Environmental Studies

Website: Environmental Studies

The expansive curriculum of the environmental studies program—including natural and social sciences as well as the humanities and fine arts—offers students multiple pathways to appreciating the ecological complexity and wonder of the earth we inhabit. The program’s spread of curricular options enables majors to develop not only depth of exposure to certain fields and methodologies of study, but also cross-disciplinary breadth of understanding. This broad-gauged outlook is crucial for graduates looking to address the inherently interdisciplinary challenges of environmental study in today’s world. 

A major asset of the Environmental Studies program at Sewanee is the unparalleled opportunity for field study available throughout the University’s 13,000-acre land-base, commonly known as “the Domain,” and its "living laboratory" for inquiry. This extensive tract includes extensive woodlands, lakes, trails, caves, and bluffs that surround the central campus and encompass the residential village of Sewanee. 

Professors: Bachman, Brown, Dale, Durig, Evans, Haskell, Knoll (Chair), Kuers, Malde, McGrath, Michael, S. Miller, Peters, Pond, Ray, Sherwood, K. Smith, Torreano, Willis, Zigler

Associate Professors: Cecala, Elrod, Levine

Assistant Professor: Carter

The College of Arts and Sciences offers three majors focused on the environment:

The College of Arts and Sciences offers two minors focused on the environment:

The certificate of curricular study in watershed science is designed for students interested in gaining a better understanding of the interactions among the physical, chemical, and biological factors that affect our watersheds and wetlands. Students pursuing the certificate take a range of courses that focus on water resources and watershed science. In addition to hydrology, students take at least one half-course in applied watershed science, and choose additional watershed science courses from a list that contains offerings in a variety of disciplines, including biology, chemistry, forestry, geology, and environmental studies. Each student completes the certificate with the watershed science capstone course, a multidisciplinary, project oriented course in which students address issues related to two or more of the following topic areas: the interaction of biological processes and watershed function, chemical processes in streams and watersheds, the relationship between forested landscapes and hydrologic systems, or geological processes in terrestrial aquatic systems. The capstone project may be a semester project created solely for the capstone, or may begin as a watershed-related summer internship project that is further developed by the student during an academic semester.

Students who obtain the certificate will be better prepared to pursue graduate training in watershed science and other hydrologic disciplines, or to begin careers associated with watershed science and management.

Students deciding to pursue the certificate should contact one of the faculty members of the Watershed Science Certificate Organizing Committee to develop his or her study plan. The organizing committee is also available to help a student identify his or her area of emphasis and primary faculty supervisor for the ESCI 430; together the student and primary supervisor identify the second discipline and arrange to work with a faculty member in that area. 

Requirements for the Certificate in Watershed Science

The certificate of curricular study requires successful completion of the following:

ESCI 430Watershed Science Capstone4
FORS/GEOL 314Hydrology (Lab)4
Select one of the following:2
Independent Study
Forest Watershed Measurements
Watershed Contaminant Hydrology
Select 12 hours from the following:12
Ecology (Lab)
Freshwater Biology (Lab)
Fundamentals of GIS
Freshwater Conservation
Advanced Applications of GIS
Island Ecology (Lab)
Fisheries Ecology and Management (Lab)
Forest and Watershed Restoration (Lab)
Water Resource Policy and Law
Soils (Lab)
Forest Ecology (Lab)
Soils (Lab)
Total Semester Hours22

Island Ecology Program

The Island Ecology Program is an interdisciplinary summer field school in the sciences. Following a seminar during the Easter (spring) semester, students study geological, biological, and broadly ecological topics for five weeks on St. Catherines Island, an undeveloped barrier island off the coast of Georgia. The experience emphasizes the interdependence of these disciplines by exploring how the fragile ecosystem of the island functions. The program is limited to ten Sewanee students but is open to non-science as well as science majors. Four faculty members from two departments teach in the program each spring and summer.

Environmental Science Courses

Courses with the ESCI designation are interdisciplinary in nature, focus on environmental sciences, and do not otherwise fit into one of Sewanee's traditional science disciplines. ESCI courses differ from Environmental Studies courses (ENST) in that the major focus is on environmental science and scientific methodology. Interdiscipinary non-science aspects of the environment, which are often central to ENST courses, play a more minor role in ESCI courses.

ESCI 205     Landscape Ecology  (4)

ESCI 215     Sound, Soundscapes, and the Environment  (4)

A study of sound and its roles in terrestrial and aquatic ecology, biodiversity conservation, and environmental justice. Topics include the evolution and ecology of sonic communication and soundscapes, the role of sound in the study and management of ecosystems, the origins and effects of noise pollution, and the future of Earth’s sensory richness. Labs emphasize the appreciation, measurement, and analysis of sounds from the local environment. Prerequisite: BIOL 130 or ENST 101.

ESCI 240     Island Ecology (Lab)  (8)

This interdisciplinary field course combines the study of geology, oceanography, marine biology, botany, and wildlife behavior in a single coastal island ecosystem. Prerequisite: Only open to students who have completed ENST 140 and been admitted to the Island Ecology program.

ESCI 310     Oceanography  (4)

A multi-disciplinary exploration of the ocean’s diversity of dynamics, habitats, and organisms, with an emphasis on the complex processes that connect them. Foundational principles, methods and technology, and the latest progress in the marine sciences are covered. Prerequisite: ENST 209.

ESCI 430     Watershed Science Capstone  (4)

Capstone course for students pursuing the watershed science certificate. A multidisciplinary, project-oriented course in which students address issues related to two or more of the following topic areas: the interaction of biological processes and watershed function, chemical processes in streams and watershed, the relation between forested landscapes and hydrologic systems, or geological processes in terrestrial aquatic systems. Open only to seniors pursuing curricular certificates in watershed science.

ESCI 444     Independent Study  (2 or 4)

A supervised field or laboratory investigation of an interdisciplinary topic in environmental science. This course may be repeated for credit when the topic differs. Prerequisite: Instructor prerequisite override required.

ESCI 450     Readings in Environmental Sciences  (2)

A course exploring and integrating themes in current and historical literature in archaeology, earth sciences, forestry, geography, spatial analysis, and watershed sciences. Open only to seniors pursuing majors in forestry, geology, or natural resources and the environment. Open only to seniors pursuing majors in forestry, geology, or natural resources and the environment.

Environmental Studies Courses

ENST 100     Walking the Land  (4)

A field-oriented geology and writing course, conducted on the Cumberland Plateau and surrounding provinces. The emphasis will be on observation of geological features, particularly geomorphology, and how these relate to other natural parts of the landscape. Historical aspects of human use of the land will also be emphasized. Extensive walking and hiking. Field journals will be part of the writing- intensive approach.

ENST 101     Introduction to Environmental Studies  (4)

An interdisciplinary introduction to Environmental Studies through the examination of the scientific and social aspects of environmental issues. Field components of the course focus on the University Domain and the surrounding area. This course is required for all students who major or minor in environmental studies and should be taken before the junior year. Open only to first-year students, sophomores, and juniors.

ENST 140     Readings in Island Ecology  (2)

Supervised readings and discussion in geology, hydrology, invertebrate zoology, marine zoology, maritime plant communities, and wildlife behavior as preparation for participation in the interdisciplinary summer Island Ecology program. Prerequisite: Only open to students admitted to the Island Ecology program.

ENST 150     Introduction to "Nature" Writing  (4)

Students conduct experiments in nonfiction writing and critique, informed by study of the local environment and notable contemporary essays that discuss how "nature" is understood and represented. Class activities focus on literary craft, peer critique, and revision of written work. Field study provides both substance and inspiration for student writing. Open only to first-year students and sophomores.

ENST 200     Introduction to Environmental Arts and Humanities  (4)

An introduction to Environmental Arts and Humanities, this course acquaints students with the diverse perspectives offered by environmental approaches in the fields of literature, history, art, art history, classical studies, music, philosophy, anthropology, and religion. Students are expected to integrate three of these perspectives in a transdisciplinary research project. Open only to first-year students and sophomores.

ENST 201     Foundations of Food and Agriculture  (4)

Integrating local, regional, and global perspectives, this course outlines the history of agriculture, introduces the development of food systems and policy, and reviews the environmental impact of food production. Among topics addressed are the history of agricultural expansion in the US, the development of agriculture and food policies, interaction among agricultural markets at home as well as abroad, and sustainable agriculture. Classroom activities emphasize the involvement of multiple constituencies in identifying and articulating agricultural issues. Field opportunities include garden activities and local trips aimed at relating broader issues to how livelihoods are pursued on the Cumberland Plateau.

ENST 205     Environmental Writing in Digital Media  (4)

An examination of the interaction between the digital revolution in writing and the environmental crisis. Readings and analysis of contemporary environmental writing in digital media are complemented by student writing and peer critique. Instruction includes both classroom and online work, with a focus on experiential investigation and critique of writing on digital platforms. Prerequisite: ENST 101.

ENST 207     Introduction to Modeling for Sustainability  (4)

This course explores the role of models in addressing the challenge of sustainability. Models allow us to describe and predict the behavior of people and ecosystems, to understand complex social-ecological systems, and to make informed decisions in light of uncertainty. In this class, students explore multiple types of models and how they are applied to sustainability topics through peer reviewed literature. Students learn to use multiple mental models to better understand complex systems, and are introduced to quantitative modeling in the programming platform R.

ENST 209     Ecosystems of the Ocean  (4)

As an introduction to the geologic, physical, chemical, and biological processes of the world's ocean, this course emphasizes its complex relationships with human cultures. Students in this course engage with a mix of readings from scientific journals, textbooks, and classic literature while conducting their own scientific reviews to pursue questions at the frontiers of ocean sciences.

ENST 211     Sustainability and Global Environmental Change Seminar  (2)

This seminar-style course exposes students to literature on a variety of issues related to climate change and other examples of our dynamic global environment including natural resource use and natural hazards. Prerequisite: Only open to students who have been admitted to the Global Environmental Change Field Studies Program.

ENST 212     Sustainability and Global Environmental Change Field Studies  (2)

This course is an interdisciplinary field immersion into a selected location that provides tangible experience of the concepts introduced in ENST 211. Students travel throughout the field site, exploring real-world examples of sustainability efforts in the context of our changing global environment. Concepts of sustainability, climate change, natural resource use, and natural hazards will be explored in the field context. Field sites may change from year to year. Prerequisite: Only open to students who have been admitted to the Global Environmental Change Field Studies Program.

ENST 217     Fundamentals of GIS  (4)

An introduction to the basic concepts and applications of geographic information systems (GIS). Topics include geographic data acquisition, data management, cartography, and methods of geospatial analysis. Laboratory exercises and projects focus on applications of GIS in understanding and managing the environment. Laboratory course.

ENST 230     Native Americans and Land Use  (4)

An introduction to the past and current distribution of Native American tribes in the Americas, with a particular emphasis on North America. This course will focus on the current literature regarding past land use as well as the hunting practices of the various tribes and how those practices have changed today.

ENST 235     Freshwater Conservation  (4)

A survey of existing and emerging threats to wetland ecosystems and the consequences for animal and human populations. This course discusses causes, consequences, and solutions for issues of international and local concern based on an understanding of freshwater ecology and function. Also considers multiple perspectives on water use and attempts to reconcile these differences so as to identify and publicize potential conservation solutions. Prerequisite: BIOL 130 or ENST 101 or FORS 121.

ENST 241     Sustain Leaders Seminar I  (2)

In the first of two seminars for Sustain Leaders, students prepare for the Sustain Leaders program by developing their chosen projects and practicing the skills necessary to serve as effective, principled leaders in sustainability. Discussion focuses on topics related to student projects in the context of the current sustainability environment with an emphasis on real-world developments, issues, and outcomes. The course also examines leading best practices and leadership strategies in the field of sustainability. Students will practice effective planning, project management, and presentation skills as well as verbal and written communication skills through independent and collaborative work on their projects. Prerequisite: Only open to students admitted to the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability's Sustain Leaders Program.

ENST 242     Sustain Leaders Seminar II  (2)

This seminar is designed to complement ENST 241. Students will continue the development and finalization of proposed projects that were initiated in ENST 241 and continue exploring sustainability studies topics related to project development. Prerequisite: ENST 241.

ENST 250     Environmental and Biological Non-Fiction  (4)

An examination of contemporary intersections among literature, journalism, biological science, and the study of the environment, supplemented by readings of nineteenth- and twentieth-century antecedents. Assignments allow students to develop their own writing abilities in these areas. Consideration is also given to the relationships among non-fiction, fiction, and other forms of creative expression.

ENST 252     Writing for the Earth Sciences  (4)

Science doesn’t exist in a bubble! This course aims to make students more comfortable writing about scientific topics for a wide range of target audiences. Topics will include: the anatomy of a scientific paper, understanding peer review, the effective use of statistics and visual aids, writing at the intersection of science and policy, effective scientific outreach and its impact on scientific literacy, communication in the digital age, and effectively describing research experiences in the context of applying to jobs and/or graduate programs.

ENST 263     Photography for Environmental and Social Impact  (4)

This course explores the ways in which environmental and social issues influence the economic, political, and cultural aspects of communities. Through interdisciplinary approaches with photography, students consider how an understanding of environmental and social relationships can lead to resilient, innovative communities and to community-based action. Prerequisite or Corequisite: ART 263 or ART 363.

ENST 304     Community Development and Place in Rural Appalachia  (4)

Focusing on the rural counties of the Cumberland Plateau near Sewanee, this course explores environmental, cultural, historical, and political narratives that define the people and places of rural Appalachia. Economic and community development are examined not only through the literature on these topics but also through hands-on, applied learning in partnership with local communities, organizations, institutions, and leaders.

ENST 305     Ecological Integrity in Agriculture  (4)

This course develops a critique of problems and solutions relating to agricultural technology, policy, and practice with a specific focus on ecology and ecological integrity. The course begins with a brief survey of agricultural history, through the era of modern food systems, with emphasis on the development of industrial agriculture. After evaluating the environmental impact of modern agriculture, the course addresses the foundations of sustainability, with specific reference to the ecology of sustainable agriculture. Field opportunities are provided for students to interact with local producers on their farms and to engage directly the ecological processes involved in food production on the Domain. Prerequisite: BIOL 130.

ENST 306     Ecosystem Services  (4)

This course explores the myriad benefits that people derive from nature from an interdisciplinary perspective drawing on the natural and social sciences. In this course, students learn about the theory and measurement of ecosystem services through the peer-reviewed literature. Students will apply theory and skills in ecosystem service quantification to an engagement project with a community partner. Prerequisite: BIOL 130 or ENST 101 or ECON 101 or PHIL 230.

ENST 317     Advanced Applications of GIS  (4)

This course uses spatial analysis methods for environmental analysis and management. Topics include remote sensing and image analysis, surface analysis, spatial statistics, internet mapping, visualization of geographic data, and other advanced GIS methods. Prerequisite: ENST 217.

ENST 320     Environment and Sustainability Colloquium  (4)

This required course for junior environment and sustainability majors addresses some topical themes from an interdisciplinary perspective and with focus on the connections between science and policy. Colloquium themes vary from year to year, and students present relevant research articles and lead discussions with emphasis on developing skill in public speaking. Students also work with course instructors and faculty mentor(s) to propose a research project to be completed as part of their senior environment and sustainability capstone. Open only to juniors pursuing majors in environment and sustainability. Prerequisite: ENST 101 and completion of the foundational science requirement in major.

ENST 325     Environmental Arts and Humanities Seminar  (4)

Required for junior Environmental Arts and Humanities majors, this course introduces students to noteworthy contemporary works in the fields of environmental arts and humanities, with a special emphasis on interdisciplinary sources. Students work on in-depth projects of their own in collaboration with environmental arts and humanities faculty, complete a proposal for their senior capstone project, and engage in substantive peer evaluation and critique. Open only to juniors pursuing majors in Environmental Arts and Humanities. Open only to juniors pursuing majors in environmental arts and humanities. Prerequisite: ENST 101.

ENST 334     Environmental Policy and Law  (4)

This course combines the study of public policy with the study of major environmental problems. Students will explore public policy concepts and the instruments used in environmental regulation. Topics will include air and water quality issues hazardous waste and risk management, natural resources and biological diversity. The course will also discuss the impact of environmental groups and citizen activism on this highly complex area of public policy. Not open for credit to students who have completed POLS 334. Prerequisite: ENST 101 or ENST 200.

ENST 336     Environmental Land-Use Policy  (4)

This course examines the complex systems and values influencing land-use decision-making in both rural and urban settings throughout the U.S. and abroad. Students learn how government agencies and local citizens often conflict in their attitudes and values regarding the costs and benefits of growth and development. Particular attention is paid to forest conversion issues on the South Cumberland Plateau. Students attend local planning sessions and meetings with local officials. Prerequisite: ENST 101 or ENST 200.

ENST 350     "Nature" Writing  (4)

An exploration of the literature of "nature." Students interrogate ideas of nature and investigate literary responses to these ideas. Readings for the class include works from multiple cultural perspectives, including texts by writers for whom the idea of nature is alien or oppressive.

ENST 351     Field Studies in "Nature" Writing  (4)

Students conduct experiments in writing and critique, informed by contemplative engagement with the community of life on the University's land. Prerequisite: ENST 350.

ENST 399     Special Topics  (4)

A seminar on a topic related to environmental studies. This course may be repeated for credit when the topic differs.

ENST 400     Environmental Arts and Humanities Capstone  (4)

A capstone experience for Environmental Arts and Humanities majors. An examination of selected environmental issues from a variety of perspectives in the natural and social sciences and humanities. Special emphasis on student research on the Domain and in the region. Open only to seniors pursuing majors in environmental arts and humanities.

ENST 421     Environment and Sustainability Capstone  (4)

This course provides a capstone experience for the Environment and Sustainability major. Major components include independent student research projects and an examination of selected environmental issues from a variety of perspectives in the natural and social sciences. Open only to seniors pursuing majors in environment and sustainability. Prerequisite: ENST 320.

ENST 431     Practicum in Religion and Environment  (2)

This course, which calls for involvement in some faith-based or otherwise engaged form of appropriate activity or service, offers students a capstone opportunity to examine their spiritual experiences and religious beliefs in the context of active engagement with environmental issues in a variety of ways. Reflection on the engagement experience, expressed both in written form and through oral presentation, is required. Open only to juniors or seniors pursuing minors in religion and the environment. Prerequisite: Instructor prerequisite override required.

ENST 444     Independent Study  (2 or 4)

An opportunity for students to explore a topic of interest in an independent or directed manner. Prerequisite: Instructor prerequisite override required.