8 credits; NE; Fall; Nick Hockin
ENTS 288 Abrupt Climate Change The field of abrupt climate change seeks to understand very fast changes, or "tipping points," in historical climate records. Course topics include interpretation of historical climate data, methods of measuring abrupt changes in ancient climates, theories for abrupt change, the role of complex earth systems, and the connection to trends in global climate change. The course will directly address our future vulnerability to abrupt climate change through cases studies of past human civilizations. Includes a term-long multimedia team project, with an academic civic engagement component, at the intersection of abrupt climate change and an issue of human concern. 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). 6 credits; NE, WR2, QRE; Not offered 2017-18
ENTS 289 Climate Change and Human Health This course will offer a survey of the relationship between climate change and human health. The course will begin by developing an understanding of climate science, and then turn to explore a series of topics that illuminate the intimate relationship between climate change and human health. Topics that will receive sustained attention 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. The class will provide opportunities for students to engage in hands-on projects to help them better understand the topics covered in class. 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) and Math 111 or 215, or consent of the instructor. 6 credits; SI, QRE; Spring; Deborah S Gross
ENTS 291 Cameroon Program: NGO Internship/Independent Project This course consists of two interrelated streams: the internship and the independent project. During the internship, students study and work with an established NGO, offering students practical hands-on experience in service-learning while fostering the development of one-on-one relationships with local activists across cultural and linguistic barriers. Students document and critically analyze their involvement in a pre-existing local sustainable development initiative and/or creative input into the emergence of a new initiative under the guidance of the NGO staff mentor and the supervision of the Program Director. The independent project is accompanied by a final paper. 8 credits; NE; Fall; Nick Hockin
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; Spring; John C Dernbach
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 and Technology Studies core courses except comps. 3 credits; SI; Fall; Aaron M Swoboda
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 and Technology Studies 395. 1-6 credit; S/NC; Winter