Permanent SUST Courses

These courses are designated eligible for the Sustainability Minor (SUST) every time they are offered, regardless of course section, semester, or instructor.  Check current course listings to see when they will be offered again. 


Course description: An introduction to the basic concepts of conservation biology, including the history of conservation, the value of biological diversity, threats to biodiversity, conservation at the population, species, and community levels, and applications to human activities. Laboratories will emphasize data collection and analysis, and the practical application of conservation practices. This course is designed to meet the needs of the Environmental Studies major for a core course in environmental biology. Two laboratory hours per week. This course fulfills the core-area in natural science in the Natural Science and Mathematical and Quantitative Reasoning requirement in the core curriculum.

Course description: Influences of humans on the global environment have reached unprecedented levels, increasing the need for society to strive to live in a sustainable manner. Many issues facing the environment have a biological basis. Thus, an understanding of basic biology is necessary to understand and address many environmental issues. This course will cover the fundamental biology involved with five environmental issues at the global scale: climate change, excessive nutrient loading into ecosystems, agricultural production, chemical contaminants, and loss of biodiversity. Specific biological principles to be covered include energy and nutrient mass balance by organisms and ecosystems, homeostasis and organismal physiology, and population dynamics and conservation biology. Prerequisite: A minimum grade of C- in BIOL 208, or any 100-level GEOL, and CHEM 112 or CHEM 115

Course description: There is increasing public interest and concern over the connections between environmental quality and human health. This course will explore these connections by providing an introduction to the multidisciplinary field of environmental toxicology- the study of the adverse effects of chemical, biological, and physical agents in the environment on living organisms, including humans. Topics will cover global and local problems including issues of environmental justice and future approaches to sustainably mitigate the major environmental health problems in industrialized and developing countries. Four laboratory hours per week. Prerequisite: BIOL 207, BIOL 208 and a minimum grade of C- in BIOL 209

Course description: This course is an exploration of the major concepts in modern ecology, including eco-physiology and adaptation, population growth and regulation, community and ecosystem ecology, and biodiversity and conservation biology. Laboratory and fieldwork will complement these topics and will emphasize careful experimental design and statistical analysis of data. Four laboratory hours per week. Prerequisite: BIOL 207 and a minimum grade of C- in BIOL 209. STAT 220 or MATH 303 recommended.

Course description: Using approaches from ecology and evolutionary biology, this course examines processes affecting populations of rare and endangered species, as well as control of introduced or pest species. Ecosystem and community-level management projects are addressed in addition to projects directly focused on individual species. Topics include population viability analysis, metapopulations and the geographical structure of populations, genetic diversity within populations, the interaction between populations ecology and population genetics, and biological control of pests. Laboratory work includes field and laboratory study of species with broad ecological implications for the ecosystems and biological communities of the Upper Midwest. Four laboratory hours per week. Prerequisites: BIOL 207 and a minimum grade of C- in BIOL 209

Course description: In 1800, there were around 1 billion people on the planet, and only 3% lived in urban areas. Today we are approaching 8 billion humans, and more than half live in cities. This course explores how cities function as ecosystems and shape local, regional, and global ecological and biogeochemical processes We will examine how carbon, nutrients, and energy enter the city in the form of food and other resources, and exit as waste, and use assess opportunities to move towards sustainability. We will make extensive use of primary literature and apply ecological network analysis tools to contrast human-dominated ecosystems with natural ecosystems. Students will design and implement independent research projects, and will work collaboratively to apply knowledge and skills to real-world urban sustainability problems.


Course description: An introduction to chemistry with particular emphasis on environmental science. Basic chemistry topics covered include the structure of matter, elements, compounds, reactions, energy and energy changes. These fundamentals lead to the study of currently relevant environmental problems and their proposed solutions, for example the depletion of ozone in the stratosphere, global warming, acid rain, smog, waste disposal, water pollution and the study of energy resources. Lectures and laboratory. This course satisfies the lab science requirement in the core curriculum for non-majors. Offered spring semester. NOTE: Students who receive credit for CHEM 101 may not receive credit for CHEM 100.

Communication & Journalism

Course description: This course focuses on the communication of mediated information about the environment. Students will examine what makes (and what has made) the environmental stories we tell about ourselves, from writing about agriculture, nature and spirituality to green advertising, the rhetoric of the environmental movement, and environmental movies and music. For Spring 2016, the focus of the course is food and sustainability.


Course description: This course employs economic principles to analyze the problems of environmental pollution and natural-resource depletion. Economic systems, such as the private-market mechanism, are evaluated with respect to their effectiveness in the management of natural resources and the environment. Domestic and international environmental policies are examined and critiqued. Prerequisite: ECON 252


The course examines the core concepts of energy and power technologies. A hands-on laboratory will examine how refrigerators, swamp coolers, generators, turbines, car engines and solar panels work. The class covers how electricity from fossil fuels is generated and transported, and the status of the technology behind harnessing geothermal resources, solar power, fuel cells, wind power, and biomass energy. Students will be introduced to the 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics, trade-off charts and the design process. The cultural, social, and economic impacts of energy production are discussed as well as their effects on the environment. (This course is limited to non-majors or students with Freshman or Sophomore standing and it fulfills the core-area in natural science in the Natural Science and Mathematical and Quantitative Reasoning requirement in the core curriculum.)

Course description: The course examines how business can be more sustainable by concentrating on economy, environment, and social equity issues. Various tools are given in each area to help businesses in their quest for having a sustainable development company and mindset. Field trips and guest speakers are used so students can see and hear what sustainability looks like.


Course description: An elective course, open to engineering and entrepreneurship majors, designed to introduce students to the role of environmental sustainability in product development. This course will look at ways a wide variety of companies have adopted environmentally sustainable practices, and we will practice using methods such as life cycle analysis and whole system thinking. Students will learn and use an array of design thinking techniques. All students will be expected to complete a final project in which they work in a team to write a proposal for a business.

The three main learning objectives for this course are:
1.Students will be comfortable discussing environmental sustainability, and its role in business and product design, from multiple perspectives.
2. Students will be able to use a variety of tools, including Life Cycle Analysis and Whole Systems thinking, to assess and develop business ideas.
3. Students will apply the lessons, tools, and case studies learned in the course to develop their own proposal based on an environmentally sustainable business concept.

Environmental Studies

Course description: A study of the interaction of humans and the environment over time and space; a broad introduction that integrates a variety of social-science perspectives into an understanding of the environment and the relations between humans and nature. Specific topics include ecology, population, economic development, resources and sustainable development.

Course description: An emphasis on the ways in which people have created, and attempted to solve, environmental problems in different cultural and historical contexts. Examines the roles of the entire spectrum of actors and human communities, including individuals, families, groups and formal organizations, neighborhoods, cities and nations. Students examine how individual dynamics (such as altruism and economic self-interest) and collective dynamics (such as competition, cohesion, social definitional processes and global interdependence) direct humans in their interactions with the environment.

Course description: Because Minnesota’s resources are finite and our landscapes are changing complex ways, we must make informed decisions about conserving the natural world. This course explores conservation challenges and opportunities in Minnesota by exploring connections between the ecological, social, economic, and political sciences. Students will develop skills in conservation planning tools and approaches. There is an emphasis on fieldwork, and students will study conservation reserves, learning to "read" the landscape with the scientists who manage them.

Course description: An examination of environmental policy outcomes generated by institutions and organizations, including legislation, court decisions and administrative decisions. Additional focus on decision-making processes commonly used to assess environment-related legislation, including those rooted in economics and policy analysis. Prerequisite: ENVR 212

Course description: A capstone course that combines field experience with classroom seminar. Student teams will conduct collaborative broadly interdisciplinary analyses of selected environmental problems. Field-based projects are chosen by the students in consultation with course instructor. Classroom seminars are used for exchange of information between teams and for discussion of readings pertinent to individual research projects or, more broadly, to the interdisciplinary character of environmental problem-solving. Each team produces a major paper that examines the selected problems through humanities, natural-science and social-science lenses. This class is cross-listed with, and is equivalent to, GEOG 402. Prerequisite: 301 and 351 or permission of the instructor

Environmental Science

Course description: This course is designed to fulfill the senior capstone experience in Environmental Science as it brings together students from all of the environmental science concentrations (biology, chemistry, and geology) to complete interdisciplinary research projects. In the semester prior to the course offering, Environmental Science majors, in consultation with their faculty advisors and the course instructor, will develop a research project that they will complete as part of this course. Students may also choose to more fully develop a research project in which they have been participating or propose a service-learning or community-based project. Furthermore, groups of students could propose to perform an interdisciplinary project. The format of this research is intentionally open-ended because it is meant to provide flexibility and choice to the students and the course instructor. Student-led seminars on topics of the students' choosing will comprise most weekly meetings, along with updates on research progress and a final presentation to the St. Thomas community on the outcome of the student's research projects. This course should be completed in the final Spring semester prior to graduation. Prerequisite: ESCI 310 or permission of instructor, and at least one ENVR course.

Course description: This course explores methods of solving environmental problems. These problems are by nature, interdisciplinary and are rarely addressed in a substantive fashion in traditional science textbooks. In this course, students and faculty work together to develop a working model of a critical earth system or biogeochemical cycle (i.e. the carbon or nitrogen cycle), and learn how to make calculations of human-induced changes to that system. Students from all concentrations of the environmental science major will work together on this interdisciplinary research project using modeling and systems analysis software to more fully understand specific environments and the quantitative methods of assessing challenges to those environments. This course should be taken by all ESCI students during their junior year. Prerequisite: Environmental Science majors should have completed BIOL 204, CHEM 201, or GEOL 211/252. Environmental Studies (ENVR) majors that wish to take this course need to have completed one course each from BIOL, CHEM and GEOL.


Course description: This course explores the effects of social, economic, environmental, political, and demographic change from a geographic perspective. It introduces students to a broad range of topics, including the effects of population growth, human impact on the environment, economic development, and globalization. Offered every semester. This course fulfills the Social Analysis and Human Diversity requirements in the core curriculum.

Course description: The theme of this course is how to perform data analysis using Geographic Information Systems. Specific topics include spatial database operations, buffers, map overlay and address matching. The course illustrates the principles of Geographic Information Systems using a variety of real-world applications from demography to environmental studies. This course uses a blended course format and students should be prepared to spend 50% of their time working independently.

Course description: This course uses basic Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to study a wide range of conservation issues. GIS is ideal platform for exploring the relationships between the economic, political and environmental processes shaping our landscapes. Typical class projects include locating the best lands in Minnesota for carbon sequestration projects and helping the Minnesota Nature Conservancy target valuable forest habitat for conservation purchases.

Course description: This class introduces students to the concepts, theories and research techniques used by medical geographers. We study the underlying environmental, cultural and demographic processes that shape the distribution and spread of disease in an effort to achieve a deeper understanding of the factors influencing human health. Much of the semester is spent using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to help community partners analyze and address health care challenges in the Twin Cities.

Course description: A sequel to GEOG 321, this project-based course is designed around individual student interests to utilize advanced ArcGIS functions and analysis. Principles of geographic information systems will be implemented in a wide variety of applications. Prerequisite: GEOG 321 or consent of the instructor.


Course description: A study of the Earth's properties; the formation and classification of minerals, rocks, ore deposits, and fuels; and the nature and origin of the Earth's surface and interior. Emphasis will be placed upon a changing Earth, and the geologic processes operating at the surface and in the interior. Lecture and two laboratory hours per week. NOTE: Students who receive credit for GEOL 111 may not receive credit for GEOL 102, 110, 114, or 115.

Course description: This course emphasizes the interactions between humans and their environment, focusing on those processes and issues that are fundamentally geological in nature. Early in the course, students will be introduced to basic geoscience concepts and principals, the scientific method, plate tectonics, and earth materials (rocks and minerals). The remainder of the course will focus on specific topics at the interface between humans and their environment, including volcanic and earthquake hazards, human impacts on the hydrological cycle, surface and groundwater contamination, climate and the carbon cycle, nuclear waste storage, soil erosion, non-renewable resources, and slope stability. NOTE: Students who receive credit for GEOL 115 may not receive credit for GEOL 102, 110, 111, or 114.

Course description:  Earth's materials record the vast history of the earth, help us understand current earth processes and are vital to our daily living. By the end of this course, you will be able to identify many common Earth materials and their components, describe how they formed, state where on or in Earth they typically form, and describe their economic and environmental importance. We will travel to the Badlands and Black Hills, SD, to collect data from several field sites for analysis during the rest of the semester. Prerequisite: one of GEOL 102, 110, 111, 113, 114, 115 or 161. 

Course description: The Earth's surface is dominated by vast oceans known for the beauty of their wildlife and waters. The oceans are also increasingly recognized for their critical importance to the functioning of the Earth's climate system and for their endangered natural resources. For example, the ocean- atmospheric climate phenomenon known as El Nino Southern Oscillation has gained household name recognition for its global impact on the weather, economy, and public health. In this course we will explore the physical, chemical, and biological processes that characterize the oceans. Students will develop research and analytical skills by making observations and interpretations of oceanographic processes using data, demonstrations, and field experiences. Prerequisites: One of GEOL 110, 111, 113, 114, 115, 130, 161 or permission of instructor.

Course description: Environmental geochemistry explores past and present environments for their chemical characteristics and environmental quality. In this course we explore the applications of chemistry to solve geological and environmental problems, with an emphasis on freshwater environments. Students build hands-on field laboratory skills investigating Minnesota rock formations, lake sediments, and waters using several different geochemical methods.   Students work with a peer partner for 6 weeks of the course on a project they design in consultation with the instructor to monitor local or regional environmental quality of soils, sediments, and/or waters.


Course description: We live in an era of unprecedented concern for environmental dangers and disasters, but ideas and beliefs about human relationships with nature are nothing new. This course begins with ancient texts and concludes in the present, asking along the way how people - from philosophers to the illiterate, scientists to laypeople - have understood their environments. Key themes include the legacies of ancient medical and religious traditions, responses to urbanization and resource scarcity in Renaissance Europe, native American interpretations of nature, and the challenges of modern industrial society. We will consider influential environmentalists such as John Muir and Rachel Carson as well as others who fit less comfortably into that tradition including government planners and legislators, business leaders and economists, consumers and novelists. The course will conclude with an examination of environmentalism in action in students' own communities.


Course description: Consideration of the ethical issues arising from human interaction with the environment, including population pressure, pollution, conservation and preservation. Focus is on the grounds of our obligation to resolve such issues; the question of what persons and things are worthy of moral consideration; and the respective roles of individuals, organizations and government in addressing environmental problems. Case studies will be used to trace the implications of various ethical and political theories. Prerequisites: PHIL 214 or 215 and ENVR 151 (ENVR 151 is waived for philosophy majors and minors)


Course description: Students will discuss implications of different sustainability models (e.g., triple bottom line vs. nested circles). Learning goals that foster critical thinking about environmental problems and solutions include:
• Understand the causes and consequences of environmental problems
• Understand the psychological factors that lead people to engage in sustainable behavior and be able to describe the main theories guiding conservation psychology research
• Have a clear understanding of the psychological underpinnings of the approaches being used to promote sustainable behavior
• Be able to describe important social, cultural, and policy factors that influence sustainable behavior
We will compare the DSP and NEP worldviews which impact the way people understand problems and develop solutions. All facets of the grade are related to sustainability; the primary project will require application of material learned throughout the course to solve an environmental problem.


Course description: This course examines Christian theological and moral reflection on the relation between human activity and the natural environment. It will address environmental issues that are of mutual concern to theologians and the natural or social sciences; thus it will study scientific analysis along with theological perspectives. The course will also review contemporary practices and/or policies that address environmental problems. Prerequisite: THEO 101 and one 200-level or 300-level THEO course, and PHIL 115