Spring 2014 Courses

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ENVS 1015. Frontier Crossings: The Western Experience in American History.
Matthew Klingle.
What accounts for the persistence of the “frontier myth” in American history, and why do Americans continue to find the idea so attractive? Explores the creation of and disputes over what became of the western United States from 1763 to the present. Topics include Euro-American relations with Native Americans; the creation of borders and national identities; the effect of nature and ideology; the role of labor and gender in the backcountry; and the enduring influence of frontier imagery in popular culture.
ENVS 1081. Physics of the Environment.
Mark Battle.
An introduction to the physics of environmental issues, including past climates, anthropogenic climate change, ozone destruction, and energy production and efficiency.
ENVS 1102. Oceanography.
Collin Roesler.
The fundamentals of geological, physical, chemical, and biological oceanography. Topics include tectonic evolution of the ocean basins; deep sea sedimentation as a record of ocean history; global ocean circulation, waves, and tides; chemical cycles; ocean ecosystems and productivity; and the oceans’ role in climate change. Weekly labs and fieldwork demonstrate these principles in the setting of Casco Bay and the Gulf of Maine. Students complete a field-based research project on coastal oceanography.
ENVS 1104. Environmental Geology and Hydrology.
Peter Lea.
An introduction to aspects of geology and hydrology that affect the environment and land use. Topics include lakes, watersheds and surface-water quality, groundwater contamination, coastal erosion, and landslides. Weekly labs and fieldwork examine local environmental problems affecting Maine’s rivers, lakes, and coast. Students complete a community-based research project on Maine water quality.
ENVS 2201. Perspectives in Environmental Science.
David Griffith and John Lichter.
Functioning of the earth system is defined by the complex and fascinating interaction of processes within and between four principal spheres: land, air, water, and life. Leverages key principles of environmental chemistry and ecology to unravel the intricate connectedness of natural phenomena and ecosystem function. Fundamental biological and chemical concepts are used to understand the science behind the environmental dilemmas facing societies as a consequence of human activities. Laboratory sessions consist of local field trips, laboratory experiments, group research, case study exercises, and discussions of current and classic scientific literature.
ENVS 2250. Earth, Ocean, and Society.
Emily Peterman.
Explores the historical, current, and future demands of society on the natural resources of the earth and the ocean. Discusses the formation and extraction of salt, gold, diamonds, rare earth elements, coal, oil, natural gas, and renewable energies (e.g., tidal, geothermal, solar, wind). Examines how policies for these resources are written and revised to reflect changing societal values. Students complete a research project that explores the intersection of natural resources and society.
ENVS 2255. Environmental Chemistry.
David Griffith.
Focuses on two key processes that influence human and wildlife exposure to potentially harmful substances—chemical speciation and transformation. Equilibrium principles as applied to acid-base, complexation, precipitation, and dissolution reactions are used to explore organic and inorganic compound speciation in natural and polluted waters; quantitative approaches are emphasized. Weekly laboratory sections are concerned with the detection and quantification of organic and inorganic compounds in air, water, and soils/sediments.
ENVS 2268. Molecular Ecology.
David Carlon.
Develops the theory and practical skills to apply genetic data to ecological questions. Topics will include population connectivity and dispersal, mating systems, detecting natural selection in the wild, and the origin and maintenance of biodiversity. Lectures and discussions will develop theoretical understanding through worked examples. The laboratory provides hands on experience in generating genetic data from marine populations, including modules on sampling design, DNA/RNA extraction, Sanger and Next Generation Sequencing technology, and data analysis through modeling.
ENVS 2303. Natural Resource Economics and Policy.
Guillermo Herrera.
A study of the economic issues surrounding the existence and use of renewable natural resources (e.g., forestry/land use, fisheries, water, ecosystems, and the effectiveness of antibiotics) and exhaustible resources (such as minerals, fossil fuels, and old growth forest). A basic framework is first developed for determining economically efficient use of resources over time, then extended to consider objectives other than efficiency, as well as the distinguishing biological, ecological, physical, political, and social attributes of each resource. Uncertainty, common property, and various regulatory instruments are discussed, as well as alternatives to government intervention and/or privatization.
ENVS 2311. Changing Cultures and Dynamic Environments.
Susan Kaplan.
Over the last 20,000 years, the Earth's environment has changed in both subtle and dramatic ways. Some changes and attributable to natural processes and variation, some have been triggered by human activities. Referring to anthropological and archaeological studies, and research on past and contemporary local, regional, and global environments, the course examines the complex and diverse relationship between cultures and the Earth's dynamic environment. A previous science course is recommended.
ENVS 2334. Environmental Sociology.
Shaun Golding.
Applies sociological insights to investigating the ways that humans shape and are shaped by their ecological surroundings. Introduces theories and concepts for exploring how western society and more specifically contemporary American society interact with nature. Reviews central academic questions, including social constructions of nature and perceptions of ecological risks, and drawing from complementary readings and student-led dialogue, examines in greater depth ongoing struggles over conservation, sustainability, development, and social justice.
ENVS 2403. Environment and Culture in North American History.
Connie Chiang.
Explores relationships between ideas of nature, human transformations of the environment, and the effect of the physical environment upon humans through time in North America. Topics include the “Columbian exchange” and colonialism; links between ecological change and race, class, and gender relations; the role of science and technology; literary and artistic perspectives of “nature”; agriculture, industrialization, and urbanization; and the rise of modern environmentalism.
ENVS 2425. Borderlands and Empires in Early North America.
Matthew Klingle.
Survey of the making of North America from initial contact between Europeans and Africans and Native Americans to the creation of the continent's three largest nations by the mid-nineteenth century: Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Topics include the history of Native populations before and after contact; geopolitical and imperial rivalries that propelled European conquests of the Americas; evolution of free and coerced labor systems; environmental transformations of the continent's diverse landscapes and peoples; formation of colonial settler societies; and the emergence of distinct national identities and cultures in former European colonies. Students write several papers and engage in weekly discussion based upon primary and secondary documents, art, literature, and material culture.
ENVS 2447. Maine: A Community and Environmental History.
Sarah McMahon.
Seminar. Examines the evolution of various Maine social and ecological communities—inland, hill country, and coastal. Begins with the contact of European and Native American cultures, examines the transfer of English and European agricultural traditions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and explores the development of diverse geographic, economic, ethnic, and cultural communities during the nineteenth and into the early twentieth centuries.
ENVS 3902. Earth Climate History.
Phil Camill.
The modern world is experiencing rapid climate warming and some parts extreme drought, which will have dramatic impacts on ecosystems and human societies. How do contemporary warming and aridity compare to past changes in climate over the last billion years? Are modern changes human-caused or part of the natural variability in the climate system? What effects did past changes have on global ecosystems and human societies? Students use environmental records from rocks, soils, ocean cores, ice cores, lake cores, fossil plants, and tree rings to assemble proxies of past changes in climate, atmospheric CO2, and disturbance to examine several issues: long-term carbon cycling and climate, major extinction events, the rise of C4 photosynthesis and the evolution of grazing mammals, orbital forcing and glacial cycles, glacial refugia and post-glacial species migrations, climate change and the rise and collapse of human civilizations, climate/overkill hypothesis of Pleistocene megafauna, climate variability, drought cycles, climate change impacts on disturbances (fire and hurricanes), and determining natural variability vs. human-caused climate change.
ENVS 3975. Feeding the World: The Nature and Challenges of Our Food and Agricultural Systems.
Phil Camill.
Although we live in a world where global food abundance is at record highs, and prices are at historic lows, our modern food system has its share of challenges. Methods of food production, marketing, distribution, and consumption have spawned waves of criticism, including concerns about farm economics, food justice, worker safety, animal welfare, famine, ecological degradation, climate change, biotechnology, and public health. In the wake of these challenges, alternative systems of food production, distribution, and consumption are beginning to emerge. An interdisciplinary exploration of three questions: How do we produce and eat food? What major social and environmental consequences have arisen from food production and consumption? What should we produce and eat? Examines the historical origins agriculture, social and environmental problems arising from these transitions, and social movements oriented towards making our food system more ecologically sustainable and socially just. Current or prior enrollment in Environmental Studies 2201 (201), 2330 (202), and 2403 (203) is recommended.
ENVS 3992. Advanced Topics in Environmental Philosophy.
Lawrence Simon.
Examines philosophical, moral, political, and policy questions regarding various environmental issues. Possible topics include the ethics of climate change policy, our obligations to future generations, benefit-cost analysis vs. the precautionary principle as a decision-making instrument, and the relationship between justice and sustainability.