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Offices: Registrar - Catalog

Environmental Science and Studies

Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

 

Leslie Sherman, Chair

Rebecca Fox

Karl Kehm

Brian Scott

John Seidel

Robin Van Meter

 

Washington College, located between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic beaches, is in a unique location for the study of the environment. In a predominantly rural area projecting rapid growth over the next decade, Washington College students can use the Chesapeake Bay region—its farms and waterways, its history and culture, its people and their environmental concerns—as a learning laboratory. The Chester River is at Washington College’s back door, and several environmental research facilities are located nearby. The college has two research vessels, the 46 ft Callinectes and the 27 ft Lookdown, and state-of-the-art field equipment, including water quality sondes, sidescan sonar, and sediment coring devices. In the Toll Science Center, a new ICP-mass spectrometer is available for analysis of environmental samples. In addition, the college’s Chester River Field Research station at nearby Chino Farms and Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory are additional locations for hands-on environmental study.  

 

Two majors are available to students through the Department of Environmental Science and Studies. Students can pursue an environmental science major (B.S.) or an environmental studies major (B.A.) Both majors are grounded in an interdisciplinary course of study which prepares students to critically analyze and investigate solutions to regional and global environmental issues, whether it is the revival of a depleted fishery, the fate of toxics, land use management in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, world population concerns, loss of biodiversity, or climatic changes. No discipline by itself, nor in consort with a closely related discipline, can fully prepare students to make the sound environmental decisions they assuredly will have to make in the future.  Adequate preparation for such decision making is best found within the context of a liberal education and with an interdisciplinary perspective.

 

The environmental science major focuses on an interdisciplinary scientific study of the environment, while the environmental studies major is broader in perspective and draws in numerous courses in the humanities and the social sciences, as well as the natural sciences. Which major the student chooses depends on their particular interests in the environmental arena, whether they are more fascinated by the scientific dimensions of environmental challenges and may want to do field research in the future or whether their interests lie more in the social, ethical, political or economic aspects of environmental questions and want to become an environmental lawyer or environmental economist, for example. The difference in focus of the two majors is reflected in the courses taken. Environmental science majors take 5 foundational science courses and 6 environmental science courses, while environmental studies majors take 2 foundational science courses and 3 environmental science courses. The environmental studies majors also pursue many courses in the humanities and social sciences. All students take several integrative environmental studies courses.

 

For both majors, students are encouraged to participate in internships and summer research programs and complete a minor in an allied field of study. It is recommended that majors take a course that introduces them to the techniques and applications of Geographical Information Systems. The senior capstone experience (SCE) in environmental studies can be fulfilled by either doing a research paper or a laboratory investigation. With either selection, the Senior Capstone Experience should be interdisciplinary in nature.

 

Advanced Placement credit will be given for ENV 101 provided a score of 5 is attained on the Environmental Science AP exam. However, it is strongly suggested that students in this category audit this course.

 

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE MAJOR (B.S.)

 

Introductory course:

ENV 101. Introduction to Environmental Studies

 

Introductory science courses. Two of  the following introductory sequences are required:

BIO 111, 112. General Biology I, II

CHE 111, 112. General Chemistry I, II

PHY 111, 112. General Physics I, II

 

Math course:

MAT 109. Statistics or MAT 201. Differential Calculus

 

Environmental science courses. All of the following are required:

ENV/PHY 141. Atmosphere, Ocean, and Environment

Two of the following, depending on Introductory science sequence taken:

BIO 206. Ecology

CHE/ENV 210. Environmental Chemistry

PHY 340 Earth and Planetary Systems Studies

ENV 311: Field Methods in Environmental Science

ENV 312: Watershed Biogeochemistry



At least two elective science courses selected from the list below:

(prerequisites beyond BIO 112,  CHE 112, and PHY 112 are given in parentheses)

BIO 203 Microbiology

BIO 211 Plant Biology

BIO 309 Marine and Estuarine Biology (200-level BIO)

BIO 310 Microbial Ecology (200-level BIO)

BIO 409/CHE 309 Biochemistry (CHE 202)

PHY 201 Electronics

PHY 204 Modern Physics (no lab; MAT 203)

CHE 201 Organic Chemistry

CHE 301 Analytical Chemistry

CHE 310 Green and Sustainable Chemistry (CHE 201)

CHE 311 Inorganic Chemistry (co-requisite CHE 305)

 

Integrative courses:

ECN 117. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

One upper level ENV course chosen from the following:

ENV/BIO 221. The Bermuda Environment (summer course)

ENV 222. Summer Environmental Studies in Ecuador

ENV 314. Energy and the Environment

ENV 294, 394. Special Topics (with approval of the Chair)

 

Junior and Senior Seminar - (non-credit bearing)

ENV 392. Environmental Studies Junior Seminar

ENV 491. Environmental Studies Senior Seminar  

 

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES MAJOR (B.A.)

 

Introductory Course:

ENV 101. Introduction to Environmental Studies

 

One introductory-level majors sequence in the Natural Sciences:

BIO 111, 112. General Biology I, II

CHE 111, 112. General Chemistry I, II

PHY 111, 112. General Physics I, II

 

Three additional science courses:

BIO 104. Ecology of the Chesapeake Bay

or BIO 206. Ecology (if taken BIO 111, 112)

CHE/ENV 110. Chemistry of the Environment

or CHE/ENV  210. Environmental Chemistry (if taken CHE 111)

PHY/ENV 140. Exploring the Solid Earth

or PHY/ENV 141 Atmosphere, Ocean, and Environment

or PHY 340. Earth and Planetary Systems Studies (if taken PHY 111, 112)

Math course:

MAT 109. Statistics

 

Social Science and Humanities Classes:

Core courses:

ECN 117. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

or ECN 317. Environmental Economics (if taken ECN 111, 112)

PHL 303. Environmental Ethics

At least one additional Humanities or Fine Arts course, chosen from those listed below, is required:

ART/ENV 241. Environment and Public Art

CRS 244. A Humanities Perspective on the Chesapeake (if enrolled in the Chesapeake Semester)

ENG 321. Romanticism

ENG 361 or 362. Literary Romanticism in the United States I or II

ENG 347. American Environmental Writing

PHL 310. Philosophy of Science

At least two additional Social Science courses, chosen from those listed below, is required:

ANT/ENV 107. Introduction to Environmental Archaeology

ANT/ENV 137. Cultures and Environments of the Chesapeake

CRS 242. The Social Science of an Estuary (if enrolled in the Chesapeake Semester)

ECN/ENV 317. Environmental Economics

ECN/ENV 318. Natural Resource Economics

EDU 311. World Geography

POL/ENV 335. Environmental Politics

POL 375. International Political Economy

SOC/ENV 370. Environmental Sociology

 

Two upper level ENV courses chosen from the following:

ENV/BIO 221. The Bermuda Environment (summer course)

ENV 222. Summer Environmental Studies in Ecuador

ENV 314. Energy and the Environment

ENV 294, 394. Special Topics (with approval of the Chair)

 

Junior and Senior Seminar - (non-credit bearing)

ENV 392. Environmental Studies Junior Seminar

ENV 491. Environmental Studies Senior Seminar  

 

SENIOR CAPSTONE EXPERIENCE

Every senior is required to complete a Senior Capstone Experience (SCE) in Environmental Science and Studies. Students will enroll in the four credit SCE course during their final semester, although students must begin work on their SCE during the previous semester. The SCE can take the form of a laboratory or field research project or a monograph. Selection of the nature of the SCE will be based upon discussion with Environmental Science and Studies faculty members, and also will require the approval of the Chair of the Environmental Science and Studies Department. The SCE will be graded A (Honors), B C D or Fail. Grading will be based on joint evaluation of the SCE by Environmental Science and Studies faculty.

 

Research and Internships

Experiential learning is at the heart of the environmental science or studies major. Although not required for the major, internships and research opportunities help students directly apply the insight, theory, and research methodology they learn in class. The College sponsors ten-week summer research projects in the fields of biology, chemistry, environmental studies, psychology, and physics. Internships and research projects outside of the natural sciences are also encouraged. Students of environmental studies have completed internships with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, the Wildfowl Trust of North America in Queenstown, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center near Annapolis, the Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies in Cambridge, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in Annapolis, The Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, Florida and the Washington College Center for Environment and Society. Washington College has established cooperative relationships with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, the Pickering Creek Environmental Center in Easton, and the Sassafras River Natural Resource Management Area near Kennedyville.

 

One of the credit-bearing internships or research opportunities, as well as pertinent special topics courses, can substitute for a selection in the Humanities, Natural Sciences, or Social Sciences where appropriate. This decision is based on the approval of the Chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Studies.

ENV 395. Summer Research

ENV 490. Individualized Internships

ENV 495, 496. Independent Research

 

Summer Field Courses:

The Department of Environmental Science and Studies regularly conducts summer courses abroad. Students are accompanied on these courses by Washington College faculty. Summer Study in Bermuda is based at the Bermuda Institute of Oceanographic Sciences in St. George. In field trips, lectures, and labs, students study the ecology and history of the island, exploring mangrove swamps, coral reefs and much more. Summer Study in Ecuador, jointly run with the Universidad de San Francisco in Quito, takes participants through a variety of ecosystems, from the Pacific coast and highlands to the rain forests of the Amazon, and to the Galapagos Islands. These trips allow students to relate their coursework to new parts of the world, to meet professionals and students from other countries, and to see a wide variety of ecosystems and related social systems.

 

Course Descriptions

101. Introduction to Environmental Studies

This course is an introduction to the discipline of environmental studies. A multidisciplinary, international view of human responsibility toward the natural world will be emphasized, focusing on significant contemporary environmental issues. Topics to be covered include environmental literature (both historical and current), economic and ethical environmental concerns, scientific methods of assessment and analysis of environmental problems, and possible solutions to representative environmental problems. The laboratory/recitation section will be utilized for field trips, guest lectures, demonstrations, and discussions. This course is a prerequisite for all upper-level courses entitled environmental studies. The course should be completed by the end of the sophomore year if it is going to be counted toward the major.

 

107. Introduction to Environmental Archaeology

Exploration of the variety of past human societies and cultures through archaeology, with an emphasis upon the interplay between environment and culture. The course covers a wide time span, from the biological evolution of hominids and the origins of culture to the development of complex civilizations and the more recent historical past. (Also ANT 107)

 

109. Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are used in academia, business, and government to manage large datasets of spatially-linked information and to provide users with powerful analytic tools. Classroom discussions introduce the theories and uses of GIS and focus on the organizational issues that impact the implementation of GIS in our society. Laboratory activities teach the student how to extract and present GIS data in graphical form, and how to construct and augment GIS databases using on-the-ground data gathering, map point-plotting equipment, and auxiliary data bases. (Also ANT 109)

 

110. Chemistry of the Environment

This introductory course focuses on the chemical dimensions of current environmental problems such as global warming, ozone depletion, water and soil contamination, and energy production. Fundamental principles of chemical bonding, reactions, and energy are studied as they arise in connection with each environmental issue. Interdisciplinary aspects are explored to further understand the multiple dimensions of the problems. Intended for students planning to major outside the sciences. Three hours of lecture and one hour and 3/4 of laboratory each week. (Also CHE 110)

 

117. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

Environmental and natural resource economics focuses on the economic sources of environmental problems and natural resource use in a market economy and the evaluation of the alternative policies for dealing with these problems. This analysis extends to the examination of regional issues (local air and water pollution, recycling programs, and fisheries) and global issues (climate change and waste disposal). The course is intended for students not planning to major in economics. (Also ECN 117)

 

137. Cultures and Environments of the Chesapeake

An examination of prehistoric and historic societies in the Chesapeake Region. Archaeological, historical, and environmental evidence is used to understand cultural development and the relationships between people and their environment. Topics include the arrival of humans in the region, Native American groups, colonial settlement in the Tidewater, and the 19th Century. (Also ANT 137)

 

140. Exploring the Solid Earth

This course investigates the composition, structure, and dynamics of the solid Earth. The course reviews prominent theories for the origin of matter, the accretion and differentiation of the planets, and the structure of the Earth’s interior. The role of plate tectonics in driving the exchange of matter and energy between Earth systems is a central theme of the course, providing the theoretical context for understanding geological phenomena such as seismic activity, volcanism and mountain building. The course is designed to provide the necessary scientific and intellectual background for understanding a wide range of Earth phenomena, and to give students a greater appreciation for the origin and evolution of their planet. Includes three lecture-hours per week plus lab. (Also PHY 140)

 

141. Atmosphere, Ocean and Environment

This course examines processes and features that characterize the Earth’s surface. The course focuses on the major Earth systems of land (lithosphere), air (atmosphere), and water (hydrosphere) and explores how these systems evolve and interact through geologic time. Examples include studying global air circulation and its effect on weather, examining links between ocean currents and global climate, and exploring how stream processes help to shape landscape. The role of plate tectonics in driving the exchange of matter and energy between Earth systems is also a central theme. The course is designed to provide the necessary scientific and intellectual background for understanding a wide range of Earth phenomena, and to give students a greater appreciation for their natural environment. Includes three lecture hours per week plus lab. (Also PHY 141)  Prerequisite: Physics 140 or Environmental Studies 101

 

210. Environmental Chemistry

The cycling of natural chemical species and pollutants in the water, soil and air of our earth system is a major component of our complex ecosystem. In this environmental chemistry course, students will develop an understanding of the transport and reactions controlling natural chemical species in our environment, as well as the cycling of pollutants. Students will study current issues of water, soil and air pollution, and how society is working towards reducing the movement of pollutants through our environment. In the laboratory portion of the class, students will investigate the water quality of  local water bodies, including the Chester River, as well as conduct hands-on experiments related to the environmental topics studied in class. Three hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory each.  (Also CHE 210) Prerequisite. Chemistry 111 and 112 (112 can be taken concurrently)

 

211. Intermediate Geographic Information Systems

This second course in geographic information systems builds upon the theories discussed in Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, and focuses on the more technical aspects of GIS. Laboratory activities teach the student to use more advanced functions of GIS software, and the fundamentals of advanced GIS analysis and display programs. The student will also learn to operate a precision GPS field data collector. Prerequisite: Anthropology 109.

 

221. The Bermuda Environment

This summer course will investigate the complex ecology of the Bermuda Islands, the impact that human habitation has had on their natural history, and current environmental concerns and means of mitigating those concerns. Major areas of study will include (but not be limited to) coral reef ecology/symbioses, mangrove community ecology and environmental relevance, architectural and military influences during colonization, fisheries practices (past, present and future) and current concerns and problems, and ecotourism and associated environmental impacts. (Also BIO 221) Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 101, or Biology 111-112, or permission of the instructor.

 

222. Summer Environmental Studies in Ecuador

This three-week-long summer course, offered in conjunction with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, will investigate many of the worlds most distinctive species of plants, animals that inhabit the richly diverse ecosystems of Ecuador. Students will gain an understanding of Ecuador’s social and economic issues and the challenges it faces as a developing country while attempting to conserve its natural resources. Topics investigated include conservation of the Amazon rain forest and oil exploration, ecotourism, biodiversity concerns, mangrove conservation and the fate of Galapagos tortoises and the Galapagos fisheries. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 101 or permission of the instructor.

 

241.  Environmental and Public Art

This course introduces students to the basic concepts of environmental and public art through team projects in the field and studio. Students concentrate on the development of one artwork created at Stepne Manor, a 77-acre farm owned by Washington College and adjacent to the College’s waterfront campus. The curriculum centers on the production of a site specific work created by students working in two-person teams. Students regularly engage in class discussions about the projects being pursued by its participants, readings, screenings, and research papers directed toward the work of specific artists. Prerequisite: 1 course of Studio Art or permission of the instructor.

 

301. Birds of the Chesapeake Bay

This course will emphasize the natural history, ecology, and conservation concerns of the major groups of birds (both residential and migratory) that can be found associated with the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. It will provide students a rigorous overview of the study of birds from ecological and environmental perspectives. Students will be expected to keep a field journal for the duration of most of the semester. There will be weekly mandatory off-campus four-hour Saturday field trips. These field trips will focus on identification, ecology, natural history, the use of mist nets, and banding. Students are expected to provide their own binoculars. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 101, BIO 111-112.

 

302. Conservation and Wildlife Management

This course will focus on current conservation concerns of both national and international importance. The course covers such topics as biodiversity and its preservation, ecosystem management and habitat destruction, designing and managing protected areas, values and ethics in conservation, and wildlife management and its many facets. The course will have two to three required scheduled off campus field trips that may occur on a Saturday. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 101, BIO 111-112.

 

308. Reconstructing Past Environments

The study of scientific principles and methods in archaeology, with special emphasis upon earth sciences. Environmental reconstruction and site formation processes will be explored, along with methodologies such as remote sensing, geophysical prospecting, soil science, palynology, floral and faunal analysis, and radiometric dating. Pleistocene and post-Pleistocene geomorphology and environmental change in the Chesapeake will be examined, with field trips to local sites and local research projects. (Also ANT 308) Prerequisite: Anthropology 208, Environmental Studies 101, or permission of instructor.

 

314. Energy and the Environment

This course explores general topics of energy generation, distribution and use, as well as the many ways that the energy industry affects the environment. Topics include: fossil fuels, heat engines, renewable energy sources, global effects of energy use, politics and energy policy, nuclear energy, and energy conservation.  Prerequisite: ENV 101 or permission of the instructor.

 

317. Environmental Economics

This course is a survey of the application of economic analysis to environmental problems. Analysis will focus on: policy options available to lawmakers and citizens, methods for assigning value to the environment, and air and water pollution and the laws meant to control these problems. (Also ECN 317) Prerequisite: Economics 112.

 

318. Natural Resource Economics

This course surveys the economic theory behind, and the management of, renewable and non-renewable resources including fisheries, minerals, timber, water, and biodiversity. Analysis of management options is at the local, regional, and national levels. Analysis includes trade-offs of policies and the effect of property rights regime on resource use. (Also ECN 318) Prerequisite: Economics 112.

 

335.  Environmental Politics

This course explores public policy and the policy process in American politics, and specifically focuses on the development and enactment of environmental policies over the past several decades in the United States. Attention is given to how political actors have responded to environmental problems, what creates a favorable landscape for environmental policies to be implemented, and how effective such policies are at achieving their goals. (Also POL 335) Prerequisite: POL 102 or permission of the instructor.

 

370. Environmental Sociology

This class explores the human dimension of ecosystem science. Use of environmental sociology as a framework for understanding the dynamic relationship between humans and the environment, trends in environmental policy and public opinion, environmentalism as a social movement, human-induced environmental decline, and environmental justice. Students will explore how changes in ecosystems influence the achievability and sustainability of societal values such as security from natural disasters, health, good social relations, and freedom to pursue personal and cultural interests. (Also SOC 370) Prerequisite: SOC 101 and one additional sociology course or permission of the instructor.

 

195, 295, 395, 495. On-campus Research

On-campus courses currently available in this category are offered by the Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Psychology Departments. The course is comprised of a ten-week summer project guided by a faculty member. The student and the faculty mentor develop a research project, supported by a reading list and involving theoretical laboratory or field investigations supervised by the faculty mentor. Participants will produce a final report detailing the findings of their research.

 

190, 290, 390, 490. Internships

A number of these have recently been offered. Students have received academic credit for summer work carried out at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Wildfowl Trust of North America, The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and the Joint Cooperative National Marine Fisheries Service/Maryland Department of Natural Resources Laboratory at Oxford, Maryland. Available to declared Environmental Studies majors only. Not open to first-year students. Internships receiving academic credit must first be approved by the Chair of the Department.

 

194, 294, 394, 494. Special Topics

 

196, 296, 396, 496. Off-Campus Research

 

197, 297, 397, 497. Independent Study

Courses in this category are currently available in most disciplines. The course consists of an individualized research project chosen by the student in consultation with a faculty member. The student will, with the help of the faculty mentor, design a project to be implemented during the course of the semester. The student will conduct an appropriate literature search, carry out the research, and submit a written report by the end of the semester.

 

392, 491, 492. Environmental Studies Seminar

A two semester weekly non-credit bearing seminar that prepares students for either graduate education, career development, and writing a successful Senior Capstone Experience (SCE). Seminars are led by Environmental Studies faculty and invited guests. Students will present their SCE proposals and findings as part of the seminar. Required of all Environmental Studies majors.

 

SCE. Senior Capstone Experience

Every senior is required to complete a Senior Capstone Experience (SCE). Students will enroll in the 4 credit SCE course during their final semester. The SCE can be in the form of either a monograph or a laboratory or field research experience.