Environmental Science

[this special major is currently under revision. Please check with the Academic Coordinator for the most up-to-date information]

The Departments of Biology, Engineering, and Mathematics & Statistics, in collaboration with other departments, offer a special major in Environmental Science. The Environmental Science major consists of a series of prerequisite courses, core courses, several elective courses for the major, and a thesis. Each Environmental Science major will take at least six credits in a primary department, which can be Biology, Engineering or Mathematics & Statistics. Students in this major are advised by the chair of the Environmental Science committee and a faculty member from the primary department.

Note: An interdisciplinary minor in Environmental Studies is described in the Course Catalog (available here and below) By definition, a minor consists of at least five courses in the area of concentration and a culminating exercise such as a comprehensive examination, senior thesis or capstone seminar.

All students majoring in Environmental Science must complete the following prerequisites and core program:

Prerequisite courses

CHEM 010 Introductory Chemistry
CHEM 022 Organic Chemistry (Chemistry 32: Organic Chemistry II recommended)
Two Mathematics or Statistics courses (not including MATH 001 or 003); STAT 011 recommended.
BIOL 001 Cellular and Molecular Biology
BIOL 002 Organismal and Population Biology

Core courses

BIOL 036 Ecology
ENGR 004A Introduction to Environmental Protection (or ENGR. 057 & 066)
POLS 043 Environmental Policy and Politics
ECON 076 Environmental Economics

Elective courses

Students whose primary department is Biology must take three credits in Biology from the courses listed below. Students whose primary department is Engineering must take Engineering 032, 057 & 066 and two more of the Engineering courses listed below (an independent project in Engineering may substitute for one of these), and at least one Math course listed below (Math 027 & 33 are recommended). Students whose primary department is Mathematics and Statistics must take four of the Math courses listed below, including Math 027 & 033. In addition, majors in Environmental Science must take at least two courses (in addition to those from the primary department) from the following list:

ASTR 009 Meteorology
BIOL 010 Genetics
BIOL 016 Microbiology
BIOL 026 Invertebrate Zoology
BIOL 039 Marine Biology
BIOL 037 Systematic Botany
BIOL 137 Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning
CHEM 032 Organic Chemistry II
CHEM 038 Biochemistry
CHEM 108 Biochemistry Seminar
EDUC 065 Environmental Education
ENGR 006 Mechanics
ENGR 014 Experimentation for Engineering design
ENGR 035 Solar Energy Systems
ENGR 057 Operations Research
ENGR 061 Geotechnical Engineering
ENGR 063 Water Quality and Pollution Control
ENGR 064 Swarthmore and the Biosphere (not currently offered)
ENGR 066 Environmental Systems
HIST 068 Food and Famine (not currently offered)
MATH 029 Discrete Mathematics
MATH 027 Linear Algebra
MATH 033 Several Variable Calculus
MATH 031 Multivariate Statistical Methods
MATH 043 Differential Equations
MATH 041 Probability
MATH 053 Mathematical Statistics I
MATH 056 Modeling
MATH 111 Mathematical Statistics II
POLS 047 Global Policy and International Institutions
POLS 065 Politics of Population (not currently offered)
POLS 057 The Psychology of Environmental Problems (not currently offered)

 

Senior paper or thesis

All Environmental Science special majors write a thesis (1 or 2 credits) to be read by two faculty who are participating in the program, at least one of whom is in the student's primary department.

Goals

The thesis (SP 096) satisfies the senior comprehensive requirement for the special major in Environmental Science. The objectives of the thesis are to demonstrate the student's ability to:

1) Conduct a careful, independent literature search on a current topic using primary sources;

2) Write a critical review of current publications, addressed to readers who are ecologists and/or environmental scientists and written at the technical level of sophistication of a Special Feature article appearing in the journal Ecology;

3) Demonstrate an integrated understanding of ecological issues in light of current social, political and economic contexts;

4) Identify a problem of current environmental concern and present a management strategy that takes into account both biological and socio-political/economic realities.

Selection of a topic

The topic should be selected early in the first semester of the senior year.

1) The student must select a topic that is amenable to comprehensive treatment. The chosen topic must be examined from both biological and management perspectives.

2) The topic should be selected from areas of student interest and developed in consultation with faculty.

3) The topic may be a literature review and synthesis, a field research project, or a combination of the two, as agreed on in discussions with faculty.

Format

Noncompliance with the following standards will adversely affect the evaluation of the paper. Books on scientific writing, e.g. Pechenik (2010) or Day and Gastel (2006) (available in Cornell Library), should be consulted frequently.

1) Title. The paper must have a brief, informative title that clearly identifies the subject matter.

2) Format. The paper must be typed, double-spaced, with one-inch (2.5cm) margins (top, bottom, right, and left). Use Palatino or Times-Roman 12 point type.

3) Length. If elected for 1 credit, the paper should be no longer than 30 pages including literature cited, figures and tables. If elected for 2 credits, the paper should be no longer than 50 pages including literature cited, figures and tables. Complete papers will not be faulted for brevity. Your paper will be evaluated primarily on content, presentation and writing style; keep in mind that clear writing and presentation will focus the reader's attention on content. Avoid jargon and the passive voice.

Style

a) If the paper is a literature review and synthesis, it should be written in the style of a Special Feature article appearing in the journal Ecology. In such articles, section headings should be informative and concise, but are not strictly defined.

b) Projects with a substantial field research component should be written in the style of a research article appearing in the journal Ecology. In such articles, the following sections must appear: Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion, Literature Cited, and Acknowledgements. Review Pechenik (2010) or Day and Gastel (2006) for details about what is appropriate to include in each section. You are encouraged to include original drawings, tables or graphs created especially for the clarification and synthesis of the results. For examples of effective graphics, see Tufte (2001) .

Due date

The paper is due in the office of the Department of Biology no later than noon on the last day before spring break, which is usually in early March.