First Year Program - Environmental Studies Skip Navigation

Environmental Studies (ENST)

Director: J. Kawall

Colgate’s Environmental Studies Program helps students to understand the complexity of environmental issues and to underscore the consequences and impacts of the human experience on the environment. Students in environmental studies learn to think, speak, and write clearly and articulately about environmental issues from a variety of perspectives. The environmental studies curriculum combines interdisciplinary breadth with depth in a chosen field of study.

The Environmental Studies Program is an interdisciplinary program located within the Division of University Studies and staffed by faculty from a number of departments who apply their knowledge and expertise to teaching and research endeavors that cross disciplinary boundaries.

Major Programs

The program administers five majors: environmental studies, plus four departmentally affiliated majors including environmental biology, environmental economics, environmental geography, and environmental geology. All five majors include a common set of courses that ensures a common interdisciplinary experience. At the same time, each student achieves depth in analytical ability by taking a specified suite of courses, usually in a particular discipline, chosen in consultation with her or his adviser.

Registration Suggestions

Students interested in any of the environmental studies majors or minor should consider beginning their program of study in the fall semester by taking GEOG 105 or GEOL 135. Students considering an environmental biology major are strongly encouraged to take chemistry and/or BIOL 181 in the fall. Students interested in environmental economics may want to take ECON 151 in the fall. Students interested in environmental geography might consider registering for GEOG 105. Potential environmental geology majors should consider GEOL 135.


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BIOL 101, Topics in Organismal Biology
Introduces students to the complexities of biodiversity, from the ecosystem to the genetic level. By examining the factors affecting the structure and function of terrestrial, marine, and freshwater communities, students learn about the diversity of organisms in these systems. Students gain an appreciation for the roles of evolutionary and ecological history, as well as modern ecological interactions, in shaping biodiversity across the globe. Students are exposed to the many ways that human activities affect biodiversity.

BIOL 181, Evolution, Ecology, Diversity
Concentrates on the evolutionary biology of organisms and the ecological processes that influence the distribution and abundance of plants and animals, as well as their interactions. The history of biological diversification (including the origin of life; the evolution of prokaryotes and eukaryotes; and the invasion of land by plants, fungi, and animals) is discussed. In addition, the mechanisms of evolution, including natural selection, adaptation, and extinction, are studied. Topics in population ecology as they relate to evolutionary processes including physiological and behavioral ecology, population growth, and species interactions (e.g., competition, predation, mutualism) are also covered; there is a strong focus on the physical, chemical, and biological factors that affect populations. The course ends with studying ecosystem ecology and the impacts of global warming and anthropogenic impacts on the environment. 

BIOL 181L, Evoln, Ecol, Diversity Lab
Required corequisite to BIOL 181. Projects in the laboratory and field include experiments designed to understand evolutionary principles and to test ecological hypotheses.

CHEM 101, General Chemistry I
The first half of a two-term sequence that introduces chemical principles that apply to all areas of chemistry. This course deals with molecular and reaction stoichiometry, gases, the first law of thermodynamics, the electronic structure of atoms, the periodic table, chemical bonding, and molecular geometry.

CHEM 101L, General Chemistry I Lab
Required corequisite to CHEM 101.

CHEM 111, Chemical Principles
A one-term course designed for the well-prepared first-year student. CHEM 111 covers many of the same fundamentals covered in CHEM 101 and 102, but treats those ideas in greater depth. Enrollment requires a score of 4 or 5 on the AP exam, an A or B on A-level exam in chemistry, a score of 6 or 7 on the higher level IB chemistry exam, or a 650 or higher on the SAT II Chemistry Exam. Students enrolled in CHEM 111 who meet the standards by the AP exam may receive only one advanced placement credit for general chemistry. CHEM 111 (or CHEM 101-102) serves as a prerequisite for CHEM 263, 264 (Organic Chemistry), or CHEM 333, 334 (Physical Chemistry).

CHEM 111L, Chemical Principles Lab
Required corequisite to CHEM 111.

ECON 151, Introduction to Economics
A general introduction to the subject matter and analytical tools of economics including micro- and macroeconomic theory.

GEOG 105, Climate and Society
Human-induced climate change--global warming--is the defining environmental and social issue of our times. That people are dramatically altering the climate is now the resounding consensus in the scientific community. Potential short- and long-term impacts include biodiversity loss, sea-level rise and coastal flooding, more intense storms, threats to human health, and disruptions of freshwater supplies and food security. But while the global community increasingly understands the basic processes driving climate change, and is starting to appreciate the consequences of a warmer world, the coupled social and biophysical dynamics of global warming are complex and the issue remains controversial. This course explores climate-society relationships in industrial and pre-industrial periods, and considers the multifaceted natural and human dimensions of global warming. It also highlights the integrative natural and social science modes of analysis commonly used in the discipline of geography.

GEOG 231, Geog of Physical Enviroment
Provides students with a general understanding of the processes and spatial distribution of the Earth's primary physical systems and the ways in which humans interact with these systems. Course emphasis is divided into three areas: atmospheric processes, the spatial dynamics of vegetation and soils, and landform development. Students are introduced to the basic physical processes and interactions that operate within each of these categories, with special focus on the ways in which these factors relate to contemporary environmental problems.

GEOL 101, Environmental Geology
Many geologic processes and events have a significant impact on human societies. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides and floods all threaten lives and property and societies rely on water, mineral, climate, and energy resources to thrive. Similarly, society has many impacts on the Earth system through water and air pollution and climate change. This course examines the complex interplay between human activities and the environment through a multi-disciplinary approach, with the goal of applying science to better manage natural hazard risk, understand and mitigate future climate change, and use water, mineral and energy resources more sustainably.

GEOL 101L, Environmental Geology Lab
Required corequisite to GEOL 101. Labs are field-based as much as possible and are designed, not only to build a deeper understanding of the course material, but also to provide hands-on experience with some of the scientific techniques geologists use to study the environment.

GEOL 135, Oceanography & Environment
A study of the major contemporary concepts of biological, chemical, geological, and physical oceanography. The nature and origin of ocean basins by global plate tectonics, sedimentation, sea water composition, water masses, oceanic circulation, waves, tides, life in the sea, and biological productivity, are all discussed. The role of human impacts and environmental change, including ocean warming and acidification, and marine pollution are stressed throughout the course.