We offer a wide array of courses for environmental science majors and others interested in learning more about Earth’s natural systems. With very few exceptions, our classes are small—10 to 15 students is a typical size—and feature a lot of room for discussions, student presentations, and individualized instruction. Given the breadth of environmental science, courses employ multiple approaches to learning, including classroom instruction, indoor laboratory experiments, and outdoor field studies. One day you could find yourself using a dissecting microscope to assess insect communities collected from soil and the next you will be travelling to an old-growth forest to study biodiversity or a landfill to explore the challenges of waste management. There is a lot to learn, and we take advantage of our modern teaching facilities and location in the Lehigh Valley to make our courses as engaging, exciting, and practical as possible.

The list of our courses we offer is presented below. You should note that, since it is an interdisciplinary major, multiple academic programs and departments contribute to it (to name some, biology, chemistry, economics, history, and political science). Those other courses are included in the lists of major and minor requirements, and full descriptions of them can be found in the catalog under the appropriate department.


ESC 101.  Exploring the physical earth
This course is an introduction to the science of geology for non-science majors.  Students will learn how the scientific method is used by geologists in their study of materials, structures, and physical features of the earth.  Specific topics of interest include:  the scientific method and the development of geology as a science; the formation and properties of minerals and rocks; plate tectonics and continental drift; the origins and consequences of natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and flooding; factors affecting water movement and availability; origins and human use of important geologic resources like fossil fuels, diamonds, and other valued materials; how humans affect and are affected by earth’s physical environments, including how geology is used in land-use planning; and the history of the earth.  Three hours / week, lecture, laboratory, field trips, discussion combined.  Fulfills SC requirement.  Students cannot earn credit for both ESC 101 and ESC 201.

Meets general academic requirement SC.

ESC 111. Topics in environmental science
Environmental science is an interdisciplinary subject area that draws on biology, chemistry, geology, and ecology to study the earth’s natural systems. In this course students learn how science is conducted and study the earth’s natural environments, interactions of organisms with each other as well as their physical surroundings, and the sources and effects of environmental stress. Three hours of lecture/discussion each week.
This course is open to non-science majors only.

Meets SC.

ESC 113. Environmental science I
An introductory environmental science course that investigates the functioning of earth’s natural systems. Topics include the cycling and flow of water, energy, and nutrients; biodiversity; the basic principles of ecology; and the interrelationships between organisms and their environments. The causes and effects of, as well as possible solutions to, several environmental problems are also covered. Human population growth, agriculture, and energy utilization are discussed in detail. Laboratory exercises and field trips teach basic techniques for collecting and analyzing ecological and environmental data and reinforce topics discussed in the lecture. Three hours lecture/discussion. Three-hour laboratory (for indoor and field work) meets every other week.
This course is typically taken by students pursuing a major or minor in environmental science, sustainability, or public health; students with a general interest in the field take it as well.
Incoming students who score 5 on the AP environmental science exam may opt to accept credit for ESC 113 and begin with ESC 114.

Meets general academic requirement SC.

ESC 114. Environmental science II
This is a continuation of ESC 113. Students study a number of human activities that can alter natural ecosystems and adversely affect human health. Topics include waste management, resource exploitation, and the behavior of pollutants in soil, air, and water. The science of controversial political issues, such as global climate change, ozone depletion, and acid rain are explored and debated. In addition, the basic principles of human and environmental toxicology, risk assessment, and environmental impact analysis are covered. Laboratory exercises and field trips reinforce topics discussed in the lecture. Three hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory/field trips per week.
Prerequisite(s): ESC 113, Environmental Science I or permission of the instructor.

Meets general academic requirement SC.

ESC 201. Environmental geology
Organisms are inextricably bound to their physical environments. An understanding of the interactions between the earth’s geology and biology is therefore fundamental to a study of environmental science. This course examines earth’s physical environments as they relate to environmental science. Topics will include the basic principles of geology, natural hazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes, mass wasting, flooding, and the global hydrologic cycle. Global water resources will be examined with an emphasis placed on groundwater supply, movement, and pollution. Three hours of lecture/discussion and three hours of laboratory/field trips per week.

This course is typically taken by students pursuing a major or minor in environmental science, sustainability, or public health; students seeking certification in certain education programs as well as students with a general interest in the field also take it.

Meets general academic requirements SC and W.

ESC 301. Environmental microbiology
This course is a study of the functions and activities of microorganisms in natural and artificial environments. Microbial diversity and ecology will be discussed as a basis for understanding the interactions among microbial species in soil, air, and water. The effects of environmental stressors on the growth and distribution of microorganisms, interactions among microorganisms and multicellular organisms (e.g., plants and animals), and applications of microbiology to industrial, agricultural, environmental, and medical practices will also be described. Three hours of lecture/discussion per week. Offered alternate years.

Prerequisite(s): BIO 160 Foundations of Biological Inquiry or CHM 103 General Chemistry I or permission of the instructor. This course is typically taken by advanced environmental science, biochemistry, and biology majors.

ESC 310. Environmental chemistry
The behavior of chemical pollutants in earth’s natural systems is critical to a study of environmental science. This course will examine the chemistry of soil, air, and water; the interactions and cycles of elements among them; and the pollutants that can adversely affect these important resources. Topics will include an overview of the physical chemistry of soil’s reactions and fates of pollutants in soil, reactions and movement of pollutants in water, wastewater treatment, and chemical reactions in the atmosphere, including the mechanisms of smog production, ozone depletion, and global warming. The chemistry of power generation involving fossil fuels, radioactive isotopes, solar energy, fuel cells, and other resources will also be considered. Three hours of lecture/discussion per week. Offered alternate years.

Prerequisite(s): CHM 104, General Chemistry II or permission of the instructor
This course is typically taken by advanced environmental science and chemistry majors.

ESC 312. Toxicology
Toxicology is in broad terms the science of poisons. This course will provide an overview of the many branches of toxicology and examine the effects of poisons or toxins on individual organisms and ecosystems. Of specific interest will be the uptake (ingestion), metabolism, storage, and excretion of toxins and the adverse effects experienced by organisms exposed to toxic substances. The mechanisms by which substances induce cancer, birth defects, and nervous and immune system damage will be studied. Additionally, fundamental principles of toxicology, such as dose-response and selective toxicity, will be described. The sources, chemical properties, environmental fates, and regulation of toxins will be addressed. Three hours of lecture/discussion per week. Offered alternate years.

Prerequisite(s): CHM 104 OR permission of the instructor. CHM 201 or 203, organic chemistry I and any 200-level course in BIO are recommended.
This course is typically taken by advanced environmental science, biochemistry, chemistry, and biology majors.

Special topics courses

As the name suggests, these vary.  Recent offerings include:

ESC 381.  Environmental science in popular culture

In this course students scrutinize science in film, television, and literature.  Particular attention will be devoted to the ways science in general, and environmental science in particular, can be misrepresented, distorted, or fabricated by film makers.  The consequences of scientific inaccuracy on attitudes about individual organisms and ecosystems, resource utilization, the power and limitations of science, public policy, and funding priorities will be discussed. Three hours of discussion each week; weekly film screenings outside of class are also required.

Meets general academic requirement W.