List of main courses taught within the Environmental Science Program

Soils and Environmental Geomorphology

Our understanding of soil functioning is limited despite processes that occur in soil are fundamental for the existence of life on Earth. This course looks into what drives soil formation and under what conditions different soils form. Understanding where soil fertility comes from and under what conditions soil is most vulnerable is fundamental if we want to preserve soil quality and find solutions to ongoing poor soil management around the world.

The course has the goal to improve students’ ability to i) think critically about complex concepts related to soils and to make connections between sub-disciplines of soil science; ii) collect and interpret data concerning soils in order to make extrapolations at the local and global scale; iii) to synthesize, articulate, and present in clear manner complex concepts; and iv) develop collaborative skill through teamwork.

Introduction to Environmental Science

Through their activities, human beings have substantially influenced their surrounding environment, with short and long-term consequences on ecosystem processes and functions. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the patterns and processes that characterize the environment around us and to the effects that human activities, at the local to the global scale, have on these processes. This course provides basic information concerning environmental science, the cycling of water, carbon and nitrogen, climate change, and sustainability.

Resources | People | Innovation

Although there is a growing body of literature on adaptation to environmental change, including both incremental and transformational adaptation, much work is still needed to accommodate change and to create alternatives that are sustainable. Large effort is needed to close the gap between knowledge and action in the field of sustainability.A key factor in developing strategies for the future is to understand current status and existing efforts, investigate and inform others on current and potential adaptation strategies and create innovative solutions. The need for transformative challenge in environmental science calls for new approaches to interdisciplinary work. With this in mind, students will engage with the campus community, local governmental entities, and the private sector to learn about new plans that have been implemented or tested in the field of energy, air quality, water resources, and food and goods production.

World Views – Study abroad in Northern Italy (May 2018)

The course examines the changing relations between humans and the natural environment. An overview of the major dynamics and challenges rising from human-environment interaction is coupled with a focus on an exemplary region: the European Alps. Addressed topics include: population, subsistence strategies and economic development across time; nature and the environment in relation with fundamental spheres of the human life (ethics, gender, arts); conservation, environmental movements and policies; globalization and climate change; the future of the Alpine region and of mountain areas at large. Students will participate in laboratories, excursions and other educational activities conducted in collaboration with major scientific and environmental protection institutions of Trentino, in Northern Italy.

World Views – Study Abroad in Costa Rica (January 2017)

Costa Rica is an ecological hotspot: With its diverse ecosystems, Costa Rica harbors unique biodiversity. However, agricultural practices, deforestation, development, and land use change have compromised several of the species populating the island, in some extreme cases causing extinction. Human interest and the need to preserve and conserve the bounty of species and habitats will be explored in this field course.

This course will provide a useful link between the investigation of the biophysical nature of environmental issues, specifically the agricultural economy, the decreasing reliance on fossil fuel, and the social and economical fabric of the unique biospheres found in Costa Rica. The proposed approach includes a number of on sites visits to explore environmental issues and solutions in Costa Rica. Students will learn first hand about environmental changes and their respective socio and economic implications from a number of representatives from various sectors, including multinational agricultural firms and other businesses operating in Costa Rica and their efforts to balancing economic growth with their environmental impact.