Department of Earth and Environmental Science
A great tool for planning your classes is the Course Search and Schedule Planning Tool. Search "GEOL" and "ENVS" to find classes offered in the Earth and Environmental Science Department.
If you are an ENVS or GEOL major, please make sure to consult your advisor and the curriculum for your major when choosing classes.
NOTE: Undergraduates may NOT take ENVS 533, ENVS 601 or ENVS 699 to satisfy any ENVS Major requirements.
There are currently three different general education curricula in Arts & Sciences. College students in the class of 2009 and earlier are either in the Standard Curriculum or the Pilot Curriculum.
CGS students in the class of 2009 and earlier are in the Standard Curriculum. College students and CGS students in the class of 2010 and later are in the New Curriculum.
Environmental Studies Courses
ENVS 098 The Next Millennium: Would Technology Help Us Resolve the Environmental Dilemma?
Over the last century we have witnessed the dominance of man over nature. Technology, our understanding of our environment and our consumption habits have been the principal weapons used to achieve this conquest. Now, at the beginning of a new millennium, many questions and concerns about our actions and perceptions are being raised. Can today's technology and the new knowledge about our environment and human nature assure our survival? How can we use the next one hundred years to reconstruct and restore our future? These are the fundamental questions that the class will investigate. The course will rely on evidence, the use of hypothesis and theories, logic as well as the students' scientific inquiry and creativity. We will discuss systems, models and simulations, constancy, patterns of change, evolution and scale.
ENVS 200 Introduction to Environmental Earth Science
Introduction to Environmental Science will expose students to the principles that underlie our understanding of how the Earth works. The goal of Earth System Science is to obtain a scientific understanding of the entire Earth system by describing its component parts (lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere) and their interactions, and describe how they have evolved, how they function, and how they may be expected to respond to human activity. The challenge to Earth System Science is to develop the capability to predict those changes that will occur in the next decade to century, both naturally and in response to human activity. Energy, both natural and humangenerated, will be used as a unifying principle. Knowledge gained through this course will help you make informed decisions in all spheres of human activity: science, policy, economics, etc. Course Syllabus
ENVS 204 Global Climate Change
Public perceptions and attitudes concerning the causes and importance of global warming have changed. Global Climate Change provides a sound theoretical understanding of global warming through an appreciation of the Earth's climate system and how and why this has changed through time. We will describe progress in understanding of the human and natural drivers of climate change, climate processes and attribution, and estimates of projected future climate change. We will assess scientific, technical and socio- economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. Course Syllabus
ENVS 301 Environmental Case Studies
A detailed, comprehensive investigation of selected environmental problems. Guest speakers from the government and industry will give their accounts of various environmental cases. Students will then present information on a case study of their choosing.
ENVS 312 Ocean Atmosphere Dynamics
This course covers the fundamentals of atmosphere and ocean dynamics, and aims to put these in the context of climate change in the 21st century. large-scale atmospheric and oceanic circulation, the global energy balance, and the global energy balance, and the global hydrological cycle. We will introduce concepts of fluid dynamics and we will apply these to the vertical and horizontal motions in the atmosphere and ocean. Concepts covered include: hydrostatic law, buoyancy and convection, basic equations of fluid motions, Hadley and Ferrel cells in the atmosphere, thermohaline circulation, Sverdrup ocean flow, modes of climate variability (El-Nino, North Atlantic Oscillation, Southern Annular Mode). The course will incorporate student led discussions based on readings of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and recent literature on climate change. Aimed at undergraduate or graduate students who have no prior knowledge of meteorology or oceanography or training in fluid mechanics. Previous background in calculus and/or introductory physics is helpful. This is a general course which spans many subdisciplines (fluid mechanics, atmospheric science, oceanography, hydrology).Course Syllabus
ENVS 325 Sustainable Goods
The study of sustainability—the long term viability of humans in harmony with the environment—has been identified as a critical issue for society and industry and is evolving to examine how society should conduct itself in order to survive. This issue impacts the consumer goods that we use in our lives, the processes that are designed to make these goods, and the raw materials that we obtain to create these goods. The questions that we will examine will be: can these goods be obtained, made, and consumed in a fashion that allows the current quality of life to be maintained (or enhanced) for future generations? Can these processes be sustainable? A review of consumer goods is necessary as the starting point in order to understand the basic needs of people in society and why people consume goods as they do. Subsequently, each student will choose a product to examine in detail and will research the product for its impact with respect to natural resource selection, production, use, and disposal/reuse.
ENVS 326 GIS Mapping Places and Analyzing Spaces
This course is a hands-on introduction to the concepts and capabilities of geographic information systems (GIS). Students will develop the skills necessary for carrying out basic GIS projects and for advanced GIS coursework. The class will focus on a broad range of functional and practical applications, ranging from environmental science and planning to land use history, social demography, and public health. By the end of the course, students will be able to find, organize, map, and analyze data using both vector (i.e. drawing-based) and raster (i.e. image-based) GIS tools, while developing an appreciation for basic cartographic principles relating to map presentation. This course fulfills the Geographical or Environmental Modeling requirement for ENVS majors. Previous experience in the use of GIS is not required.
ENVS 399 Environmental Research Seminar
This seminar is designed to help sophomores and juniors prepare for their Senior Thesis research. Topic selection, library research, presentation of data, basic research methods, advisor identification, and funding options will be discussed. This is a required course for the ENVS major. The course material will be tailored to the interests of the students enrolled.
ENVS 400-301: Seminar: The Human-Dominated Earth: Living in the Anthropocene (Plante, Spring 2013)
Beyond climate change, humans have altered the Earth's land, oceans and biosphere to such an extent that the concept of a new geologic epoch defined by the actions of humans, the Anthropocene, is widely and seriously debated. This seminar will examine the origins of the Anthropocene, the ways in which humans have altered Earth systems (excluding climate), whether or not these alterations warrant a new geologic designation, and what the future potentially holds for both humans and the planet.
ENVS 400-305: Seminar: Environmental Policy (Pepino, Fall 2013)
When we explore the environmental policies in the United States, we may think of one or more laws geared to protect our nation’s air, water, ecosystems, and biodiversity. However, environmental policies and policy-making comprise more than just specific laws and regulations. The process of making and implementing environmental policies is influenced by multiple political, cultural, technical, and scientific factors, all of which impact the ability of policies to actually reduce environmental risk. In this course, we analyze the various factors that affect environmental policy-making. We ask questions such as: How do policy makers define environmental problems and solutions? How are policies created and negotiated? What underlying assumptions about the role of government and society shape policy instruments and design? How has the current political landscape affected policy making? How are social and environmental justice intertwined to protect the most vulnerable populations and communities? During the course we will explore the policies that address traditional environmental pollutants found in air and water, but we will also investigate emerging risks such as Marcellus Shale hydrofracking for natural gas, and the presence of endocrine disruptors in our surface and drinking waters.
ENVS 404 Urban Environments: Speaking About Lead in West Philadelphia
Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, impaired hearing, behavioral problems and at very high levels, seizures, coma and even death. Young children up to the age of six are especially at risk because of their developing systems. They often ingest lead chips and dust while playing in their home and yards. In ENVS 404, Penn undergraduates will learn about the epidemiology of lead poisoning, the pathways of exposure, and methods for community outreach and education. Penn students will collaborate with middle school and high school teachers in West Philadelphia to engage middle school children in exercises that apply environmental research relating to lead poisoning to their homes and neighborhoods. Course Syllabus
ENVS 406 Community Based Environmental Health
The ABCS course will explore a wide variety of water and air health risks that are present in the environment that have the potential to produce significant human health impacts. Both biological and toxic agents will be researched by the students to determine points of exposures, and how these agents produce deleterious effects to an often unsuspecting population. Emerging topics, such as endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) in water supplies, pathogens and toxics in our food and water supply, household molds and second-hand smoke, will comprise some of the most relevant topics that will be explored. The community-based component of the course will require students to work with community organizations to assess a significant environmental health issue(s) in West Philadelphia and to develop practical, cost-effective solution(s) to meet community needs while mitigating impacts to an at-risk population. Course Syllabus
ENVS 407 Urban Environments: Prevention of Tobacco Smoking in Adolescents
Cigarette smoking is a major public health problem. The Centers for Disease Controls reports that more than 80% of current adult tobacco users started smoking before age 18. The National Youth Tobacco Survey indicated that 12.8% of middle school students and 34.8% of high school students in their study
In ENVS 407, Penn undergraduates learn about the short and long term physiological consequences of smoking, social influences and peer norms regarding tobacco use, the effectiveness of cessation programs, tobacco advocacy and the impact of the tobacco settlement. Penn students will collaborate with teachers in West Philadelphia to prepare and deliver lesson plans to 4th through 6th graders. The undergraduates will survey and evaluate middle school and Penn student body smoking usage. One of the goals of this course is to raise awareness of the middle school children to prevent addiction to tobacco smoke during adolescence. The collaboration with the middle schools gives the Penn students the opportunity to apply their study of the prevention of tobacco smoking to real world situations.Course Syllabus
ENVS 408 Urban Environments: The Urban Asthma Epidemic
Asthma as a pediatric chronic disease is undergoing a dramatic and unexplained increase. It has become the #1 cause of public school absenteeism and now accounts for a significant number of childhood deaths each year in the USA. The Surgeon General of the United States has characterized childhood asthma as an epidemic. In ENVS 408, Penn undergraduates learn about the epidemiology of urban asthma, the debate about the probable causes of the current asthma crisis, and the nature and distribution of environmental factors that modern medicine describes as potential triggers of asthma episodes.
Penn students will collaborate with the Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) on a clinical research study entitled the Community Asthma Prevention Program. The Penn undergraduates will co-teach with CHOP parent educators asthma classes offered at community centers in Southwest, West, and North Philadelphia. The CHOP study gives the Penn students the opportunity to apply their study of the urban asthma epidemic to real world situations. Course Syllabus
ENVS 410 "Clean Water - Green Cities" – An academically-based curriculum service learning approach to using water science and politics to create a sustainable Philadelphia
There is no metaphor like water itself to describe the cumulative effects of our practices, with every upstream action having an impact downstream. In our urban environment, too often we find degraded streams filled with trash, silt, weeds and dilapidated structures. The water may look clean, but is it? We blame others, but the condition of the creeks is directly related to how we manage our water resources and our land. In cities, these resources are often our homes, our streets and our communities.
This course will provide an overview of the cross-disciplinary fields of civil engineering, environmental sciences, urban hydrology, landscape architecture, green building, public outreach and politics. Students will be expected to conduct field investigations, review scientific data and creating indicator reports, working with stakeholders and presenting the results at an annual symposium. In the course, we will define the current issues of the urban ecosystem and how we move toward managing this system in a sustainable manner. We will gain an understanding of the dynamic, reciprocal relationship between practices throughout a watershed and its waterfront environments. Topics discussed will include: drinking water quality and protection, green infrastructure, urban impacts of climate change, watershed monitoring and reporting, talking to the public and advocacy groups about environmental issues, creating implementation strategies for green communities.
ENVS 426 Managing Environmental Risks in an Uncertain World
How do government policy-makers make decisions about potential threats to human health and the environment in the face of uncertain scientific information? Using case studies, this course examines how public policy decisions regarding environmental risk are made and how effective those decisions are. The course focuses on the complex interaction of science, economics, politics, laws, and regulations in dealing with environmental and health risks. The course will begin with a policy overview of the principles and methods used in evaluating human health and environmental risks, including quantitative and qualitative aspects of hazard identification, dose-response assessment, exposure assessment, and risk characterization. The course will then focus on how scientific uncertainty, risk perceptions, economics, public participation, special interests, and politics influence environmental policy decisions. Issues such as special populations (e.g., children, environmental justice, tribes), improved materials management, cost-benefit analysis, and the “precautionary principle” will be discussed in the context of different types of environmental concerns (e.g., pesticides, chemicals, climate change, air pollution, water quality, and land use). Personal, community, corporate, and government roles and responsibilities will also be discussed in the context of societal risk management.
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GEOL 096 Freshman Seminar: Field Approaches to Understanding Earth and Environmental Science
This freshman seminar will consist of a series of field trips and related class room lectures and discussions. The field trips will be led by Prof. Scatena and faculty of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science. The class will discuss the trips in the field and before and after each class. Course Syllabus
GEOL 100 Introduction to Geology
An introduction to processes and forces that form the surface and the interior of the Earth. Changes in climate and the history of life. Earth resources and their uses. Course Syllabus
GEOL 103 Natural Disturbances and Human Disasters
Natural disturbances play a fundamental role in sculpturing landscapes and structuring natural and human-based ecosystems. This course explores the natural and social science of disturbances by analyzing their geologic causes, their ecological and social consequences, and the role of human behavior in disaster reduction and mitigation. Volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, droughts, fires, and extraterrestrial impacts are analyzed and compared.
GEOL 109 Introduction to Geotechnical Science
Open to architectural and engineering majors as well as Ben Franklin Scholars. Field trips. Relations of rocks, rock structures, soils, ground water, and geologic agents to architectural, engineering, and land-use problems.
GEOL 111 Geology Lab
Hands-on study of earth materials and processes. Identification and interpretation of rocks, minerals and fossils. Topographic and geologic maps. Evolution of landscapes. Field trips lead to a synthesis of the geologic history of southeastern Pennsylvania.
GEOL 125 Earth and Life Through Time
Origin of Earth, continents, and life. Continental movements, changing climates, and evolving life.Course Syllabus
GEOL 130 Oceanography
The oceans cover over 2/3 of the Earth's surface. This course introduces basic oceanographic concepts such as plate tectonics, marine sediments, physical and chemical properties of seawater, ocean circulation, air-sea interactions, waves, tides, nutrient cycles in the ocean, biology of the oceans, and environmental issues related to the marine environment.Course Syllabus
GEOL 201 Mineralogy
Crystallography, representative minerals, their chemical and physical properties. Use of petrographic microscope in identifying common rock-forming minerals in thin section.
GEOL 205 Paleontology
Geologic history of invertebrates and their inferred life habits, paleoecology, evolution. Introduction to paleobotany and vertebrate paleontology. Course Syllabus
GEOL 206 Stratigraphy
Introductory sedimentary concepts, stratigraphic principles, depositional environments, and interpretation of the rock record in a paleoecological setting. Course Syllabus
GEOL 208 Structural Geology
Introduction to deformation as a fundamental geologic process. Stress and strain; rock mechanics. Definition, measurement, geometrical and statistical analysis, and interpretation of structural features. Structural problems in the field. Maps, cross-sections, and three-dimensional visualization; regional structural geology.
GEOL 305 Earth Surface Processes
Patterns on the Earth's surface arise due to the transport of sediment by water and wind, with energy that is supplied by climate and tectonic deformation of the solid Earth. This course presents a treatment of the processes of erosion and deposition that shape landscapes. Emphasis will be placed on using simple physical principles as a tool for (a) understanding landscape patterns including drainage networks, river channels and deltas, desert dunes, and submarine channels, (b) reconstructing past environmental conditions using the sedimentary record, and (c) the management of rivers and landscapes under present and future climate scenarios. The course will conclude with a critical assessment of landscape evolution on other planets, including Mars. Course Syllabus
GEOL 317 Petrology and Petrography
Occurrences and origins of igneous and metamorphic rocks; phase equilibria in heterogeneous systems. Laboratory study of rocks and thin sections as a tool in interpretation of petrogenesis.
GEOL 390 Geologic Field Methods
Geologic field work in the summer. See the Resources page for more information on field camps.
GEOL 399 Geology Research Seminar
This seminar is designed to help Juniors prepare for the Senior Thesis research. Topic selection, advisor identification, funding options, and basic research methods will be discussed.
GEOL 415 Paleobotany
Fossil record and evolution of plants. Methods and application of paleobotanical research.
GEOL 418 Geochemistry
This course provides a comprehensive introduction to theory and applications of chemistry in the earth and environmental sciences. Theory covered will include nucleosynthesis, atomic structure, acid-base equilibrium, thermodynamics, oxidation-reduction reactions. Applications will emphasize oceanography, atmospheric sciences and environmental chemistry, as well as other topics depending on the interests of the class. Although we will review the basics, this course is intended to supplement, rather than to replace, courses offered in the department of Chemistry. It is appropriate for advanced undergraduate as well as graduate students in Geology, Environmental Science, Chemistry and other sciences, who wish to have a better understanding of these important chemical processes.
GEOL 419 Coastal Change
This course examines the coasts of the world, how they have developed in the past, how they operate and are managed at present, and how they may develop in the future in the face of climate change. The challenge of coastal science is to develop the capability to predict changes that will occur in the next decade to century from external (e.g., earthquakes and tsunamis, hurricanes, sea-level rise) and internal (e.g. sediment dynamics) processes. In this course, students will acquire hands-on experience on some of the procedures employed to study the coastal system through practical fieldwork and applied laboratory research methodology.
GEOL 421 Elemental Cycling in Global Systems
Humans have an enormous impact on the global movement of chemical materials. Biogeochemistry has grown to be the principal scientific discipline to examine the flow of elements through global earth systems and to examine human impacts on the global environment. This course will introduce and investigate processes and factors controlling the biogeochemical cycles of elements within and between the hydrosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. Students will apply principles learned in lectures by building simple computer-based biogeochemical models. Course Syllabus
GEOL 422 Rates and Dates
Advances in dating methods have revolutionized scientists understanding of how the Earth and its inhabitants have changed over time. This course is designed to give undergraduate students and graduate students an understanding of the science behind numerical dating techniques in geological, archaeological and paleontological contexts. This course will provide a background in the physics of radioactive decay and natural radiation sources. We will cover various radiometric dating methods, and non-radiometric alternatives. Numerous case studies involving questions of both geological and archaeological importance will be studied in this context. This class will cater to students interested in archeology, paleontology, physical anthropology, soil science, tectonics, sea level change, climate change, land use change and ocean processes.
GEOL 477 Introduction to Vertebrate Paleontology
GEOL 478 Evolution of the Dinosaurs
GEOL/ENVS 498 Senior Thesis
Students write a thesis on a geologic topic. Students work with an advisor in their discipline. Course Syllabus
GEOL 501 Pleistocene Geology
Origin, extent in space and time, and effect on geologic processes of Late Cenozoic climatic change; Pleistocene stratigraphy in different parts of the world.
GEOL 503 Earth Systems & Earth Hazards
This course will examine the hazards that arise from living on an active planet from a large-scale systems standpoint. We will briefly survey the Earth's major systems, emphasizing energy generation, storage, and flow within the Earth, and then proceed to an examination of the hazards that result. This will include earthquakes and tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, river and coastal flooding, and hurricanes, tornadoes, and other major storms. We will touch briefly on global warming and other current topics.
GEOL 508. The Geology and Geography of Energy Resources
This course will survey the way geology controls the formation and location of energy resources. Questions we'll address include, "How are oil and gas fields formed?", "Why does the Middle East have so much oil?", "What are the best locations in the US for wind and solar energy generation, and why?". We will discuss hydrocarbon, nuclear, solar, wind, and tidal energy sources.
GEOL 511 Soils
Nature, properties, genesis, and classification of soils; soils of the United States.
GEOL 515. Evolution/Revolution of Land Ecosystems
Origin and diversification of land ecosystems. Interaction between plants and animals. Effects of past climatic change and other external factors. The importance of past changes in land ecosystems to our understanding of current global change.
GEOL 526: Topics in Paleobiology
GEOL 542 Advanced Topics in Earth Surface Processes: Numerical Techniques and Applications
This course will introduce numerical techniques for analyzing data and formulating models in Earth Science. Students will first be introduced to Octave, a high level computer programming language (equivalent to Matlab, but free of cost) that allows data analysis and manipulation, sophisticated plotting and numerical modeling from the same interface.
Data analysis will focus on time series, pattern recognition, image/topography analysis, and correlation statistics; modeling will include groundwater and surface water flow, random processes, diffusion, and erosion and deposition. This will be a seminar-style course where discussion will be encouraged, and additional topics may be covered depending on student interest. Through project-based learning exercises students will gain proficiency in Octave which will be useful for all aspects of Earth science.
GEOL 604 Geostatistical Analysis
Univariate and multivariate approaches to the analysis of spatial correlation and variability. Many disciplines, including geology, ecology and the environmental sciences regularly need to analyze and make predictions from data that is spatially autocorrelated. Mine reserve estimation, pollutant dispersal and the use of randomization tests in ecology are examples of where spatial statistics may be applied.
GEOL 611 Field Study of Soils
Processes of soil development in a variety of temperate environments. Effects of lithology and climate on soil properties.
GEOL 614 Regional Geology and Ecology of North America
GEOL 619 Instrumentation for the Geosciences
An introduction to the theory, operation and application of modern analytical instrumentation used in geo- and environmental sciences. Primarily focused on laboratory instrumentation such as mass spectroscopy, elemental analyses and x-ray techniques. Some field instruments will be introduced as well. Students will be expected to develop projects utilizing the various instruments.
GEOL 622 Rates and Dates
GEOL 631 Reconstructing Former Sea Levels
The significance of relative sea level since the last glacial maximum is recognized by disciplines across the Earth sciences. Relative sea-level histories are important for calibrating and constraining geophysical models of Earth's rheology and the isostatic adjustment of Earth to ice and water loads. Sea level is crucial to any study of coastal evolution as it serves as the ultimate baseline for continental denudation. The stability of sea level in recent past has been an important factor in sustaining coastal communities and may have profoundly influenced the very initiation of human civilization. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently re-emphasized the importance of sea level as a barometer of climate and drew attention to the potentially devastating consequences of future climate change. However, the IPCC also highlighted the uncertainty with which the driving mechanisms of recent sea-level change are understood and the disconnect between
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Department of Earth and Environmental Science
240 S. 33rd Street
(T) - 215-898-5724
(F) - 215-898-0964