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The Environmental Studies Program: Courses

1000–1999 (lower level, freshman)
2000–2999 (lower level, sophomore)
3000–3999 (upper level, junior)
4000–4999 (upper level, senior)


Introduction to Environmental Science
ENV 1500
/ 4 credits / Fall
A survey of the physical, biological, and cultural dimensions of current and past environmental problems. The nature of scientific inquiry and principles that apply to the study of the environment are covered, with emphasis on developing facility in interpreting environmental data.


Computer Applications in the Sciences
ENV 2030
/ 3 credits / Alternate years
Introduces techniques for advanced use of software commonly employed in the analysis and presentation of lab and field data. Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint), image analysis (ImageTool), and reference software (Zotero) are covered.
Prerequisite: Sophomore standing or permission of instructor

Introduction to Renewable Energy
ENV 2040
/ 4 credits / Alternate years
Renewable energy sources—including solar-thermal, photovoltaic, wind, wave, hydrogen, biomass, and geothermal energies—are discussed and compared with fossil fuels. The course outlines current practices as well as limitations—engineering, economic, social, and ecological—of extracting usable energy. Topics include practical solutions on both the large scale and the scale of the individual homeowner.

Environmental Justice
POL 2080
Refer to Political Science Courses for description.

Culture, Consumption, and the City
SOC 2165
Refer to Sociology Courses for description.

Environmental Sociology
SOC 2255
Refer to Sociology Courses for description.

Art and the Environment
ENV 2260
/ 3 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
A participatory course that explores how the environmental art movement in North America has evolved from depicting the environment as subject to incorporating it as a medium and targeting it as intended audience. Students learn about major artists, their key works, and their influence on the ecosystems that inspired them. Material is drawn from the disciplines of art history, ecological restoration, and environmental policy.

Environmental Economics
ECO 2280
Refer to Economics Courses for description.

Physical Geography
ENV 2300
/ 4 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
Location and local landscape influence natural resource availability, biome type, and agricultural potential. This course explores the earth’s physical processes to understand the important links between geography and ecosystems. Students examine relationships between landforms, climatic variations, erosion processes, vegetation patterns, and hydrology. While this course focuses on the United States, broader linkages are made to regions around the world.

ENV 2720
/ 5 credits / Fall)
The lecture covers interactions among the lithosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere. Topics include the formation and subsequent alteration of earth materials, geologic hazards, global change, glaciation, and plate tectonics. Lab work includes identification of rocks and minerals, interpretation of topographic and geologic maps, structural geology, and landform analysis.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 or its equivalent, or permission of instructor

Philosophy of the Environment
PHI 2820
Refer to Philosophy Courses (School of Humanities) for description.

Birds: Literature, Ornithology
LIT 2850
Refer to Literature Courses: 1000–2999 (School of Humanities) for description.

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ENV 3025
/ 5 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An introduction to statistics with a focus on techniques for the biological sciences. The lecture covers probability, sampling, descriptive and inferential statistics, parametric and nonparametric tests, biodiversity statistics, ordination methods, and robust experimental design. In the lab, students apply concepts from the lecture and practice analyzing data, constructing graphs, and testing hypotheses using the R software.
Note: This course may be used to satisfy the statistics requirement for environmental studies majors, and it counts as a basic science support course for biology majors.
Prerequisite: Math fluency

Environmental Policy
ENV 3030
/ 4 credits / Spring
The environment has become increasingly significant in national and international politics. This course examines the key concepts, players, and issues in environmental policy. Students evaluate the contributions by scientific, political, economic, and social systems to the generation of environmental policy. Environmental topics include population growth, natural resource use, global climate change and energy, endangered species protection, and pollution.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 or POL 1570, and junior standing or permission of instructor

Environmental Impact Assessment
ENV 3045
/ 4 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
A practical guide to the quantitative assessment of potential impacts to the environment from a proposed development project. Topics include basic federal and New York State SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) requirements; use and interpretation of maps; and assessments related to physical, biological, and socioeconomic components. Students work as teams (using the map room, library, and computer resources) to prepare a sample Environmental Impact Statement related to ongoing development near the campus.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 or BIO 1560, and junior standing or permission of instructor

Economic Botany
ENV 3070
/ 4 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
An introduction to botany with an emphasis on interactions between people and plants. Topics include plant structure and function, evolution of major plant lineages, modern plant systematics, plant-animal interactions, the history of agriculture and plant domestication, ethnobotany, and a survey of economically important plant families.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 and BIO 1560, or permission of instructor
Corequisite: ENV 3071

Economic Botany Lab
ENV 3071
/ 1 credit / Alternate years (Spring)
Lab work includes field trips.
Corequisite: ENV 3070

General Ecology
ENV 3120
/ 5 credits / Fall
A rigorous examination of classical and emerging concepts of ecology. Topics include life histories, population growth, competition, sexual selection, symbiosis, predation, disturbance and succession, energy flow and material cycling, biogeography, and conservation ecology. Lab work includes field trips.
Prerequisite: Math fluency, ENV 1500, and BIO 1560, or permission of instructor

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
ENV 3150
/ 4 credits / Fall
An introduction to one of the most widely used computer tools in environmental science. Used for storage, display, and analysis of spatially related data, this digitized mapping system is of primary importance in fields like land use planning, wildlife management, conservation biology, pollution monitoring, and geological resources. Students learn the ArcView system and become experienced in its use with a variety of data.
Prerequisite: Junior standing and a working knowledge of Windows, or permission of instructor
Recommended: ENV 1500

GIS Certification Lab
ENV 3153
/ 1 credit / Alternate years (Spring)
Provides reinforcement and additional development of key technical skills acquired during ENV 3150. Students engage in a series of self-paced, online, instructor-supported learning modules that assess their proficiency in applying Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. Upon completion, students receive third-party certification of their abilities from ESRI, the world’s leading manufacturer of GIS software.
Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing, and ENV 3150 or permission of instructor

Restoration Ecology
ENV 3220
/ 4 credits / Alternate years (Fall)
An introduction to the new synthetic discipline of restoration ecology, which attempts to mitigate human impacts on the environment. Topics include the effects of different disturbances on natural and human-modified ecosystems and the methods used to restore ecosystem function in degraded areas. Examples are drawn from diverse terrestrial and marine systems.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 or BIO 1560 or permission of instructor

Psychology of Sustainability
ENV 3230
/ 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
The role of psychology in building a sustainable future is examined by studying the attitudes, behaviors, and ethics associated with critical environmental problems. Readings and class discussions apply psychological theories and empirical work to such topics as perception of environmental risk, environmental justice and conflict resolution, and psychological benefits of sustainability.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 or PSY 1530

Environmental Education
ENV 3240
/ 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Prepares students to become communicators and teachers of environmental values, concepts, and issues. Topics include environmental and educational philosophies, basic components of environmental literacy, teaching methods, cognitive development, effective practices for the classroom and nature center, informal education practices, reviews of local environmental education programs, and the daily activities of professionals in a variety of environmental education careers.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 and at least sophomore standing, or permission of instructor

Ecology of Urban Environments
ENV 3250
/ 4 credits / Alternate years (Fall)
Traces the evolution of the modern city, emphasizing ecological issues including human population growth, urban wildlife ecology, energy, and material flows. These principles are used to consider the future of the city. The focal cities are New York and Phoenix.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 or BIO 1560, and junior standing, or permission of instructor
Corequisite: ENV 3251

Ecology of Urban Environments Lab
ENV 3251
/ 1 credit / Alternate years (Fall)
Examines in greater depth concepts discussed in ENV 3250. Field observation, data collection and analysis, and simple models of the urban environment and processes are employed.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 or BIO 1560, and junior standing, or permission of instructor
Corequisite: ENV 3250

Environmental Journalism
JOU 3260
Refer to Journalism Courses (School of Humanities) for description.

Field Biology of Local Landscapes
ENV 3280
/ 2 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Learn to identify local flora and fauna, use taxonomic keys, record field observations, interpret local landscapes, and conduct biological surveys. Off-campus field trips develop competency in these professionally valuable skills and provide opportunities to learn about a variety of ecosystems. The biota studied includes vertebrates, flowering plants, ferns, and butterflies. Some bird classes begin at 7:00 a.m.
Prerequisite: BIO 1560 and junior standing

Environmental Regulations
ENV 3300
/ 4 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
Acquaints students and environmental professionals with basic domestic and international environmental regulations and policies used by enforcement/regulatory agencies and donor/lender institutions. Specific federal acts include NEPA, Clean Air, Clean Water, RCRA, Superfund/CERCLA, TSCA, and FIFRA.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 and junior standing, or permission of instructor

Tropical Ecosystems
ENV 3420
/ 4 credits / Alternate years (Winter, in Costa Rica)
A field-based course in Costa Rica, surveying the diversity of tropical ecosystems and the challenges of balancing development and conservation. Students visit rainforest, dry forest, cloud forest, marsh, paramo, and agroecosystems, including coffee and banana plantations. The history and current state of conservation in the country are addressed in discussions with Costa Rican park guards, farmers, and foresters. Limited to sophomores, juniors, and seniors with a GPA above 2.5. Must be in good enough physical condition to hike 1–2 hours with a backpack.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 or BIO 1560 or permission of instructor

Watershed Science
ENV 3640
/ 5 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
The lecture establishes relationships between changes in terrestrial landscapes and changes in the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of associated freshwater systems. Lab work provides technical proficiency in standard methods for assessing the sources and impacts of pollution in freshwater environments. Throughout the semester, land-use decisions are discussed within the context of public policy.
Prerequisite: Junior standing and either ENV 1500, ENV 3720, or CHE 1560

Natural Resources
ENV 3700
/ 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Principles associated with the development and management of natural resources, including forests, grasslands, streams, and fisheries. Topics include sustainability, environmental and social implications of exploiting the natural environment, and renewable resources.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 or permission of instructor

Aquatic Pollution
ENV 3720
/ 4 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
Examines the sources and impacts of pollution in freshwater and marine environments, including eutrophication, pathogens, pesticides, heat, heavy metals, oil, acid rain, and plastics. The effects are examined through the lens of ecology.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 or BIO 1560 and junior standing, or permission of instructor

Human Ecology
ENV 3800
/ 3 credits / Spring
An interdisciplinary review of the reciprocal relationships between culture and environment in both traditional and complex societies. Past human-induced environmental degradation provides lessons applicable to current problems. Topics include the Green Revolution; cultural change and population trends; traditional vs. industrial food production; and the impact of global change, concepts of sustainability, and the commons.
Prerequisite: Junior standing or permission of instructor

Conservation Biology
ENV 3805
/ 4 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
The decline in biodiversity is a serious (and perhaps irreversible) threat to the biosphere. This course covers concepts and questions in a new synthetic discipline, which focuses on biodiversity protection. Beginning with the origin, patterns, and maintenance of biodiversity, the class explores the values of biodiversity, the nature of the threats to biodiversity, the demography and genetics of small populations, strategies to protect biodiversity, and ethical and legal bases of conservation efforts.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 and BIO 1560 and junior standing, plus at least one upper-level BIO or ENV elective

Animal Behavior
ENV 3820
/ 4 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
An evolutionary approach that addresses questions about the development, physiological basis, functional value, and evolutionary history of behaviors. Topics include foraging and antipredator behaviors, reproductive strategies of males and females, communication, habitat relationships, and sociobiology.
Prerequisite: BIO 1560 or permission of the instructor
Corequisite: ENV 3821

Animal Behavior Lab
ENV 3821
/ 1 credit / Alternate years (Spring)
Labs, films, and field trips illustrate concepts and research methods. One weekend field trip required.
Corequisite: ENV 3820

Environmental Studies Junior Seminar
ENV 3880
/ 3 credits / Spring
Prepares students for conducting research in environmental studies. Presentation of faculty research, analysis of research papers and proposals, and guest lecturers accompany student development of a senior project research proposal. Required for all environmental studies majors.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 and junior standing

Internship in Environmental Studies
ENV 3995
/ 2–4 credits / Every semester
Students are introduced to techniques and strategies for applying theory to real-world problems. The internship also helps students make informed career decisions and provides contacts for potential postbaccalaureate employment.
Prerequisite: Junior standing

Tutorial and Independent Study
ENV 3996
and 3997 / 1–3 credits / Every semester
Students with special interests may study independently under the sponsorship of a qualified faculty member. Independent study in general subjects is permitted if the board of study offers no formal course covering the material. Independent study may not be substituted for any course specifically required. It may be substituted for one lab study or for one upper-level course required by the board of study.


Marine Ecology
ENV 4460
/ 5 credits / Alternate years (Fall)
This advanced course surveys the organizing ecological principles that structure all marine communities. The lecture and lab synthesize information from all levels of organization (organism, population, and community). Through texts and primary literature, students examine the biotic and abiotic factors controlling the abundance and distribution of marine organisms. Lab work is coupled with field experimentation and observation.
Prerequisite: ENV 1500 and BIO 1560 and junior standing, or permission of instructor

Senior Project I and II
SPJ 4990
and 4991 / 4 credits (per semester) / Every year
Two-semester independent study (8 credits total) leading to a senior thesis. The project and thesis may take one of several forms. Students may join in the faculty sponsor’s research, pursuing an identifiable problem; or choose a topic for critical review in the literature. Students with a special interest not represented by a faculty member may find research project supervisors in another board of study or at another institution, subject to approval of and sponsorship by a Purchase faculty member.
Prerequisite: 90 credits and ENV 3880

Updated April 12, 2016

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