The UMass School of Earth & Sustainability is proud to offer undergraduate and graduate students a diversity of introductory and upper-level courses among multiple departments at UMass Amherst. Below is a sample of courses that will be offered within SES during the Fall 2018 semester.  A full catalog of courses can be found in SPIRE

|Geography | Geosciences | Natural Resource Conservation | Environmental Science | Environmental Conservation Building and Construction Technology | Landscape Architecture | Sustainable Communities | Regional Planning | Microbiology | Stockbridge School of Agriculture |



  • 102 Intro/Human Geography
    A wide-ranging introduction to the ways people shape the world they live in. We will study the themes and concepts of human geography through the current issues and large questions which guide them. Lectures and reading will focus on the geographic aspects of cultural diversity, population issues, states vs. nations, the global economy, development, urbanization and the human transformation of the earth. We will cover major subdivisions of human geography including cultural geography, population geography, economic geography, social geography, urban geography and political geography. (Gen.Ed. SB, DG)
  • 110 Global Environmental Change
    The natural relationships between the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere; human impact on the natural environment. Global environmental issues: global warming, sea-level rise, and ozone depletion in the stratosphere. Global changes of the past also studied to give perspective to forecasted changes. Includes writing exercises. (Gen.Ed. PS)
  • 220 World Regional Geography
    Survey of world physical and human geography, highlighting regional diversity and variation in globalization processes and outcomes. Introduces geographical theories, concepts, and methods while exploring nine major world regions. (GenEd SB, DG)
  • 354 Climatology
    Fundamentals of the earth/atmosphere energy balance, the hydrologic cycle, atmospheric motion, and the general circulation of the atmosphere.  Regional and local climates. How climate affects people's activities and how people influence climate. Climate change, its causes, and its effects. Prerequisite: introductory course in weather and climate (e.g., GEO-SCI 100 or ASTRON 105).
  • 372 Urban Issues
    This course addresses the challenges faced by 21st century cities as the world's population becomes increasingly urbanized. These challenges are grouped in five themes: water, land, air, built environment and community. The course takes an integrative, geographical, case-study based approach in its exploration of the linkages between these issues and the physical, social, cultural, economic and political aspects of today's rapidly changing cities. Case studies emphasize, but are not limited to, the experiences of cities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where most of the world?s urbanization is taking place today. Course topics vary by year in response to current events but usually include issues such as the privatization of drinking water provision, impacts of natural disasters, brownfields and blighted neighborhoods, air pollution, transportation planning, squatter settlements, and environmental and social justice issues.
  • 397WG Water Geographies
    Water Geographies focuses on current issues related to water, and individual and group action that can make a difference to improve water sustainability. It is a service learning class. We will read several journalistic books as well as news articles to explore current issues. We will think about the ways that people cause and face conflict over water, and how they strive to improve sustainability. Focus issues will include: freshwater sustainability and development; bottled water; dams, energy & rivers; marine fisheries; and the Connecticut River.
  • 426 Remote Sensing & Image Inter (626)
    This course introduces the principles of digital image analysis for interpreting remotely sensed data for environmental, resource and urban studies.  Emphasis will be given to the processing and information extraction from optical and thermal imagery.
  • 497C Climate Crisis (693C)
    This course is an introduction to the political ecology of climate change, response, and justice. It provides an opportunity to engage in critical reading and discussion about the great moral, political, economic, and environmental challenge of our time. We will explore climate crisis narratives; mitigation, adaptation, and climate justice issues; policy and social/economic reform debates; and climate activism. Reading will range from IPCC reports to work by Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and Indigenous activists.
  • 592M Computer Mapping (352)
    Mapping projects through the use of software mapping packages. Students select their own final projects.


  • 101 The Earth
    Nature and origin of the earth; volcanism; minerals and rocks; earthquakes; plate tectonics; mountain belts; geologic time scales; wave, river, glacial, and wind action in modification of landscape and atmosphere; the asteroid impact hypotheses; genesis of non-renewable resources, geologic basis for environmental decision making. Field excursions. (Gen.Ed. PS)
  • 103 Intro Oceanography
    The natural processes of the ocean, including earthquakes and volcanoes, the hydrologic cycle and weather, ocean circulation and the global energy balance, the carbon cycle and productivity, biodi-versity and marine food webs, coastal dynamics. Also, global warming, sea-level rise, environmental degradation and the ocean system response to human activity and global change. Interactive class sessions, with considerable participation by students in problem solving, discussions, and demonstrations. Exams and grades based on teamwork as well as on individual performance. Students needing or wanting a laboratory component may register for GEO-SCI 131. (Gen.Ed. PS)
  • 494LI Living on Earth (IE Course)
    In this course, students take advantage of the breadth of their shared experiences in the Geosciences Department from human dimensions to physical sciences, drawing from geography, earth systems science and geology. The platform of the course uses real-world Geoscience problems facing societies and cultures, incorporating the themes of Water, Air, Energy, Climate and Sustainability. Using readings, print and on-line media, students are encouraged to work through the ways in which integration of their diverse educational experiences leads to new levels of understanding. The semester culminates in team-based projects in which students investigate connections between current Geosciences issues, their education in their major and their experience as UMass undergraduates, with structured opportunities for reflection on both their discipline and themselves as life-long scholars. This course satisfies the Integrative Experience requirement for BS-Earth, BA-Geog, BS-Geog, BA-Geol, and BS-Geol majors, as well as a subset of BS-EnvSci majors. For Seniors and Juniors only.
  • 497S Soil Erosion in Agricultural Landscapes
    Soils are the medium that grows the vast majority of the food consumed world-wide, yet soil erosion diminishes agricultural production and ultimately threatens food security. In the U.S. major uncertainties still exist regarding the rates of soil erosion and soil formation. This research-intensive course will explore soils and soil erosion in the Midwestern U.S., one of the world's most important agricultural landscapes. Students will conduct a semester-long research project. During a pre-semester field trip, students will collect soils and make a variety of field measurements. During the semester, the lab component will be devoted to learning and applying a variety of measurements for characterizing the properties of the soils they collect, and to learning methods for determining rates of soil erosion and soil formation. Classroom sessions will be devoted to a wide range of topics related to agricultural soils, including: the glacial history of North America, soil forming factors, soil erosion processes and prediction, and agricultural policy. Enrollment in both the lecture and lab is required.  Enrollment is open to undergraduates in all majors within the School of Earth & Sustainability. Instructor consent is required; if you would like to register for the course, please send an email to Prof. Isaac Larsen ( indicating your interest in the course.
  • 497SF  Soil Erosion in Agricultural Landscapes - Lab
    Enrollment in both the lecture and lab is required.  Enrollment is open to undergraduates in all majors within the School of Earth and Sustainability. Instructor consent is required; if you would like to register for the course, please send an email to Prof. Isaac Larsen ( indicating your interest in the course.
  • 565 Soil Formation and Genesis
    With lab. Effect of environmental factors on soil formation and land use. Relationship between soil morphology, classification, and use interpretations. Application of soils information to on-site sewage disposal, wetland identification, and other environmentally significant problem areas. Prerequisite: introductory course in chemistry, geology, soils, or environmental science; or consent of instructor.
  • 573 Environmental Geophysics
    Application of seismic, gravity, magnetic, and electrical methods used in geophysical exploration. Field techniques, data compilation, and basic interpretations used to support shallow subsurface studies and environmental or hydrologic programs. Lectures, laboratory and field problems.
  • 658 Paleoclimatology
    Methods used in reconstructing climate before the period of instrumental records and their application in understanding late Quaternary climatic fluctuations. Topics include dating methods, ice core studies, palynology, ocean core studies, terrestrial geological and biological studies, dendroclimatology, and historical climatology. Prerequisites: Geo-Sci 354, 458.

Natural Resource Conservation

  • 100 Environment and Society
    In this course you will work both individually and in teams to explore the inherently interdisciplinary environmental challenges facing society. You will engage in discussions, debates, and problem-based team projects to learn about, critically consider, reflect on, and address both local and global environmental problems. You will investigate the impacts of human activities on forests, water, fish and wildlife populations, urban areas, and climate change. If you are an NRC major, this will prepare you for upper-level studies. If you are not a major, you will develop an increased awareness and understanding of the environmental challenges facing our society, while also fulfilling the Interdisciplinary Science (SI) Gen Ed requirement. (Gen.Ed. SI)
  • 185 Sustainable Living Solutions
    Students will work in teams to research and develop solutions to the sustainable challenges facing our society. They will collaborate to investigate, critically evaluate, effectively communicate, and reflect on the multifaceted challenges associated with addressing sustainable resource use, water, food, energy, transportation, waste management, and climate change. Students will also work in teams during class on exercises in which they research case studies, debate controversies, assess political and cultural contexts, and identify technological advances and barriers, gaps in scientific knowledge, and opportunities for change in the 21st century. (Gen.Ed. I)
  • 290C Trees & Sustainability
    Trees growing in residential areas provide many benefits like cleaning the air and water, reducing energy use, and blocking unsightly views. They can also be dangerous if not carefully planted and properly maintained, causing power outages and damaging property. We'll review the benefits that trees provide, including different ways to assess their value. We will also discuss how best to plant and maintain trees to maximize their benefits and minimize their costs.
  • 297R Renewable Energy & Sustainability
    This course will introduce students to major themes of renewable energy systems. Students will analyze alternative energy solutions for a sustainable future. Emphasis will be on the different forms of renewable energy, within the context of the existing energy mix, energy policy, resource potential, and institutional opportunities and barriers. We will explore renewable energy potential and solutions through textbook and supplemental readings, current event briefings, group work and activities. The culmination of the course is a group research project to evaluate strategies and envision creative solutions.
  • 492A Verbal Communications
    Practice in using verbal communication skills in a wide variety of applied situations. Emphasis on participation in realistic exercises, such as group discussion, debate, public speaking on a technical subject, and group presentations.
  • 564 Wildlife Habitat Management
    The dynamics and management of forested, open woodland, and savanna habitats in North America and elsewhere. Topics include wildlife ecology, habitat classification, resource utilization, impacts on humans, and management techniques.
  • 590M Marine Ecology
    Advanced course in marine ecology, focused on how organisms interact with the ocean environment. We will explore Earth?s major marine ecosystems and investigate the ecological processes that create biological patterns within these habitats. We will use field techniques to collect biological data in local New England coastal systems. Together, we shall discover how marine ecology links to other disciplines such as chemistry, physics, and geography. The course will address ways that ecological theory can inform ocean problems such as climate change, biological invasions, nutrient enrichment, and habitat destruction.
  • 597EC Analytical Methods for Energy and Climate Policy
    The course will introduce students to analytical methods applicable to the evaluation of energy and climate problems and policy solutions. The methods include ethical analysis, spreadsheet analysis, lifecycle analysis, optimization and systems analysis. While applicable across many fields, the methods will be applied through class and assignments to current issues in clean energy and climate policy. Prerequisites include Math 104 or 101/102 (or equivalent); a 100 or 200 level introductory course in environment and sustainability; and a 100 or 200 level introductory course in economics or resource economics.
  • 597LP Land Protection Tools and Techniques
    This course will focus on permanent land protection tools to maintain the land in its natural state, policies that encourage land protection, landowner decisions about conserving their land, and maintaining the conservation values after the land has been protected.

Environmental Science

  • 197D Foundations of Sustainability
    Earn 2 academic credits while building foundational knowledge on issues of sustainability and explore how best to raise awareness among your peers. Eco-Rep is an academic course open to students of all interests and academic levels, focused on working toward environmental literacy and leadership within the program and on the campus at large.

Environmental Conservation

  • 602 Analysis of Environmental Data
    This course provides students with an understanding of basic statistical concepts critical to the proper use and understanding of statistics in ecology and conservation science and prepares students for subsequent ECO courses in ecological modeling. The lecture (required for all ECO Master's level graduate students) covers foundational concepts in statistical modeling (emphasis is on conceptual underpinnings of statistics not methodology, with a focus on defining statistical models and the major inference paradigms in use today), basic study design concepts (emphasis is on confronting practical issues associated with real-world ecological study designs and statistical modeling), and lays out the 'landscape' of statistical methods for ecological modeling; emphasis is on the conceptual underpinnings of statistical modeling instead of methodology, with a focus on defining.
  • 697DE Decision-Making in Environmental Conservation
    Tomorrow’s natural resource professionals require specialized training to work through complex natural resource management problems. Through hands-on activities and case studies, you’ll gain familiarity with a variety of tools that are relevant and appropriate for conservation decision-making.

Building and Construction Technology

  • 150 The Built Environment
    This course explores the issues of sustainability from the perspective of the built environment, our history of construction and expansion, and buildings and how they interact with the natural environment. Students will be exposed to issues of human impacts on natural systems through the built environment and the variety of disciplines that are working to create a more sustainable future.
  • 304 Wood Properties
    This course introduces students to the physical and mechanical properties of wood. It provides an overview of wood-based products and exposes students to structural systems in wood. Basic techniques for physical measurement and mechanical testing are introduced by conducting and analyzing several laboratory experiments.
  • 525 Solar Energy Systems and Building Design
    Introduces the fundamental concepts of solar building design and energy systems. Through project-based study and occasional field visits, students will explore the theory, technologies, applications, and benefits of solar design of buildings and discover how to utilize solar energy systems for residential and commercial buildings. Students will be required to research and document technology and complete a semester case study project in which they will examine various energy conservation aspects and economics underlying solar energy systems
  • 550 Construction Project Management
    This class introduces the fundamental concepts of project management for sustainable design and construction and is suitable for students in various disciplines, particularly architecture, engineering, construction, information technology and management. Topics to be discussed include project initiation, integrative planning, implementation, monitoring, control and closeout; effective goal setting, documentation, scope/quality, budget and schedule definition; team organization, contracts and negotiation, risk management, legal, environmental and other issues throughout the project life cycle.
  • 590S Topics in Sustainable Building Systems and Construction Technology
    The course serves as a dynamic sampling of the multiple disciplines necessary to create or modify the Built Environment. Lectures presented by various educators, researchers, and practitioners; experts in their fields will provide students with a broadened perspective, which will help foster critical thinking and provide a more expansive view of the Built Environment.
  • 597S Building a Quick Convincing Business Plan
    This class builds upon the student’s current technical and/or market knowledge of the “green” space by introducing and demonstrating simple concepts in strategic and tactical planning that can transform their concepts and ideas for “green” business initiatives into definitive actions and results. The techniques presented will help the student develop, articulate and execute a “green” strategy and a transition to “green” both internally, through a change in culture, and externally through a change in market positioning. The course would also benefit those who want to learn the basics of formalized planning for any application as a keystone for future career development or for application in a future “green” business transition. Each student (or group of students) will be asked to identify a “green” initiative where a formalized business plan would help drive successful execution. The deliverable of the course is a written plan framework to achieve the vision for that initiative. The plan will include a Vision, Mission, 3-5 Objectives, Strategies for each Objective, a sample Action Plan and Metrics to measure progress toward results. The student will also learn a simple proven approach to communicating their plan to achieve the stated vision in a team environment.

Landscape Architecture

  • 297A Studio I, Intro to Landscape Design
    Introduction to Design -- basic introduction to two-dimensional concepts of design. Line, form, contrast, repetition, symmetry, texture, scale, and other design techniques. Models -- introduction to three-dimensional design thinking by creating spaces through land form, vegetation, and structure.
  • 547 Landscape Patterns & Process
    Landscape patterns resulting from interactions of biotic, abiotic, and cultural resources and processes over time. Understanding these dynamics as a prerequisite to appropriate planning and design interventions.
  • 547L (Lab) Landscape Patterns & Process
    This course must be taken concurrently with LANDARCH 547, Landscape Pattern & Process.
  • 587 People & the Environment
    Interdisciplinary seminar on the applications of environmental psychology research to planning and design. Topics include landscape preference, territoriality and defensible space, way finding, and restorative settings/therapeutic gardens.

Sustainable Communities

  • 110 Intro To Community Engagement
    To imagine changing even a small part of the world is a daunting, yet exhilarating proposition. Through class exercises, readings, exploration of social policy, guest speakers and a project that takes you to parts of the campus you might otherwise not explore, you will acquire knowledge and skills necessary for becoming a person who can make a difference. By the end of the semester you will have learned to connect ideas with action, have made a positive contribution to your community, and understand, through experience, the personal and social value of community engagement. This is a foundation course for the Civic Engagement and Service Learning certificate. (Gen. Ed. SB, U)
  • 140 Awareness of the Visual Environment
    Examines physical elements that compose a variety of visual environments including gardens and paintings; the cultural values underlying different types of American landscapes, from wilderness to cities; and the ways in which other cultures perceive, use, and create their own visual environments. (Gen.Ed. AT)
  • 335 Plants in Landscape
    With lab. Introduction to 200 basic ornamental plants used in landscape architectural, horticultural, arboricultural, and other design uses; their identification, uses, and cultural requirements. Two weekly field trips around campus. Workbook with sketches required.
  • 533 Urban Greening Theory & Practice
    Since the rise of urban civilization, vegetated public space has been a strategy to enhance the experience of living in cities. The purpose of this course is to explore the theoretical and practical expressions of this urban greening aspiration, defined here as the introduction or conservation of outdoor flora in cities. Toward this goal, the course is organized in two parts: First, we will analyze the various discourses that have, and are currently, animating urban greening practice. Second, we will explore how urban greening is expressing itself in cities around the world today. This combined inquiry into theory and practice will enhance students' ability to develop urban greening strategies that respond to the needs of 21st century cities.
  • 574 City Planning
    Introduction to city and regional planning and the urban planning profession. The role the planner plays in addressing the wide range of problems and opportunities, city or regional, that now, or may in the future, confront America's modern urban environment.

Regional Planning

  • 577 Urban Policies
    Social, cultural, political, and economic analyses of urban policies and practices. Various disciplinary approaches used for critiquing and developing appropriate policies, including urban planning, anthropology, geography, political science, media studies, sociology, and economics. Includes service learning component.
  • 585 Planning for Climate Change
    This seminar reads some of the most current literature on the future of the urban form given climate change, and allows time and shared space to reflect on what these coming changes mean for (primarily local) government as well as governance. The class focus will be on implications of these coming conditions for built form both now and in the future, with a goal of developing a working understanding of what municipal, regional, and state planners and policymakers need to know now about these conditions to provide leadership to communities.
  • 630 Theory and Practice of Public Participation
    This course will introduce students to public participation at the practice level in planning. Lectures and class discussions will review current theory underpinning participation practice, and will critically evaluate the wide range of participation methods currently in use in planning practice. There will also be one or more exercises in participation implementation that occur outside standard class times, when we will join one of the other studio classes, and plan and run their participation process.


  • 440  Microbial Ecology & Evolution
    Advanced lecture course supported by group discussions designed to introduce upper undergraduate students to ranges of microbial life and evolutionary mechanisms to develop and sustain them. Emphasized are linkages between microbial ecology, diversity, and evolution.
  • 444 Biodeterioration, Bioconversion, and Bioenergy: Carbon Cycling to Sustainability
    Bioconversion of materials is part of the natural cycle for all bio-based materials as well as a key factor in bioenergy production. Biodegradation processes including those employed by fungal, bacterial, insect and marine organisms relative to carbon and nutrient cycling and the production of feedstocks for bioenergy and biomaterials are important to maintaining the ecological balance on earth, and for the development of a sustainable society with renewable and bio-based materials. The course examines aspects of natural degradative systems, and how biomimicry of these systems can be harnessed for sustainable energy and product production. Deterioration and protection of biomaterials including wood, bamboo, and historic materials is also included.
  • 494MI Microbes and Climate Change
    The vast majority of Earth?s biodiversity is microbial. Microorganisms are directly involved in the ecosystem services on which all of life depends. They interact intimately with other organisms and yet we know much less about their biodiversity than we do for plants and animals. Our lack of understanding of the interactions and feedbacks of microbial biodiversity is troubling, given the high rates of environmental change that the Earth is currently experiencing, including man-made global climate change. Satisfies one of three required modules for the Integrative Experience requirement for BA-MicBio or BS-MicBio majors.

Stockbridge School of Agriculture

  • 100 Botany for Gardeners
    A holistic view of plants including ecology, plant form and function, inheritance and evolution, and the relationship between plants and human life. Taught using world food, agricultural and gardening examples. (Gen.Ed. BS)
  • 105 Soils
    Interrelationship of soils and higher plants. Physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils. Practical approach to current problems through basic soil principles. Prerequisite: some knowledge of chemistry. (Gen.Ed. BS)
  • 186  Intro to Permaculture
    A foundation in permaculture history, ethics, principles, design process, and practical applications, rooted in the observation of natural systems. By observing key ecological relationships, we can mimic and apply these beneficial relationships in the design of systems that serve humans while helping to restore the natural world. This course trains students as critical thinkers, observers, and analysts of the world(s) around them, and then goes on to provide students with the tools needed to design for inspired and positive change.
  • 197W Food Waste and Recovery
    A weekly discussion exploring the root causes of excessive food waste as well as sustainable solutions including; avoiding of the generation of excess, feeding people in need, livestock feed, industrial uses, and composting.
  • 356 Food Justice and Policy
    This course examines the role of policy in determining WHAT we eat, WHO experiences barriers to access to safe, healthy, local, fairly produced foods, and HOW we create equity and sustainability in our local food system. We will start by looking at the basic components of our food system: production, distribution, and consumption. We will then examine systemic structures of race, class, citizenship and ability as they relate to access to healthy local food. The course-work concludes with an in-depth look at food sovereignty, the right of communities to choose how their food is produced and what they consume, the impact of agribusiness and the concentration of resources into the hands of a few corporations, and the dramatic effect U.S. food policies have on the rest of the world. Students will have the opportunity to do research and analysis useful to those working for food change in the Pioneer Valley region.
  • 378  Agroecology
    An overview of the ecology related to agricultural production, emphasizing crop production. The course will introduce students to ecological principles related to agricultural ecosystems, and to the ways these principles work in modern industrialized agriculture, in traditional agricultural systems, and in alternative systems such as organic agriculture. Students will learn ways by which ecological principles to determine the sustainability of agroecosystems and used to make them more sustainable.
  • 515 Microbiology of the Soil
    Microbial processes in the soil and sediment environment; ecology of the various microbial communities; the decomposition of organic matter, carbon transformation, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus and other mineral transformations. Chemistry of these reactions and their biogeochemical implications. Biological equilibrium, the rhizosphere, and microbial associations. Prerequisites: basic biology and organic chemistry.
  • 587 PhytoBioremediation
    This course will cover the various aspects of phytoremediation - the use of plants (both natural hyper-accumulators and transgenic) and their associated microbes with the purpose of environmental clean-up of contaminated soil, sediments and water. Various strategies for phytoremediation of a wide range of toxic pollutants, both organic and elemental, with a special emphasis on toxic metals will be discussed.