Environmental Studies Curriculum

Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary program that draws students who bring the skills they've learned in a wide range of disciplines to bear on questions regarding the relationship between people and the environment. At New College, our program in Environmental Studies is built around five key concepts:

• Scale
• Systems
• Place
• Values
• Change

Our program also emphasizes demonstrated competence in:

• Understanding of ecological theory
• Skill in descriptive observation
• Skill in quantitative measurement and statistical analysis
• Computer literacy and comfort with several types of software
• Communication skill in both writing and public speaking
• Service to the community
• Local sense of place

As an Environmental Studies student at New College, you will also be expected to complete a basic course in ecology, psychology, chemistry, and political sciences or economics. Courses in methods and statistics are also strongly recommended. While most of our students choose the Environmental Studies AOC as a stand-alone major, it is possible to meet requirements in two areas for a double major, or Slash AOC as we call it, such as Environmental Studies and Psychology.

Here’s a list of recent course offerings in Environmental Studies:

Introduction to Environmental Studies
This course is designed to introduce students to key concepts and contemporary themes in environmental studies and science using a geographic approach. The course offers students a baseline understanding of the complexity of human-environment interactions, the importance of scale and regions, as well as the implications and issues that arise from these interrelationships. The course components will include: (1) Science, Sustainability and Systems; (2) Natural/Human Systems; (3) Population and Urbanization Challenges; (4) Resources Issues; (5) Living with the Earth’s Carrying Capacity; and (6) Ethics. An overarching theme of the course will be the notion of 'sustainability' in the context of global environmental and societal change.

Methods and Representations in Environmental Studies
Questions relating to the environment are addressed in every discipline and, often, across disciplines. Thus, the methods used to address these questions are varied. Students in Environmental Studies need to understand this variety of approaches. This course is designed to introduce second and third year students intending to concentrate in Environmental Studies to some of these methods. Students will gain some experience with interviews, surveys, GIS, policy analysis, ecological techniques, and the scientific method. In the first mod of the course, students will be introduced to these methods; in the second mod, we will apply the methods to questions of class interest. We will also consider different forms of evidence and presentation style as well as investigating venues for finding previous work in particular fields. In addition, each student will consider her/his own interests and how to use them to create his/her future path in Environmental Studies at New College.

Introduction to Botany
An introduction to the biology of plants, including cells, energy and biomass production, biochemical and physiological systems, in vivo structure, reproduction, diversity and ecology will be taught. Similarities between single celled photosynthetic organisms and multi-cellular vascular plants will be explored. Students are expected to successfully complete quizzes, a mid-term, a final, and write a research paper on an approved plant Topic.

Ecological Anthropology
This seminar examines the major trends in the development of ecological anthropology, with special emphasis on 1) the role of ecology in evolutionary theory, and 2) case studies of the interaction of people, culture and the environment. Among the topics covered will be: hunter-gatherers, pastoralism, agrarian ecology, the ecology of ritual and warfare, population ecology, ancient civilizations and the environment, ecology and culture change, environmental justice, and various current issues where culture and the environment intersect. This seminar does not offer a biological approach to the study of ecosystems, nor is it a trendy course on how to recycle beer cans; it is a comparative survey of the ways in which people interact with their physical environments. The primary focus will be on theories concerning the effects of the environment on the development and evolution of culture, and the seminar will provide a forum for the discussion of these issues.

Environmental Studies Capstone
There are now hundreds of great books and essays dealing with environmental themes. In this capstone seminar for graduating Environmental Studies 4th-year students, we will discuss a few books and numerous shorter readings that cover a wide spectrum of environmental topics, time periods, and locales. Where appropriate, we've selected texts with special relevance to Florida. These are readings every environmental studies student should be know, and this course is a required offering for an environmental studies area of concentration.

Coral Reef Ecology
This course is a survey of the principles and concepts of ecology as applied to the study of coral reef ecosystems. Unique features of coral reefs will be considered as well as features in common with other ecosystems. The role of coral reefs in global ecology will be investigated and examples of reefs in the major reef provinces will be studied, with some emphasis on the Caribbean. Theoretical issues in ecology will be considered in light of impacts on reef dynamics of anthropogenic and natural factors. This course will provide the background for a field course offered in Panama.

Sustainable Development
This course examines the tension between the need for economic development in less-developed countries and the necessity to protect and preserve the environment. It is an appropriate point of entry for environmental studies students with policy/international interests. Prior coursework in economics, sociology and/or political science is helpful but not a mandatory prerequisite. The course covers domestic issues facing developing countries as they attempt to solve their economic and environmental problems as well as the relationship between developing countries and the rest of the international community in dealing with environmental problems. There will be a midterm and final exam in addition to a series of group writing assignments and structured debates.

Urban Sociology
This course is an introduction to the sociological study of the urban landscape, with a particular focus on the United States. The first part of the course will focus on conceptual and theoretical issues associated with sociological study of the city, from the "Chicago school " sociologists at the turn of the century to more recent analyses of the "social production" of urban space and the sociology of place. In the middle weeks of the course, we turn to the task of gaining an historical understanding of the processes of urbanization and suburbanization in the United States. The last part of the course will focus more on current issues relevant to the challenge of building livable and sustainable cities. Topics will include: urbanism as a sociological phenomenon; suburbanization; ghettoization and gentrification; modernism, "urban renewal," and the technology of city-building; culture and politics of urban places, with a particular focus on race, class, and gentrification in contemporary cities; re-formed city centers and new images of urbanity; transformations of urban space as we move from the progressive image of the city as "the hope of democracy" to the supposedly imminent "end of public space;" postmodernist criticism and neotraditional urbanism; sustainable urbanism.

Judaism and Ecology
Over time Judaism has developed certain notions about protecting the environment and respecting natural resources. This course will trace these ideas from the Bible until today, focusing on the creation of both legal and conceptual traditions. Students will explore a variety of early rabbinic, medieval and modern texts. In addition, readings and discussion will consider the special challenges and rewards of constructing a dialogue between ancient traditions and modern concerns.

For detailed requirements, check out our General Catalog and the Environmental Studies Academic Learning Compact.

For a complete list of courses, click here.


Internships, Tutorials and ISPs

At New College, our Environmental Studies students expand their studies outside the classroom through Independent Studies Projects (ISPs), tutorials and internships at the Nature Conservancy, the Lemur Conservation Foundation, City of Sarasota, Mote Marine Laboratory and a host of other local and regional institutions and organizations. Here is a look at some recent ISPs and tutorials completed by students in Environmental Studies:

Campus Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Climate Action Plan
This group ISP is related to New College's participation in the American College & University President's Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). One of the College's obligations as a member of this commitment is implementing a "Climate Action Plan" for the campus that documents and calculates the institution's greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint. Students work with the data that has been collected and focus on how the emissions have changed over time, where New College has the largest carbon emissions and how that data can be used to recommend feasible improvements. Students then choose an area where they would like to reduce our footprint, investigate what it would cost and what the benefits are, and create a proposal and present it to the Council of Green Affairs for Green Fee funding. This is a chance to help shape the future energy strategies of our campus by reducing New College's carbon footprint.

Environmental Mapping and Management Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a widely used technique to analyze spatial environmental data. Students work as a team to complete a group project focusing on the local environment. They begin by refining and conceptualizing a team project, finding existing data or generating new data using GPS, transforming and importing data into a GIS format, processing and analyzing spatial data, and then presenting data, analysis and maps.

Caples Organic Garden
The Organic Gardening Tutorial and ISP are dedicated to making sure that the traditional gardening space near Old Caples Carriage House retains its vitality and utility. Every aspect of the tutorial is discussed and implemented by the students. Students are taught the proper methods for removing garden pests and weeds, undercutting the brush, tilling soil, drying the removed vegetation and using it as mulch, building beds and preparing soil, preparing seedlings, planting the vegetables and fruits, and then maintaining and nurturing the plants. The resulting produce and herbs are then used by the students.

[Did you know?]


There are five osprey nests on or within sight of the New College campus.

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