EPSc 385: Earth History
This lecture-based course provides an overview of Earth history, spanning from the Archean to the modern. Topics covered will include: 1) the changing redox conditions of the oceans/atmosphere (e.g., the rise of atmospheric oxygen); 2) periods of enhanced biological evolution and extinction and their relationship to global biogeochemical cycling (e.g., the Cambrian ‘Explosion’ or the Permo-Triassic Boundary); and 3) climate variability in the rock record and its impact on life. Students will emerge from this course with a solid understanding of the combined role of geology, geochemistry, and biology in shaping the evolution of the Earth over the past 4 billion years.
EPSc 422: Sedimentary Geology and Stratigraphy
This course is an introduction to sedimentary processes and materials, including description, formation, and interpretation. Sedimentary materials account for most of the Earth’s crust, and much of our understanding of Earth history comes from their examination. The course consists primarily of lectures and is accompanied by a weekly lab. In addition there are two weekend fieldtrips to examine outcrops in the vicinity. Students will develop an understanding of and proficiency in identifying sediments and sedimentary processes and their use for interpreting stratigraphic, paleoenvironmental, and tectonic information.
EPSc 585: Advanced Earth History
This course provides an overview of Earth history, spanning from the Archean to the modern. Students will emerge from this course with a solid understanding of the combined role of geology, geochemistry, and biology in shaping the evolution of the Earth over the past 4 billion years. In addition to the lecture material, there is a weekly discussion section that covers the primary literature, and synthesis and (re-)interpretation of existing data. Students will emerge from this course with a deep understanding of Earth history, as well as the ability to contribute to and critically evaluate state-of-the-art research in this field.
EPSc 443: Methods in Biogeochemistry
This course is designed to give students an introduction to the major tools used in current research in isotope biogeochemistry. Class will be a combination of lecture, discussion, and labs. Individual isotope proxies (e.g., δ13Ccarb, δ34Ssulfate) will be introduced in lectures, followed by seminar-style discussion of a few important papers that make use of the particular proxy. Students will then conduct small labs (singly or in groups) applying the isotope system in the laboratory). The final portion of the semester will be given to a substantive student research project collecting data using one or more of the isotope systems discussed in class. Students will emerge from this class with the knowledge of what isotope tools (and their respective strengths and weaknesses) exist for research in modern and ancient biogeochemistry and, most importantly, invaluable hands-on experience with sample processing and preparation, operation of gas source mass spectrometers, and the collection, correction, and interpretation of data.
EPSc 112: Engineering the Climate: Can we and should we?
Geoengineering, the deliberate manipulation of the earth’s climate, has been proposed by some as at least part of a solution to predicted future warming. Is this even possible, or advisable if it is? Through discussion, lectures, and readings, students will learn how earth’s climate works, and examine the feasibility of some of the most widely discussed proposals for altering the climate. The class will then discuss past examples of deliberate human alteration of natural systems and the extent to which those have achieved the desired ends. Finally, geoengineering (and associated potential for unintended consequences) will be considered as an ethical issue.
EPSc 106: Freshman Seminar in Earth and Planetary Sciences
Each week students meet meet for an informal discussion with a different faculty member on topics highlighting recent discoveries in geology and the planetary sciences, including origin/evolution of animal life, microbe-mineral interactions, geoarchaeology, plate tectonics, cosmochemistry, natural disasters, planet formation and planetary habitability.