Columbia University

Earth & Environmental Science Journalism

Dual Master's Degree Program


Science Courses in E&ESJ Curriculum

Note: This is not a full listing of courses offered by the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and related departments of the University. Refer to the appropriate school's bulletin for complete course listings and course descriptions.

Courses here are listed in order by department acronym followed by course number. To see courses organized according to E&ESJ curriculum, return to E&ESJ Course of Study

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EESC BC 3021y: Forests and environmental change.

3 pts.

Prerequisites: One year of college science or permission of the instructor. Alternate years. Discussion of global forests distribution and links to climate, forest ecology, paleoecology, role of forests in the global ecosystem, and case studies of forests in relation to environmental change. Resources, including biodiversity, medicinal/ethnobotany; conservation and management strategies; role in carbon cycle.

EESC BC 3025x: Hydrology.

3 pts. M. Stute.

Prerequisite: ENS V 2100, physics, or permission of the instructor. Includes a weekend field trip. Alternate years. Hands-on study and discussion of the basic physical principles of the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation, runoff, and subsurface flow), as well as environmentally relevant applications based on case studies. Special focus on the New York City area, the arid Southwest, and the developing world. Coverage of contemporary global water resources issues water resources, including pollution control, sustainable development, and climate change. (Course Homepage.)

EAEE E4001x: Industrial ecology of Earth resources.

3 pts.

Industrial ecology examines how to reconfigure industrial activities so as to minimize the adverse environmental and material resource effects on the planet. Engineering applications of methodology of industrial ecology in the analysis of current processes and products and the selection or design of environmentally superior alternatives. Home assignments of illustrative quantitative problems.

EESC W4001x: Advanced general geology.

4 pts. C. Scholtz.

Prerequisite: one term of college-level calculus, physics, and chemistry. A concentrated introduction to the solid Earth, its interior and near-surface geology. Intended for students with good backgrounds in the physical sciences but none in geology. Laboratory and field trips. Lab Required.

EAEE E4007y: Environmental geophysics field studies.

3 pts.

Application of geophysical methods to noninvasive assessment of the near surface. First part consists of series of two-hour lectures of physics and math involved in instrumental methods and data acquisition and processing. In the field (nine field days) students plan surveys; collect and analyze geophysical data in teams; learn how to integrate geophysical data with invasive data, hydrological, geological, engineering, and contaminant transport models; and develop a comprehensive and justifiable model of the subsurface. Geophysical methods include GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar), conductivity, and magnetic and seismic methods. Field applications include infrastructure/environmental assessment, archeological studies, and high resolution geology.

EESC W4008x: Introduction to atmospheric science.

3 pts. A. Del Genio.

Prerequisite: advanced calculus and general physics, or the instructor's permission. Basic physical processes controlling atmospheric structure: thermodynamics; radiation physics and radiative transfer; principles of atmospheric dynamics; cloud processes; applications to Earth's atmospheric general circulation, climatic variations, and the atmospheres of the other planets.

EESC W4030x: Climatic change.

3 pts.

Given in alternate years. The course examines the Astronomical Theory of Climate Change using climate proxies measured in ice cores, lake cores, and deep sea cores. A rigorous analysis of the assumptions underlying the use of climate proxies and their interpretations will be presented. Particular emphasis will be placed on amplifiers of climate change, such as natural variations in atmospheric "greenhouse gases" and changes in deep water formation rates, as well as mechanisms of rapid climate change during the late Pleistocene. The interaction of changes in the Earth's radiation distribution and boundary conditions on the Asian Monsoon system and El Nino frequency and intensity will be examined using proxy data and models.

EESC W4050x: Global assessment and monitoring using remote sensing.

3 pts. C. Small.

Prerequisite: instructor's permission. Recommended preparation: some college-level physics or math. Given in alternate years. Enrollment limited to 24 students. General introduction to fundamentals of remote sensing and image processing. Example applications in the Earth and environmental sciences are explored through the analysis of remote sensing imagery in a state-of-the-art visualization laboratory. Lab Required. (Course Homepage.)

EESC W4076: Geologic mapping.

3 pts. M. Anders, D. Walker.

Fieldwork on weekends in April and two weeks in mid-May immediately following the end of examinations. Enrollment limited. Estimated expense: $250. The principles and practices of deciphering geologic history through the observation of rocks in the field, mapmaking, construction of geological cross-sections, and short written reports.

EESC W4223: Sedimentary geology.

4 pts. N. Christie-Blick.

Prerequisites: introductory geology or instructor's permission. Given in alternate years. Two required weekend field trips in September. An overview of sedimentology and stratigraphy for majors and concentrators in Earth and environmental sciences, and for graduate students from other disciplines. Lectures, class discussions, labs, and field exercises are integrated, with emphasis on processes, the characteristics of sediments and sedimentary rocks, interpretation of the geological record, and practical applications. Lab Required.

EESC W4550: Plant ecophysiology.

3 pts. K. Griffin.

Prerequisites: general biology or instructor's permission. Plant organismal responses to external environmental conditions and the physiological mechanisms of plants that enable these responses. An evolutionary approach is taken to analyze the potential fitness of plants and plant survival based on adaptation to external environmental factors.

EEEB W4789: Biogeography.

3 pts. J. Cracraft.

Prerequisites: Degree in biological sciences or instructor's permission. A detailed review of modern biogeography from both an ecological and evolutionary perspective. Island biogeography, speciation, extinction, sensors of origin and dispersal, cladistic vicariance biogeography, endemism, environmental change, and earth history and conservation applications.

EESC W4835: Wetlands and climate change.

3 pts. D. Peteet.

Prerequisites: introductory biology or chemistry, or instructor's permission. Given in alternate years. Enrollment limited to 20. Priority given to juniors and seniors. Analysis of modern wetland dynamics and the important ecological, biogeochemical, and hydrological functions taking place in marshes, bogs, fens, and swamps, with a field emphasis. Wetlands as fossil repositories, the paleoenvironmental history they provide, and their role in the carbon cycle. Current wetland destruction, remediation attempts, and valuation. Laboratory analysis and field trips.

EESC W4885y: The chemistry of continental waters.

3 pts.

Given in alternate years. Recommended preparation: a solid background in basic chemistry. Introduction to geochemical cycles involving the atmosphere, land, and biosphere; chemistry of precipitation, weathering reactions, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and groundwaters; stable isotopes and radioactive tracers of transport processes in continental waters.

EESC W4920: Paleooceanography.

3 pts.

Given in alternate years. Course examines the ocean's response to external forces, such as changes in the Earth's orbit, and to internal forces, such as the El Nino/La Nina oscillation using deep-sea cores, corals, and other paleoceanographic archives. Analysis of geochemical, statistical, and modeling techniques used to reconstruct the Cenozoic history of the oceans including changes in sea level, ocean productivity, deep water formation, sea surface temperature changes, sea ice distribution, thermocline changes and surface currents. Studies include both the frequency and time domains. Emphasis on current topics and debates in paleoceanography.

EESC W4925: Principles of physical oceanography.

3 pts. A. Gordon.

Recommended preparation: a solid background in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Physical properties of seawater, water masses and their distribution, sea-air interaction influence on the ocean structure, basic ocean circulation pattern, relation of diffusion and advection with respect to distribution of ocean properties, ocean tides and waves, turbulence, and introduction to ocean dynamics.

W4926y: Principles of chemical oceanography.

3 pts.

Given in alternate years. Recommended preparation: a solid background in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Factors controlling the concentration and distribution of dissolved chemical species within the sea. Application of tracer and natural radioisotope methods to large-scale mixing of the ocean, the geological record preserved in marine sediments, the role of ocean processes in the global carbon cycle, and biogeochemical processes influencing the distribution and fate of elements in the ocean.

EESC W4941: Principles of geophysics.

3 pts.

Prerequisites: Recommended preparation: calculus through MATH V1202 and physics through PHYS C1007. The structure and properties of the Earth as inferred from geophysical investigations: gravity, isostasy, earthquakes, seismic exploration, geomagnetism, marine geophysics, satellite observations, tides. Recommended for nongeophysics majors or those with little previous geophysics background.

EESC W4947x: Plate Tectonics.

3 pts. W. Pitman, W. Ryan.

Prerequisites: physical geology. Prepares students for research and oral exams with cross-disciplinary analysis of the plate-tectonic cycle. Driving forces and mantle convection, plate kinematics, magmatism, structure, thermal and chemical evolution of mid-ocean ridges and subduction zones, continental rifts and collisions, and hot spots. Includes literature readings of great debates, and emphasizes integration of geophysical, geological and geochemical observations and processes.

EESC W4949: Introduction to seismology.

3 pts. W. Menke, P.Richards, L.Sykes.

Prerequisites: elementary college physics and mathematics (including calculus). Given in alternate years. Basic methods of seismogram analysis. Classification of seismic waves and elementary theory of body waves and normal modes. Elementary aspects of seismic prospecting, earthquake source theory, instrumentation, discrimination between explosions and earthquakes, inversion of seismic data to infer Earth structure, earthquake engineering, earthquake insurance and hazards mitigation, estimation of seismic risk, and earthquake prediction.

EESC G6001: Earth science colloquium.

1 pt. Staff.

Current topics in the Earth sciences.

EEEB G6110: Evolution, I.

3 pts. R. DeSalle.

Prerequisite: Priority given to first-year students in EEB or Conservation Biology Certificate program. Lecture course covering principal topics of evolutionary biology from genetics, genome organization, population and quantitative genetics, the history of evolutionary theory, systematics, speciation and species concepts, co-evolution, and biogeography.

EESC G6201: Sedimentary environments and facies.

3 pts. N. Christie-Blick.

Prerequisites:EESC W4223 or its equivalent or instructor's permission. Offered infrequently (every three to four years). Field exercises undertaken on three weekends or an equivalent time over spring break. Processes of sedimentation, depositional facies, and the sedimentary environments in which they accumulate.

EESC G6221: Sedimentary basins.

3 pts. N. Christie-Blick.

Prerequisites:EESC W4223 and a structural geology course or their equivalents, or instructor's permission.

EHSC P6300: Environmental health sciences.

3 pts.

Satisfies the Environmental Health Sciences core requirement for the M.P.H. degree. This core course teaches how the basic human needs of clean air and water and a safe food supply are maintained but are often thwarted by nature and by our own ineptitudes. It satisfies the Environmental Health Sciences core requirement for the M.P.H. degree. An introduction to preventive health practices with an emphasis on environmental factors. Review of basic public health concepts as they relate to disease causation and prevention. Toxicology, especially carcinogenesis, is stressed. In cooperation with Population and Family Health, infectious diseases and the implications of population growth are discussed. Available techniques of preventive practices, such as controlling the quality of air, water, and consumer products, are described for both the workplace and the general environment. Lectures are followed by discussion groups. Exams, papers, and presentation.

G6400: Amazonia seminar.

3 pts. C. Padoch, M. Pinedo-Vásquez.

Prerequisite: Preference given to graduate students in EEB or Anthropology. The assumptions upon which community-based conservation and development projects are based, their successes and shortcomings within the context of history and the environment. Experienced guest lecturers.

EESC G6810: The carbon cycle.

3 pts. W.S. Broecker.

Four aspects of the Earth's carbon cycle are considered: how it operated just prior to the Industrial Revolution; the fossil fuel CO2 perturbation; changes during glacial time; and the long-term planetary control system. Emphasis on information obtained from measurements of 13C and 14C.

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Updated July 28, 2008