College of Engineering & Mines

Updates for students, alumni, supporters and constituents

Earth System Science & Policy Courses for Fall 2022

Fall 2022 Earth System Science & Policy Courses

All graduate courses are on-campus and online asynchronous.

For the undergrad courses, ESSP 310 is offered on campus and online asynchronous. The other courses are offered on campus.

Students having questions about the online format should contact the course instructor directly. If students have any questions, they are more than welcome to contact the course’s instructor.


Graduate Courses

ESSP 503. Environmental Policy & Science. 3 Credits.
Tu/Th 9:30-10:45 – Clifford 368 (Dr. Romsdahl)

Human interactions with the Earth system are often managed through policy and science. This course will introduce students to concepts, ideas, practices, and challenges at the nexus of policy, science, and the environment. Students will examine the human dimensions of environmental problems and the different roles of policy and science in helping us address them.


ESSP 504. The Biosphere. 3 Credits.
Mo/We/Fr 9:03-9:55 am – Clifford 366 (Dr. Hammond)

The Biosphere (ESSP 504) introduces students to the concept of the biosphere as articulated by Vladimir Vernadsky in the 1920s and 1930s, and examines the concepts and roles of nutrient cycling, biodiversity, evolution, ecology, and ecosystem productivity on Earth. The overall course is framed around the Drake equation and walks students through critical steps in the formation of the solar system, habitable zones around stars, evolution and proliferation of life on Earth, the interconnected nature of inorganic nutrient cycling and ecosystem function, and human’s impact on all these systems, culminating with the final variable of the Drake equation–the longevity of civilizations–and humanity’s active role in the Anthropocene.


ESSP 505. Energy Issues and Earth Systems. 3 Credits.
Tu/Th 2:00-3:45 pm – Clifford 366. (Dr. Laguette)

This course is about contemporary complex energy issues. Taking a system approach, it gives an overview of energy history, the last century’s trends and the achievement in energy production. It also discusses energy systems and energy “linkages” with society. It then examines the pros and the cons of both fossil fuels and alternative fuels. Finally, it considers the future of energy in low-carbon energy systems.


ESSP 540. Advanced Topics in Geospatial Technologies. 3 Credits.
Mo 1:25 pm-2:25 pm Clifford 366, and We 1:25 pm – 3:15 pm Clifford 364 (Dr. VanLooy)

The course’s intent is to stay abreast of technological developments in a rapidly evolving field. Course contents will vary according to where the advances have the most immediate impact. The goal is to provide students with exposure and hands-on experience needed to apply technologies to significant Earth System problems. Among technologies to be discussed are sensors for satellites and aircraft, data acquisition and image processing tools, verification and validation techniques, precision navigation by Global Positioning Satellites, and advanced uses of Geographic Information Systems. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.


Some undergraduate courses may also be of interest. We also offer a minor in Sustainability Studies.


Undergraduate Courses

ESSP 310. Sustainable Food Systems. 3 Credits.
Tu/Th 11:00 am -12:15 pm – Clifford 368 (Dr. Laguette)

This course will examine the need for the development of sustainable food production systems. The course will introduce the concept of an integrated agro-ecosystem. Students will learn how food production systems work, how they impact natural ecosystems, how fragile the human food resource has become, and gain an appreciation of the complexity of relationships between humans and food.


ESSP 499 Special Topics: Economic Planning for a Changing Environment. 3 credit.
Tu/Th 12:30-1:45 pm Clifford 368 (Dr. Zheng)


Minor Core Courses

ESSP 160. Sustainability & Society. 3 Credits. 3 sessions offered, one after the other.
Tu/Th from 12:30 pm  to 4:45 pm (Dr. Rebecca and Hammond)

Human interactions with the natural environment are often perceived as conflicts between environmental protection and socio-economics. Sustainability attempts to redefine that worldview by seeking a balance between the ‘three Es’ -environment, economy, and equity. This course examines the concept of sustainability, the theory behind it, and what it means for society.


ESSP 200. Sustainability Science. 3 Credits. 1 session
Mo/We/Fr 11:15 am – 12:05 pm Clifford 368. (Dr. VanLooy)

This course will provide an integrated, system-oriented introduction to the concepts, theories and issues surrounding a sustainable future for humans and the Planet Earth. The course will address the concept of sustainability, the concept of a system, explore human world views, provide an introduction to energy, complexity and ecosystems, and examine resource use, food production, industrial development and the prospects for a sustainable future.