Undergraduate // Minors // Natural Sciences Concentrations

Earth and Environmental Systems

Investigate the interactions among Earth's systems, including the atmosphere, terrestrial, and marine components and how the Earth's biome (including humans) interfaces with the physical, chemical and geological aspects of the environment. Explore how scientists are monitoring and modeling the changes to our Earth, and potential technological and social solutions to Earth's challenges. Note: NS156 includes Computational Sciences courses as prerequisites.

Core courses

Earth and Environmental Systems (Natural Sciences Minor)

CS111 / Single and Multivariable Calculus

Learn to utilize principles of single and multivariable calculus to solve relevant problems from across STEM. Traditional calculus courses focus on the techniques needed to perform complex computations by hand, and evaluate students primarily on their ability to do so quickly. This course takes a different approach by shifting the focus to applying foundational calculus concepts to analyze and solve problems in practical contexts while building the facility to take full advantage of technologies such as Sage to perform complex computations. In addition to honing skills from critical and creative thinking, an emphasis is placed on effective collaborative problem-solving and communication of technical processes and results to appropriate audiences. Note: This course was previously CS111A.

Prerequisite: CS51 / Formal Analyses


NS111 / Implications of Earth's Cycles

The Earth system is investigated from its origin to its functioning today. Beginning with the origin of the Universe and the creation of elements in stars, the course progresses to an understanding of solar systems and the conditions that gave rise to habitable planets. Earth evolved from a lifeless, reduced planet with a simple mineralogy to a complex, oxidized planet that can support advanced life such as human beings. An aim of the course is to place human beings in a universal and planetary context, and to see the steps in planetary evolution as an essential perspective on how we relate to Earth today. This course qualifies as part of the Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability because it addresses the evolution of Earth and the natural processes regulating the planet. In order to sustainably care for the planet, it is essential to understand the systems and processes operating on Earth from climate regulation to natural resource formation and how human activities impact these processes.

Prerequisite: NS51 / Empirical Analyses


Concentrations Courses

Earth and Environmental Systems (Natural Sciences Minor)

NS146 / Integrating Earth's Systems

Explore key Earth systems, with an emphasis on how solid Earth components interact with living organisms, the hydrosphere and the atmosphere. Consider the effects of volcanism, mountain-building, earthquakes, weathering and erosion on biotic and abiotic domains. This course is designed to complement concepts from NS111 by extending and supplementing content knowledge and practical skills. The emphasis is on examining interactions within the whole Earth system, and on considering how we know what we know. Various important geochemical approaches are taught and then applied to real-world examples. By exploring the chemistry, physics and biology behind a tremendous diversity of Earth processes—from the surface to deep Earth, from microbe scale to whole-Earth scale—students gain critical skills and perspective to apply to a host of scientific questions beyond those considered in this course. NOTE: In addition to the listed prerequisites, the following courses are recommended prior to taking this course: NS113

Prerequisite: NS111 / Implications of Earth's Cycles


NS156 / Monitoring and Modeling Earth's Systems

Explore how researchers study and monitor earth systems, including the latest methods for climate, pollution, and ocean monitoring. Delve into how models are used to understand and predict earth systems and how to construct your own models of environmental systems. Use this knowledge to understand the major challenges facing the Earth system, the current state-of-the-science, and to design future solutions. This course will introduce students to the fundamental processes that control weather, air pollution, and climate change and enable them to reduce this complex system to simple, yet useful, models. We will critique current models and remote sensing observations to determine what we can and cannot see or predict. Students will evaluate environmental assessments and forecasts, then extend that knowledge to how science is able to inform and change public policy. We will address what are the most important next steps to solve the pressing environmental challenges facing both science and society. Note: This course qualifies as part of the Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability. In addition to the listed prerequisites, the following courses are recommended prior to taking this course: NS110L or NS110U

Prerequisite: CS111 / Single and Multivariable CalculusCS130 / Statistical Modeling: Prediction and Causal InferenceNS111 / Implications of Earth's CyclesNS113 / Chemical Structure and Reactivity


NS166 / Keeping Earth Habitable

Examine environmental and natural resource issues such as pollution, deforestation, climate change impacts, habitat loss, agricultural impacts, and the potential impact of human population growth and consumption. Consider systems challenges and potential solutions including social, political, economic, and technological approaches to major environmental problems. Note: This course is required for the Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability. Students not majoring in NS but with a declared minor in Sustainability may enroll in NS166 without completing the prerequisites (NS111 and/or NS112). This course takes an in-depth look at environmental and natural resource issues such as pollution, habitat loss, and climate change impacts and then explores potential solutions. Effective solutions to “keeping Earth habitable” require combining social, political, economic, technological, and ethical approaches.

Prerequisite: NS111 / Implications of Earth's CyclesNS112 / Evolution Across Multiple Scales