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Environmental Science and Studies

Majors in Environmental Science (B.S.) and Environment Studies (B.A.)
Minor in Earth and Planetary Science
Concentration in Chesapeake Regional Studies


Leslie Sherman, Department Co-Chair

Rebecca Fox

Karl Kehm, Director, Earth and Planetary Science Minor

Brian Scott, Department Co-Chair

John Seidel, Program Advisor, Chesapeake Regional Studies

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. 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, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, is at Washington College’s back door. The college has two research vessels, and state-of-the-art field equipment.  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. 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.


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.



In addition to the two majors, the Department offers a minor in Earth and Planetary Science and a concentration in Chesapeake Regional Studies. The Earth and Planetary Science minor gives students a broad understanding of processes that formed and modify the Earth and other planets in the solar system. The curriculum introduces a wide range of topics, from surface phenomena such as weather and climate, to the Earth’s internal composition and dynamics. Transcending the boundaries of traditional geological studies, the Earth and Planetary Science program focuses on the way large Earth systems such as the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere interact and evolve. Further emphasis is placed on the fundamental physical and chemical laws that govern the cycling of matter and energy on the Earth. Together, these complementary approaches help to provide students with a comprehensive view of the planet’s origin and evolution, as well as an enlightened appreciation for the forces at work in our natural environment. 


The concentration in Chesapeake Regional Studies is founded on the understanding that the Chesapeake Bay is central to the history, culture, and economy of the mid-Atlantic region, and it is an attractive educational resource for exploration and integration of liberal arts studies. The concentration in Chesapeake Regional Studies allows students to assemble a coherent array of courses based on student interests. Commonly students interested in this concentration participate in the Chesapeake Semester. This is a four course program for 16 credits  It combines intensive study, field work, and outdoor adventure. Students study the complex history, ecology, and culture of the Chesapeake as a microcosm of the challenges and transitions confronting coastal communities around the world. Using the College and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum as base camps, students travel in, on and around the 64,000 square mile watershed. In addition, participants will travel to foreign lands such as Peru, Guatemala, or Belize, to explore similarities and differences in culture, environment, economics, politics, laws and ethics.




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


Math course:

MAT 109. Statistics or MAT 201. Differential Calculus


Environmental science courses. All of the following are required (5 courses):

ENV 141. Atmosphere, Ocean, and Environment

BIO 206. Ecology

CHE/ENV 210. Environmental Chemistry

ENV 311. Field Methods in Environmental Science (pre-req ENV 101, ENV 141, BIO 206)

ENV 312. Watershed Biogeochemistry  (pre-req ENV 101, ENV 141, BIO 206, ENV/CHE 210)


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

BIO 309. Marine and Estuarine Biology

BIO 310. Microbial Ecology

BIO 328. Behavioral Ecology

CHE 201. Organic Chemistry

CHE 301. Analytical Chemistry

CHE 310. Green and Sustainable Chemistry

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

ENV 302. Wildlife and Conservation Techniques

ENV 313. Wetlands Ecology

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


Integrative courses:

ECN 117. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

One upper level ENV course chosen from the following:

CRS 246: Interdisciplinary Study of an Estuary: Integration and Action (if enrolled in the Chesapeake Semester)

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 (1-credit each)

ENV 392. Environmental Studies Junior Seminar

ENV 491. Environmental Studies Senior Seminar 


Note for students who double major or minor in Biology:

Students who double major in Environmental Science and Biology can count a maximum of 5 Biology courses (BIO 111, 112, 206 and 2 more) towards their Environmental Science major. Courses cross-listed in BIO and ENV count towards this maximum. Only one Biology Category V class can be used. Students who minor in Biology can only count 4 Biology courses for the both the BIO minor and the Environmental Science major (BIO 111, 112, 206 and 1 more.)




Introductory Course:

ENV 101. Introduction to Environmental Studies


One introductory-level majors sequence in the Natural Sciences chosen from below:

BIO 111, 112. General Biology I, II

CHE 111, 112. General Chemistry I, II


Three additional science courses:

Ecology: (1 course)

BIO 206. Ecology (if taken BIO 111-112)

or BIO 104. Ecology of the Chesapeake Bay (if do not plan to take BIO 111-112)

Environmental Chemistry: (1 course)

CHE/ENV 210. Environmental Chemistry (if taken CHE 111-112)

or CHE/ENV 110. Chemistry of the Environment (if do not plan to take CHE 111-112)

Earth Science: (1 course)

ENV 140. Exploring the Solid Earth

or ENV 141 Atmosphere, Ocean, and Environment


Math course:

MAT 109. Statistics or MAT 201. Differential Calculus


Social Science, Humanities, and Fine Arts Classes (5 courses):

Two core courses are required:

ECN 117. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

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

PHL 102. Contemporary Moral Issues

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

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 347. American Environmental Writing

PHL 310. Philosophy of Science

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

ANT/ENV 107. Introduction to Environmental Archaeology

ANT 280. Traditional Ecological Knowledge

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

ECN/ENV 318. Natural Resource Economics

POL/ENV 335. Environmental Politics

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 302. Wildlife and Conservation Techniques

ENV 313. Wetlands Ecology

            ENV 314. Energy and the Environment

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



Junior and Senior Seminar (1-credit each)

ENV 392. Environmental Studies Junior Seminar

ENV 491. Environmental Studies Senior Seminar 


Note for students interested in Physics:  Students interested in pursuing a physics track within the environmental studies or environmental science degree program can substitute PHY 111 and/or PHY 112 for one or two courses in the major, after consultation with and written approval from the ENV department chair.





This minor can be combined with any major at Washington College.  It comprises six courses, to be chosen as follows:


All of the following are required:

ENV 140. Exploring the Solid Earth

ENV 141. Atmosphere, Ocean and Environment

ENV/PHY 240. Earth and Planetary Systems Studies

MAT 201. Differential Calculus


And two courses from the following:

CHE 111. General Chemistry I

CHE 112. General Chemistry II

CSI 201. Introduction to Computer Programming

ANT/ENV 109. Introduction to Geographical Information Systems

PHY 111. General Physics I

PHY 112. General Physics II




Students can complete the concentration in one of two ways. Either completion of the Chesapeake Semester and one other course chosen from those listed below, or completion of BIO 104 and three additional courses chosen from at least two academic divisions listed below.


Division of Humanities and Fine Arts

ART 322. The Arts in America

PHL 102. Contemporary Moral Issues


Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

BIO 206. Ecology

BIO 309. Marine and Estuarine Biology

ENV 313. Wetlands Ecology


Division of Social Sciences

HIS 313. 17th- and 18th-Century America

ECN 117. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

ANT 305. Doing Anthropology


Chesapeake Semester Courses

CRS 240. The Natural Science of an Estuary

CRS 242. The Social Science of an Estuary

CRS 244. A Humanities Perspective on the Chesapeake

CRS 246. Interdisciplinary Study of an Estuary: Integration and Action



Every environmental science and environmental studies major is required to complete a Senior Capstone Experience (SCE). 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.



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 and science have completed internships with many organizations, such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and  the Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies in Cambridge, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, The Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida and the Washington College Center for Environment and Society.


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



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

  1. 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.


  1. 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)


  1. Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be found throughout our modern society. Programs such as MapQuest and Google Earth have brought this technology into the lives of many citizens of our world. More advanced software systems such as ArcGIS are being used in academia, business, and government to manage large datasets of spatially-linked information and provide the users with powerful analytic tools. The course lectures will review the fundamental theories of GIS and will also focus on the various organizational and ethical issues that impact the implementation and sustainability of GIS in our society. The lab portion of the course will teach the student how to operate the ArcGIS ArcView Desktop software product. Objectives for both the course lecture and lab section have been listed below. Introduction to GIS will be taught as a blended course, which means that online content will be used to supplement the course. The online content will not replace the traditional lecture and lab components of the course, but is instead meant to enhance the content, and allow for materials to be available outside of class time. Content will be reviewed prior to attending class, which will provide time for discussion, clarification, and problem solving during class time. All course materials along with lab assignments, quizzes, and exams will be managed in our innovative Moodle virtual learning environment. There will be little paper handed out or turned in during this class. You will receive a special user name and password to access Moodle. (Also ANT 109)


  1. 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)


  1. 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)


  1. 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)


  1. 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.


  1. 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. Prerequisite: ENV 140 or ENV 101


  1. 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. CHE 111-112 (112 can be taken concurrently)


  1. 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: ANT 109.


  1. 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: ENV 101, or BIO 111-112, or permission of the instructor.


  1. 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 rainforest and oil exploration, ecotourism, biodiversity concerns, mangrove conservation and the fate of Galapagos tortoises and the Galapagos fisheries. Prerequisite: ENV 101 or permission of the instructor.


  1. Earth and Planetary Systems

This course features a detailed examination of the unique interaction between the Earth’s geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere, and how these systems contrast with those of the other planets in the solar system. The course includes a lecture and an integrated lab component. The lecture discussion and reading emphasizes the history of Earth systems, from the birth of the solar system and differentiation of the Earth, to the emergence of biological life, chemical evolution of the modern atmosphere, and the changes to the Earth’s climate, ocean and lithosphere throughout geologic history. The lab will introduce students to important tools in Earth Science research, including radiometric dating, chemical studies of natural materials, remote sensing and data base analysis. The course provides advanced students with the necessary scientific and intellectual background for pursuing further studies in Earth and planetary science, geography, and environmental studies. Includes three lecture hours per week plus lab. (Also PHY 240) Prerequisite: ENV 140 and 141, or permission of the instructor.


  1. 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.


  1. 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: ENV 101, BIO 111-112.


  1. Conservation and Wildlife Techniques

Lecture will examine patterns in local and global biological diversity and current causes for biodiversity loss. Conservation strategies from the genetic to ecosystem scale will be evaluated to inform students about tools scientists can use to prevent species loss and restore natural wildlife habitats and populations. Laboratory exercises will allow students to gain familiarity with hands-on techniques for monitoring wildlife populations and will include field trips that focus on local conservation efforts.  Prerequisite: ENV 101, BIO 111-112.


  1. Field Methods in Environmental Science

Students will learn to be environmental field researchers through two collaborative projects conducted throughout the semester. For these collaborative projects, student will begin with a literature review and then ask questions, form hypotheses, establish an experimental design, execute the design, analyze the data, and communicate the findings through writing. Other environmental research methods are demonstrated through lab activities including groundwater, river, and stream sampling.


  1. Watershed Biogeochemistry

Biogeochemistry is the study of the physical, chemical, biological, and geological processes and reactions that govern the composition of and changes to Earth. This class will examine the water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur cycles generally and more specifically related to the Chester River watershed. The laboratory component will involve biogeochemical field sampling and laboratory analysis techniques.


  1. Wetlands Ecology

This course provides an in-depth examination of the function and types of wetlands with an emphasis on ecosystem services, biodiversity and conservation. Lecture will include a broad overview of the role wetlands play in larger ecosystems as well as the hydrology, geology, chemistry, trophic interactions and species common to these unique aquatic systems. Laboratories will include a large field-based component where students will learn to identify wetlands and their associated flora and fauna.


  1. 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.


  1. 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: ECN 112.


  1. 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: ECN 112.


  1. 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.


  1. 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

The course is comprised of a ten-week summer project guided by a faculty member at Washington College. 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

Students can receive credit for pursuing a full-time internship outside of Washington College. To receive academic credit, one must apply through the Washington College internship office and find a Washington College advisor and an on-site advisor. Participants will produce a final paper detailing the findings of their work. Internships 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. Environmental Studies Seminar

A two semester weekly 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.


Chesapeake Semester Courses

CRS 240. The Natural Science of an Estuary

This course is one of four courses that make up the Chesapeake Semester.  Here students explore topics such as geology, coastal morphology and the formation of the Chesapeake Bay, physical, chemical and biological estuarine oceanography, estuarine productivity and community structure, zonation in marine habitats, salt marshes and mud flats, oyster bars and sea grass beds, forest ecology,  and the science and impacts of climate change.  Some lecturers are on campus, while others are delivered while traveling. The course includes class, home, and field lab exercises designed to reinforce course content, introduces scientific thinking and training in data collection and analysis. It is designed to foster cross-disciplinary thinking with the Humanities and Social Science courses of the Chesapeake Semester.  A substantial amount of learning will take place in the field with particular design and focus around the second Journey, “Ridge to Ocean: Ecology and Geology of the Chesapeake.”


CRS 242. The Social Science of an Estuary

The focus of this piece of the semester is to explore the social aspects of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, including its people, history, and their complex relationships with one another and the environment.  Students will cover a wide range of topics, drawing on the disciplines of anthropology and archaeology, economics, geographic information systems, history, political science and sociology. Students will also explore the ways in which these approaches may be informed by other disciplines, such as those in the humanities and natural sciences.  Intersections between disciplines and integrating different kinds of knowledge are essential.  A substantial amount of learning will take place in the field with particular design and focus around the first Journey “Around the Chesapeake: A Sense of Place and History.”


CRS 244. A Humanities Perspective on the Chesapeake

This section of the Chesapeake Semester offers a humanistic perspective on the Chesapeake Bay. One way to think about this part of the course would be the most familiar: just as you will be exploring the organic life of the Bay from the perspective of the natural and social sciences, so too you will encounter, in both readings, discussions, and your various field experiences, cultural artifacts of the Bay in terms of music, philosophy, the visual arts, and writing.  However, it will also be emphasized that to develop any understanding of the Bay, be it scientific or poetic or philosophical or anthropological, the student must learn to see and hear and think and write, as Thoreau puts it, with deeper references. Writing and thinking and creating are also organic endeavors.  In this sense, our course is an exploration not just of the humanities of the Bay—arts, ethics, literature, writing—but of the humanistic understanding that you will bring to all the components of the Chesapeake Semester, that you will demonstrate (the expectation) in your final project, and that you will translate (the hope) into your future studies and endeavors beyond this course and the college.


CRS 246. Interdisciplinary Study of an Estuary: Integration and Action

The Chesapeake Semester is a novel design of integrated experiential learning rooted in Washington College’s strong traditions in liberal learning, coupled with its rich historical heritage and natural setting.  This course builds upon three additional courses: CRS 242, CRS 240, and CRS 244 and helps to deliver elements of each course curricula in the field, dissolving disciplinary boundaries and making trans-disciplinary connections.  Environmental policy and natural resource management are key topics, as students explore the rules and regulations that govern society’s use of our most precious resources. Food production and food systems are analyzed as a key but often controversial linkage between environment and society.  An additional area of focus for this course is the global nature of the problems that we face in the Chesapeake, using our experiences in Central America as a means to compare and contrast coastal environments around the world.  Students will use interdisciplinary tools like the “Chesapeake Semester Intersections” to help frame these concepts.   A substantial amount of learning will take place in the field with particular design and focus around “Journey 4:  Resources and Regulations of the Chesapeake.”  Finally, this course will explore the ways in which a fuller understanding of place and people can be used to construct visions for the future, empowering people to take an active role in positively influencing society’s impact on the natural world.   In doing so, students will learn the elements of becoming “student-citizen-leaders,” taking on the evolving role as they explore the Chesapeake area’s rich culture and environment.