Sustainability Courses

Fall 2022

Below is a list of curated courses in the physical and social sciences related to sustainability. If you see a course that should be added to this list, please contact us at sustain@princeton.edu

Anthropology and Environment (CD or EM)
Subject associations
ANT 214 / ENV 214

This course explores anthropology's engagement with environmental questions, beyond binaries of "nature" and "culture." How do anthropologists' engagement with environment force rethinking of both the given terms of environmental politics and the anthropocentrism of "anthropology"? We explore, across international and global contexts, how anthropological work challenges contemporary environmental thinking, all while exploring new formulations of environment and politics. Topics include climate, materiality, cosmologies, more-than-human ethnography, and environmental justice.

Applied Molecular Ecology (SEL)
Subject associations
EEB 331

In this course, students will learn laboratory techniques to construct genomic libraries for reduced representation genome sequence methods and apply evolutionary theory to empirical genomic data. Students will complete independent projects that address ecological and evolutionary questions, with a final report to immerse themselves in the professional-level practice of scientific writing. We will discuss evolutionary topics through lectures, discussions, and assigned readings. Each student project will tackle a different question rooted within molecular ecology and produce a written report formatted for a peer-review journal.

Atmospheric and Oceanic Wave Dynamics
Subject associations
AOS 572

Observational evidence of atmospheric and oceanic waves; laboratory simulation. Surface and internal gravity waves; dispersion characteristics; kinetic energy spectrum; critical layer; forced resonance; instabilities. Planetary waves: scale analysis; physical description of planetary wave propagation; reflections; normal modes in a closed basin. Large-scale barclinic and barotropic instabilities. Eady and Charney models for barclinic instability, and energy transfer.

Atmospheric Chemistry
Subject associations
AOS 537 / GEO 537

Natural gas phase and heterogeneous chemistry in the troposphere and stratosphere, with a focus on elementary chemical kinetics; photolysis processes; oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen chemistry; transport of atmospheric trace species; tropospheric hydrocarbon chemistry and stratospheric halogen chemistry; stratospheric ozone destruction; local and regional air pollution, and chemistry-climate interactions are studied.

Atmospheric Radiative Transfer
Subject associations
AOS 527 / GEO 527

Structure and composition of terrestrial atmospheres. Fundamental aspects of electromagnetic radiation. Absorption and emission by atmospheric gases. Optical extinction of particles. Roles of atmospheric species in Earth's radiative energy balance. Perturbation of climate due to natural and antropogenic causes. Satellite observations of climate system.

Atmospheric Thermodynamics and Convection
Subject associations
AOS 547

Thermodynamics of water-air systems. Overview of atmospheric energy sources and sinks. Planetary boundary layers. Closure theories for atmospheric turbulence. Cumulus convection. Interactions between cumulus convection and large-scale atmospheric flows. Cloud-convection-radiation interactions and their role in the climate system.

Behavioral Ecology
Subject associations
EEB 313

How does a swarm of honeybees collectively decide on a new site for their hive? When a mother mouse protects her young, are her behaviors genetically determined? Why do ravens share food with each other? This course is an introduction to behavioral ecology, which asks why animals act the way they do, how their behaviors have been shaped by natural selection, and how these behaviors influence their surroundings. We will first discuss behaviors at the individual level, then move to reproductive behaviors. The final section of the course will focus on social evolution, the origins of cooperation, and human behavioral ecology.

Bioinspired Design
Subject associations
MAE 416 / EEB 416

The bioinspired design course offers interdisciplinary, advanced design and critical thinking experience. Students will work in teams to integrate biological knowledge into the engineering design process. The course uses case studies to show how biological solutions can be transferred into engineering design. The case studies will include themes such as locomotion, materials, and sensing. By the end of the course, students will be able to use analogical design concepts to engineer a prototype based on biological function.

Biology of African Animals and Ecosystems
Subject associations
EEB 406

Students will be immersed in an intensive field experience in Kenya gaining sophisticated training in fieldwork and biological research on African animals and ecosystems. In addition to this training, participants will observe and study organisms ranging from acacia ants to giraffes, go-away-birds to zebras. The course is designed to give students a broad, hands-on understanding of ecology, evolution, and conservation. Lectures include core topics in ecology and evolution. Students will gain experience with experimental design, data collection, and analysis. Limited to students in the Tropical Biology and Sustainability Program in Kenya.

Biology of Coral Reefs (SEL)
Subject associations
EEB 346

This field and lecture course provides an in-depth introduction to the biology of tropical coral reefs, with an emphasis on reef fish ecology and behavior. Each day begins with a lecture, followed by six to eight hours on the water, and ends with data analysis, reading and a discussion of recent papers. Students learn to identify fishes, corals and invertebrates, and learn a variety of field methods including underwater censusing, mapping, videotaping and the recording of inter-individual interactions. Each year group projects will vary depending on previous findings and the interests of the faculty.

Catastrophes across Cultures: The Anthropology of Disaster (SA)
Subject associations
ANT 219 / ENV 219

What is the relationship between 'catastrophe' and human beings, and how has 'catastrophe' influenced the way we live in the world now? This course investigates various types of catastrophes/disasters around the world by mobilizing a variety of theoretical frameworks and case studies in the social sciences. The course uses an anthropological perspective as its principal lens to comparatively observe often forgotten historical calamities throughout the world. The course is designed to explore the intersection between catastrophe and culture and how catastrophic events can be a window through which to critically analyze society and vice versa.

Chemistry of the Environment (SEN)
Subject associations
ENV 353 / CEE 353 / GEO 353

This course provides the chemical background to understand many of today's most important environmental issues. Topics include atmospheric pollution, the ozone hole, the greenhouse effect, ocean acidification, acid mine drainage, and coastal dead zones. Overall, the course focuses on a quantitative understanding of the chemistry of the atmosphere and natural waters. Students will use the chemical equilibrium model Minteq to study specific examples related to water quality issues.

Climate: Past, Present, and Future (SEN)
Subject associations
GEO 102A / ENV 102A / STC 102A

Which human activities are changing our climate, and does climate change constitute a major problem? We will investigate these questions through an introduction to climate processes and an exploration of climate from the distant past to today. We will also consider the impact of past and ongoing climate changes on the global environment and on humanity. Finally, we will draw on climate science to identify and evaluate possible courses of action. Intended to be accessible to students not concentrating in science or engineering, while providing a comprehensive overview appropriate for all students.

Climate: Past, Present, and Future (SEL)
Subject associations
GEO 102B / ENV 102B / STC 102B

Which human activities are changing our climate, and does climate change constitute a major problem? We will investigate these questions through an introduction to climate processes and an exploration of climate from the distant past to today. We will also consider the impact of past and ongoing climate changes on the global environment and on humanity. Finally, we will draw on climate science to identify and evaluate possible courses of action. Intended to be accessible to students not concentrating in science or engineering, while providing a comprehensive overview appropriate for all students.

Colloquium on the Biology of Populations
Subject associations
EEB 522

Discussion of the central problems of population biology and approaches that have proved fruitful. Topics ranging throughout ecology, evolution, biogeography, and population genetics are usually related to presentations by visiting speakers and students. (This is a core course.)

Colloquium on the Biology of Populations
Subject associations
EEB 522

This course features a series of invited speakers who present contemporary research on central problems in ecology, evolution, behavior, conservation, and related fields.; and are an important part of the intellectual life of EEB. They offer opportunities to exchange ideas with leading researchers; to stay abreast of recent developments, current trends, and cutting-edge methods; and to expand one's scientific horizons by learning about work in areas an ancillary to one's own research . Class with the speaker immediately following the seminar is required for 1st and 2nd year EEB grad students, and is open only to those students.

Comparative Physiology
Subject associations
EEB 314

This course explores the mechanisms of animal function in the contexts of evolution, ecology and behavior. We will cover the physiological bases of osmoregulation, circulation, gas exchange, digestion, energetics, motility, and neural and hormonal control of these and other processes in a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate animals, thereby revealing general principles of animal physiology as well as specific physiological adaptations to differing environments.

Conservation Biology (SEN)
Subject associations
EEB 308 / ENV 365

Students will learn to identify, understand, and (perhaps) reconcile conflicts between human activities such as farming, forestry, industry, and infrastructure development, and the conservation of species and natural ecosystems. We will also explore the role of biodiversity in providing critical ecosystem services to people. We will examine these topics in an interdisciplinary way, with a primary focus on ecology, but also including consideration of the economic and social factors underlying threats to biodiversity.

Creative Ecologies: American Environmental Narrative and Art, 1980-2020 (SA)
Subject associations
AMS 354 / ART 355 / ENV 373

This seminar explores how writers and artists--alongside scientists and activists--have shaped American environmental thought from 1980 to today. The seminar asks: How do different media convey the causes and potential solutions to environmental challenges, ranging from biodiversity loss and food insecurity to pollution and climate change? What new art forms are needed to envision sustainable and just futures? Course materials include popular science writing, graphic narrative, speculative fiction, animation art, documentary film, and data visualization along with research from anthropology, ecology, history, literary studies, and philosophy.

Data, Models, and Uncertainty in the Natural Sciences (QCR)
Subject associations
GEO 422

This course is for those who want to turn data into models and subsequently evaluate their uniqueness and uncertainty. Three main topics are: 1. Elementary inferential statistics, 2. Model parameter estimation via matrix inverse methods, and 3. Time series analysis and Fourier spectral density estimation. Problem sets and computer programming exercises form integral parts of the course. While the instructor's and textbook examples will be derived mostly from the physical sciences, students are encouraged to bring their own data sets for discussion. Prior programming experience in MATLAB is helpful but not required.

Deep Learning in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
Subject associations
AOS 551

Course provides a survey of the rapidly growing field of physics-informed deep learning, which integrates known physics principles with neural networks to predict the behavior of a physical system. It both introduces the background knowledge required to implement physics-informed deep learning and provides practical in-class coding exercises. Students gain experience applying this emerging method to their own research interests, including topics in geophysical fluid dynamics (atmospheric, oceanic or ice dynamics) or other nonlinear systems where the same technique applies. Students develop individual projects throughout the semester.

Designing Sustainable Systems: Responding to the Pandemic in the Information Age (SEL)
Subject associations
ENE 202 / ARC 208 / EGR 208 / ENV 206

The course presents anthropogenic global changes and their impact on sustainable design. The course focuses on understanding the underlying principles from natural and applied sciences, and how new basic Internet of Things digital technology enables alternative system analysis and design. Material is presented in 2 parts: 1) Global Change and Environmental Impacts: studying our influences on basic natural systems and cycles and how we can evaluate them, and 2) Designing Sustainable Systems: addressing challenges of disease transmission in our built environment using sensors and data to rethink how we design and use space.

Disease Ecology, Economics, and Policy (SEN)
Subject associations
ENV 304 / ECO 328 / EEB 304 / SPI 455

The dynamics of the emergence and spread of disease arise from a complex interplay between disease ecology, economics, and human behavior. Lectures will provide an introduction to complementarities between economic and epidemiological approaches to understanding the emergence, spread, and control of infectious diseases. The course will cover topics such as drug-resistance in bacterial and parasitic infections, individual incentives to vaccinate, the role of information in the transmission of infectious diseases, and the evolution of social norms in healthcare practices.

Earth History (SEN)
Subject associations
GEO 362 / ENV 362

This course seeks to understand the 'how' of Earth history by integrating many branches of Earth system science including geochronology, paleomagnetism, tectonics, petrology, paleoclimate, sedimentology, geochemistry, and geobiology. Through a detailed study of the relevant datasets, models, and theories, students in this course will engage and struggle with these seemingly disparate fields to arrive at a better understanding of how an imperfect geologic record can be used to produce an accurate representation of our planet's history.

Earth's Atmosphere (SEN)
Subject associations
GEO 361 / ENV 361 / CEE 360

This course discusses the processes that control Earth's climate - and as such the habitability of Earth - with a focus on the atmosphere and the global hydrological cycle. The course balances overview lectures (also covering topics that have high media coverage like the 'Ozone hole' and 'Global warming', and the impact of volcanoes on climate) with selected in-depth analyses. The lectures are complemented with homework based on real data, demonstrating basic data analysis techniques employed in climate sciences.

Earth's Atmosphere
Subject associations
GEO 561 / ENV 561

This course discusses the processes that control Earth's climate - and as such the habitability of Earth - with a focus on the atmosphere and the global hydrological cycle. The course balances overview lectures (also covering topics that have high media coverage like the "Ozone hole" and "Global warming," and the impact of volcanoes on climate) with selected in-depth analyses. The lectures are complemented with homework based on real data, demonstrating basic data analysis techniques employed in climate sciences.

Earth: Crops, Culture, and Climate (in Italy) (SEL)
Subject associations
FRS 161

In this course you will combine satellite remote sensing and geological and geophysical field observations with modeling, interpretation, and reporting, to answer questions like- How is the energy of Earth and the Sun harnessed in its various forms? What is the impact of agriculture and resource extraction on landscapes? How do climate and topography influence what can be grown? In the classroom, around campus, and on the required field trip to rural Italy, you will gain practical experience collecting data, analyzing them statistically, and reporting them. https://geoweb.princeton.edu/people/simons/FRS-CCCI.html

Ecohydrology
Subject associations
CEE 587 / ENV 587

The course provides the theoretical bases for a quantitative description of complex interactions between hydrologic cycle, vegetation and soil biogeochemistry. The first part of the course focuses on modeling the water, carbon and energy dynamics within the soil-plant-atmosphere system at timescales ranging from minute to daily; the second part incorporates rainfall unpredictability and provides a probabilistic description of the soilplant system valid at seasonal to interannual timescales. These concepts are important for a proper management of water resources and terrestrial ecosystems.

Ecology and Epidemiology of Parasites and Infectious Diseases (SEL)
Subject associations
EEB 328 / GHP 328

An introduction to the biology of viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, worms, arthropods, and parasitic plants. The major emphasis will be on the parasites of animals and plants, with further study of the epidemiology of infectious diseases in human populations. Studies of AIDS, anthrax, and worms, and their role in human history will be complemented by ecological and evolutionary studies of fig wasps, measles, myxomatosis, and communities of parasitic helminths. The course combines lectures with daily field laboratories to explore the dynamics and abundance of parasite in a variety of host species in the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya.

Ecology: Species Interactions, Biodiversity and Society (SEL)
Subject associations
EEB 321 / ENV 384

How do wild organisms interact with each other, their physical environments, and human societies? Lectures will examine a series of fundamental topics in ecology--herbivory, predation, competition, mutualism, species invasions, extinction, climate change, and conservation, among others--through the lens of case studies drawn from all over the world. Readings will provide background information necessary to contextualize these case studies and clarify the linkages between them. Laboratories and fieldwork will explore the process of translating observations and data into an understanding of how the natural world works.