Field Ecology and Conservation Biology

Field Ecology and Conservation Biology

College of the Atlantic offers depth and breadth in Field Ecology & Conservation Biology. Next to Acadia National Park and the Gulf of Maine, our shore-front campus and two offshore field stations provide a wide range of educational settings and natural habitats. Students have gone on to do internships, research, and graduate work around the globe.

Students focusing on Field Ecology & Conservation Biology choose a set of foundational courses that afford a solid base for advanced studies. In all biology classes, we emphasize the importance of understanding the organism in its natural environment and the role humans have played in shaping that environment. To study nature, it is critical to spend time not just in the laboratory or library, but in the field as well. Given the educational value of these experiences we get students in the field as soon as possible, often in their first term. Introductory classes are small-typically fifteen students, rarely above twenty-and are taught by faculty who are active researchers, skilled naturalists, and passionate teachers.

COA takes an ecological approach throughout the curriculum: students discover interrelationships between organisms and their environments. Unlike at most other colleges, sciences at COA are not insulated from other areas of study. At COA, we believe that historical, aesthetic, economic, political, and literary analysis and modes of thought enhance the scientific method. Students are therefore encouraged to design a course of study synthesizing knowledge from different disciplines.

Students work with faculty during the academic term, as well as during breaks, assisting in ongoing studies and developing their own programs of research. Students also have opportunities to get involved in environmental politics and conservation policy. With faculty mentors, COA students come up with their own research questions, write grant proposals, and present their results at meetings of national and international science conferences and policy meetings.


AD2017Drawing Mineral and Botanical Matter in the Forest of Maine

Viewed as a regular practice, the descriptive power of drawing can intensify the experience of observational fieldwork, provide the draughtsperson with a richer understanding of the cycles within a landscape, and deepen our relationship with the natural world. The primary setting for this studio course is Mount Desert Island. The subject matter of our visual attention includes trees, rock features, and other indigenous plant life of the island. Students will learn a variety of drawing methods in order to document the natural history of a specific place. Coursework includes: maintaining a field sketchbook, graphically recording the development of a singular botanical life-form over the course of the term, and producing visual notations in the sketchbook during a bi-weekly slide lecture on the history of artistic representations of the natural world. Evaluation is based on class participation, evidence of completion of weekly assignments, and final project.

Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisites: permission of instructor. Lab fee: $65. Class limit: 12. Meets the following degree requirements: AD

AD3021Cities: Past, Present and Future

This intermediate course focuses on the architecture and physical form of cities through time. Rome has had a profound influence on the design of architecture and cities. In preparation for a 9-12 day field trip to this remarkable city, students will become familiar with its layers of history, the classic orders, the writings of Vitruvius, and the works of Michelangelo, among others. They will experience firsthand the city's famous monuments, ruins, buildings, piazzas, gardens, and neighborhoods, documenting their field observations in sketches, photographs and notes. Upon returning the focus will shift to an examination of the history of several major American and European cities, conditions, policies and technologies that shaped them, and various historic and current urban design movements. We will conclude with examples of recent and emerging international strategies to improve urban public space, transportation, provide local food, reduce emissions, and address impacts of climate change. Students will be evaluated on quality of their field notes and sketches, assignments, class discussions and presentations.

This course will be integrated with and requires co-enrollment in Advanced Food Policy. The third enrollment credit must be either Power and Governance or an Independent Study.

Level: Intermediate. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor.  Class Size Limit: 12.  Lab fee: $800.00.  Meets the following degree requirements: AD

AD4016The Wilderness in Landscape Art I: Proto-Ecological Visions

This course is concerned with the visualization of what is wild in the landscape and how artists pictured that which others saw as untamed.  Course readings will engage with a variety of texts written by art historians, geographers, historians, writers, and theoreticians that address the invention of the modern idea of wilderness.  Assumptions governing what constitutes wilderness and how artists have shaped our perception of it are among topics which we will consider.  Landscapes contain life that seems to fluctuate between haggard or feral states of nature.  We will investigate how an artist distinguishes between that which is cultivated and that which is natural; what images evoke nostalgia for a lost past or suggest the preference for a human dominance over those origins we have isolated ourselves from.  Students will examine visual evidence in the fine arts that indicates a growing awareness of the effect of the Industrial Revolution in North America and in Europe.  Although we look at ecologies through the eyes of artists, students interested in the science, history, and literature are encouraged to take the course.  Evaluation will be based on a research paper and class presentation. There will be a class trip to view art and/or sites relevant to our discussion.   

Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Permission of instructor required. Lab fee: $50. Class limit: 12.  Meets the following degree requirements: AD HY

ES1018Physics I: Mechanics and Energy

This course is the first of a two course sequence covering a range of standard introductory physics topics. The goals of the course are: to introduce students to important physical ideas both conceptually and mathematically; and to help students improve their quantitative skills. The first part of the course consists of a broad look at the three conservation laws: the conservation of momentum, energy, and angular momentum.  Along the way, we'll learn about vectors, work, potential energy, thermal energy, and the energy stored in chemical bonds. We'll conclude with a treatment of Newton's laws of motion.  If time permits, we may briefly cover some topics from chaotic dynamics.  Evaluations will be based on participation in class and lab, weekly homework, and two untimed, open-notes exams. This course makes extensive use of algebra and trigonometry. Potentially difficult math topics will be reviewed as necessary. Prerequisites: Understanding Functions, a strong high school algebra background, or consent of the instructor.

Level:  Introductory. Class limit: 20.  Lab fee: $40.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES QR

ES1022Introduction to Oceanography

Planet Earth is misnamed. Seawater covers approximately 70% of the planet's surface, in one giant all-connected ocean. This ocean has a profound effect on the planet's climate, chemistry, ecosystem, and energy resources. Billions of years ago life began there, in what now we regard as the last unexplored frontier of this planet.  In this course we examine the various disciplines within oceanography, including aspects of geology and sedimentology, chemical, dynamic and biological oceanography. The course concludes with an introduction to marine ecosystems examined at various trophic levels, including phyto/zooplankton, fish and other macrofauna. Fieldwork (weather dependent) includes trips on RV Indigo, trips to intertidal and estuarine ecosystems, and possible visits to the college's islands, Mount Desert Rock and Great Duck Island. Evaluation will be by lab, quizzes and a final paper.

Level: Introductory. Lab fee: $150. Class limit: 20. Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES1028Marine Biology

This is a broad course, covering the biology of organisms in various marine habitats (rocky intertidal, mud and sand, estuaries, open ocean, coral reefs, deep sea), and some policy and marine management and conservation issues. The largest part of this course is focused on learning to identify and understand the natural history and ecology of the marine flora and fauna of New England, with an emphasis on the rocky intertidal of Mount Desert Island.  The course meets twice per week with one afternoon for laboratory work or field trips.  Evaluations are based on the quality of participation in class, one in-class practical, several sets of essay questions, and a field notebook emphasizing natural history notes of local organisms.  This class is intended for first year students, who will have priority during registration.  Returning students may take this course only with permission of the instructor.   

Level: Introductory.  Prerequisites:  Signature of instructor for returning students.  Offered at least every other year.  Class limit:  20.  Lab fee:  $60.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES1030Chemistry II

This is the second half of a two-term sequence designed to help students describe and understand properties of materials.  This course begins with a survey of how the internal structure of atoms leads to the formation of different sorts of bonds between them. It then considers how weaker forces can arise between molecules and the sorts of physical phenomena that such forces explain. The class concludes by considering how to describe and explain the rates at which (and the extents to which) chemicals reactions occur and applies such descriptions and explanations to common types of reactions (acid/base and redox).  Throughout the course, examples are drawn from living systems, the natural environment, and industrial products.  The course meets for three hours of lecture/discussion and for three hours of lab each week.  Chemistry 1 is a strongly recommended a prerequisite for this course. Evaluations are based on class participation, homework, midterm and final exams and a term project or paper. 

Level:  Introductory.  Lab fee: $60.  Meets the following requirements: ES, QR.  Offered every year.

ES1036Biology II: Form and Function

This is the second half of a 20-week, two-term introductory course in biology, providing an overview of the discipline and prerequisite for many intermediate and advanced biology courses. The course further explores topics introduced in Biology I, with a particular emphasis on biological structures and their role in the survival and reproduction of organisms. We will explore principles of evolution, classification, anatomy and physiology, epidemiology, behavior, and basic ecology. The primary focus of the course is on vertebrate animals and vascular plants, but we will make forays into other phylogenetic lineages at intervals. Weekly field and laboratory studies introduce students to the local range of habitats and a broad array of protists, plants, and animals. Attendance at two lectures and one lab each week is required; course evaluation is based on class participation, exams, preparation of a lab notebook, and a mid-term presentation.

Level: Introductory. Prerequisites: Completion of Bio I with a grade of C or higher, or a score 4 or 5 on the AP Biology exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the IB Biology HL exam, or permission of instructor. Offered every year. Lab fee $40. Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES1038Geology of Mt. Desert Island

This course is designed to introduce students to geological concepts, tools of the trade, and to the geological history of Mount Desert Island. Throughout the course, students will learn skillsets (topographic and geologic map reading, orienteering, field observation, note taking, field measurements) and geologic principles (rock types, stratigraphy, plate tectonics, earth systems, geologic time, surface processes) both in the classroom and in the field. We will conduct multiple short field excursions on MDI and one extended weekend field trip to explore the regional geology. Students will submit a term project complete with their own field data, maps, photos, and analysis of the local and regional geology. Students will be evaluated on the term project, short quizzes, additional written assignments and lab reports. Offered every fall.

Level: Introductory. Prerequisites: none. Class limit: 15.  Lab Fee: $100.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES1040Natural Resources

This course will focus on various types of natural resources we have on Earth including water, soil, rock and mineral, and various energy resources (fossil fuels, alternatives). Students will learn fundamental geologic principles through a discussion of the processes forming and influencing these resources. We will explore how each type is extracted/refined/exploited/conserved for human use. We will also discuss the many environmental issues associated with each industry. Finally, we will look at the local industries built on the many natural resources available in our region of Maine. This course will appeal to students interested in geologic processes and how they relate to our resource needs. This course will also provide scientific grounding in the relevant geology for students whose primary interests are in the policy or politics of resources.  Class time will be spent as lectures, discussions, labs or demonstration, and occasionally visiting a local field site. Students will be evaluated based on weekly labs and/or problem sets, a field trip report, and a final report.

Level: Introductory.  Prerequisites: none.  Class limit: 16.  Lab fee: $40. Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES1050Morphology and Diversity of MDI Plants

This course is a survey of the major groups of plants that grow on and around Mount Desert Island.  The course is field-based, will also include discussion and laboratory work. We will cover structural organization and reproductive methods found in bryophytes, ferns, fern allies, gymnosperms, and angiosperms.  Ecological relationships of diverse groups with their environment provide insights into their evolutionary success or failure.  Evaluations are based on class participation, quizzes, lab exams, problem sets, and a final project.
Level: Introductory.  Prerequisite: none.  Class limit: 20.  Lab fee $25.

ES114Organic Chemistry I

This course explores the physical, chemical, and environmental properties of carbon-containing materials such as plastics, solvents, dyes, as well as all living things, and once-living materials. The lab exposes students to the common techniques of studying and manipulating such materials. Evaluations are based on midterm and final exam. The equivalent of this course is a prerequisite for biochemistry. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisites: A previous chemistry course. Offered every other year. Lab fee: $20. *ES*


The study of ornithology is as old as human society itself. Birds are particularly conspicuous elements of our world, and figure prominently in our art, religious symbolism, mythology, scientific endeavors and even sport. Birds appear in European paleolithic cave paintings from 14,000 years ago, domesticated fowl are known from India circa 3000 BC, and ancient scholars such as Aristotle and Pliny the Elder devoted considerable time to ornithological observations. In this century great strides have been made in the study of population biology and ecology, navigation and migration, and human induced ecological change (sometimes called human ecology), all through the study of birds. This class introduces the student to the ornithological world by using both scientific literature and direct field observation. Systematics and physiology will be reviewed, but much of our effort will concentrate on reproductive ecology, behavior and the environment, and population dynamics. There will be a strong emphasis on field observation - learning how to look at birds and their behavior in order to perhaps make larger observations about their environment. Level: Introductory. Lab fee: $75. Class limit: 24. *ES*

ES191Field Ecology and Data Analysis

This course teaches students how to collect data in the field (outside), how to descriptively and quantitatively analyze these data using spreadsheet and statistical programs, and how to present the information in the form of a report or scientific paper. Some of the projects are experimental, while some are observational. There are four field projects during the term, and the tentative project areas are one terrestrial plant, one terrestrial animal, one marine, and one independent project. The methods learned will most likely include measuring population and demographic parameters, quantifying behavior, and estimating community composition. In addition to taking data in the field, students spend a substantial amount of time learning and applying statistical techniques to describe and analyze data. Lecture material includes designing data collection procedures, statistical analysis, and problem solving. Evaluations are based on write-ups of field exercises, homework on statistical techniques, oral presentations of work, and class participation. Level: Advanced. Prerequisite: Signature of Instructor; intermediate level Ecology or similar courses are helpful. Offered approximately every other year. Class limit: 15. Lab fee $ 20. *ES* *QR*

ES2010Ecology: Natural History

This course emphasizes field studies of the ecology of Mount Desert Island, incorporating labs and field trips.  Each exercise focuses on a central ecological concept.  Topics include intertidal biology and diversity, forest trees and site types, bedrock geology, soil biology, insect diversity, pollination ecology, freshwater biology, predation, herbivory, and the migration of birds.  Discussions include the development of natural history as a science and the role of natural selection in the evolution of diversity.  Students are expected to keep a field notebook or journal, to undertake a project, and to write a term paper.  Class meets for two lecture sessions and one lab session or two field/lab sessions per week.  The course is particularly appropriate for students concentrating in Environmental Education.  This class is intended for first year students, who will have priority during registration.  Returning students may take this course with permission of the instructor.

Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisites: None; field work involves strenuous hiking. Class Limit: 14. Lab fee: $75.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES2012Introduction to Statistics and Research Design

This course introduces the basics of statistical analysis that can be used in either a scientific or a social science frame of reference.  While this course teaches you to perform both nonparametric and simple parametric analysis both by hand and computer, an emphasis will be placed on understanding the principles and assumptions of each test, rather than mathematical ability per se.  We will also learn how to report statistical results in journal format, and there will be plenty of lab time to sharpen skills.  Evaluation is based on lab participation, three quizzes, and a team project.  

Level: Introductory/Intermediate.  Prerequisites:  A college mathematics course, or signature of the instructor.  Class limit: 15.  Lab fee: $40.  Meets the following degree requirements: QR

ES2014Trees and Shrubs of Mount Desert Island

This course introduces you to the native and ornamental shrubs and trees of Mount Desert Island. Lectures will cover basics of plant taxonomy and forest ecology focusing on the dominant woody plant species of the region. Laboratory and field sessions will involve the identification of woody plants and an introduction to the major woody plant habitats of the island. The course is designed to teach botany and plant taxonomy for students interested in natural history/ecology, forestry, and landscape design. Evaluations are based on  class participation, weekly field/lab quizzes, a plant collection, and term project.

Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Recommended: some background in Botany, Ecology. Offered every year. Class limit: 15.  Lab fee: $40.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES2016Edible Botany

Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Why are potatoes modified stems and sweet potatoes modified roots? Did you know that the true fruits of the strawberry are the achenes (seed-like structures) embedded in the flesh of the strawberry?  Why is the fruit of the peanut a legume and not a nut? This introductory botany course of edible plants is aimed at enhancing your understanding of and appreciation for the plant world. We will cover general plant anatomy and morphology focusing on plant organs such as leaves, stems, fruits, seeds, and roots we use as food and discuss the botany of plant families dominating the world of agriculture. Evaluations are based on class participation, weekly laboratory/field quizzes, and term project.

Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisite: An appreciation for the plants we eat.  Recommended: A course in Biology. Offered every year. Class limit: 20. Lab fee: $50.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES2018Probability and Statistics

This course provides an introduction to probability and statistics. Its goal is to give students a good understanding of what kinds of questions statistical analyses can answer and how to interpret statistical results in magazines, books, and articles from a wide range of disciplines.  The course begins with understanding probability and how it can often lead to nonintuitive results.  Types of statistical analyses discussed in the second part of the course include comparisons of averages, correlation and regression, and applying confidence limits to estimates of studies from both the social and biological sciences.  Application of statistics to specific research problems is covered in greater depth in more advanced courses such as advanced statistics and field ecology and data analysis.  Evaluation is based on class participation, problem sets, and quizzes, and an independent project.  

Level:  Introductory/Intermediate.  Offered approximately every other year.  Class limit: 15.  Lab fee $10.00   Meets the following degree requirements: QR

ES2028Landforms and Vegetation

The course is directed at those interested in descriptive and applied research on taxonomic and ecological aspects of plants. Using field observations and experimental methods students will explore the influence of lithology (parent material), geomorphology (landforms, including topography), and land-use history on the composition and ecology of plant communities of Mount Desert Island and other settings in Maine. Lectures will cover a broad range of topics in geoecology, including plant-soil-microbe relations, plant ecology and evolution, plant ecophysiology, stressors influencing plant species and communities of the Northeast, and conservation and restoration. Students will learn the theory and practice of plant taxonomy and the nomenclature of over 150 species of vascular plants, including the morphological and ecological traits characterizing their families. As part of the evaluation, students are responsible for making a 25-specimen plant collection from one or more plant communities and providing a detailed description on the biotic and abiotic features characterizing the chosen plant-habitat association. Students will also be exposed to methods in plant ecology, including techniques in vegetation surveying and the collection of ecological data on below- and above-ground habitat features to better characterize plant-habitat associations. While students are encouraged to explore a range of habitats on and off the island, students working on plant-habitat associations in the Northeast Creek Watershed will be able to incorporate their plant-habitat data into the Watershed Database managed by COA’s GIS Laboratory. Evaluations are based on a 25 specimen plant collection and report (30%), weekly field quizzes on plant taxonomy and ecology (30%), final project presentation on a plant community ecology topic (30%), and class participation (10%).

Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisites: Biology 2 and Critical Zone I or II. Other recommended courses include Wild Life Ecology and Management and Chemistry of Waters.  Class Size: 20. Lab Fee: $60.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES2030Marine Mammal Biology I

This course provides an introduction to the biology and natural history of marine mammals, specializing in species resident within the North Atlantic.  Topics covered include: phylogeny and taxonomy; anatomy and physiology; behavior; sensory ecology; and management/conservation issues.  The course includes field trips to observe animals in their natural habitat, dissection of specimens, and exposure to the professional peer review field. Students are expected to complete two individual literature-based reviews, one species- and one system-based, to be presented in class.  Assessment is based on class participation, presentations as well as written submissions. Lab fee covers costs of field trips, including potential boat and field station time, and optional travel to a regional conference during the term.  Offered every other year.

Level:  Introductory/Intermediate.  Prerequisite: Biology I, II and a writing-focused class or permission of instructor. Class limit: 15.  Lab fee: $200.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES3012Calculus II

This course is the continuation of Calculus I.  It begins by considering further applications of the integral.  We then move to approximations and series; we conclude the course with a brief treatment of differential equations.  The mathematics learned are applied to topics from the physical, natural, and social sciences. There is a weekly lab/discussion section. Evaluations are based on homework, participation in class and lab, and tests.

Level: Intermediate.  Prerequisites: Calculus I or the equivalent.  Class limit: 20. Lab fee $10. Meets the following degree requirements: QR ES


This course examines ecology in the classic sense:  the study of the causes and consequences of the distribution and abundance of organisms.  The course consists of two one-and-one-half hour lectures per week plus weekly field trips and one three-day camping trip to Isle au Haut to conduct comparative studies on island ecology.  We examine the assumptions and predictions of general models of predator-prey interactions, inter- and intra-species competition, island biogeography, and resource use, and compare these models to the results of experimental tests in lab and field.  In addition we discuss appropriate techniques used by ecologists in collecting data in the field, and apply some of these techniques on field trips.  Readings include selections from the primary literature.  Students are evaluated on the basis of class participation, a number of quizzes, problem sets, and a final exam.  

Level: Intermediate.  Prerequisites:  Biology I and II, and signature of instructor.  Offered every year.  Class limit: 12.  Lab fee $75.   Meets the following degree requirements: ES


This course is a comprehensive introduction to the biology of amphibians and reptiles.  We cover the systematics, physiology, behavior, and ecology of each group, with particular emphasis on the important contribution amphibian and reptilian studies have made to the fields of physiological, behavioral, and community ecology.  Readings are chosen from a text and from primary literature.  The course consists of two lecture/discussion sessions per week and one lab/field trip every week.  Weather dictates the number and focus of field trips, but students should expect to participate in both day and night field trips throughout the term.  Students are evaluated on class participation, exams, and a term-long field project.

Level: Intermediate.  Prerequisites:  Biology I and II or equivalent, and one Vertebrate Biology course.  Class limit: 12.   Offered every other year.   Lab fee:  $75.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES3020Invertebrate Zoology

This course is a phylogenetic survey of the major groups of animals without backbones.  These animals range in size from single cells to giant squids, and they include the vast majority of animals on earth.  Using text readings, assigned articles, and one afternoon per week of field/lab work, students gain an understanding of the classification, ecology, evolutionary relationships, and economic significance of this remarkably diverse collection of organisms.  Students are evaluated on participation, lab notebooks, and performance on weekly quizzes and two tests.

Level: Intermediate.  Prerequisites:  Biology I and II or signature of instructor.  Offered every other year.  Class limit: 16.  Lab fee $25.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES


This course provides students with the opportunity to put their knowledge of ecology and diversity into an evolutionary framework.  The emphasis is on how populations of organisms are currently evolving, with a focus on the ecological context of natural selection.  Topics in the course include the genetic basis of evolutionary change, selection and adaptation, reproductive effort, co-evolution, the ecology and evolution of sex, behavioral ecology, speciation, and applied evolutionary ecology.  In addition to a textbook, students read several original research articles.  The course has two lectures and one discussion section per week.  Evaluations are based on exams and short essay sets.

Level:  Intermediate.  Prerequisite:  Biology I and II or equivalent.  Offered every other year.  Class limit: 20.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES


From the dawn of human history, plants have played an integral role in human societies across the world.  The course is aimed at generating an appreciation for the myriad uses of plants by human societies, both past and present.  We will explore the use of plants as food and beverages, raw materials, fuel, medicine and psychoactive drugs, spices and perfumes, genetic resources, and for religious and spiritual needs.  The future ecological, economic, and social implications of our dependency on plants will also be discussed in light of current threats to plants and their native habitats, including threats to plant-human relations in traditional societies.  The important roles played by human societies in maintaining floristic and associated cultural diversity will be a primary focus of readings and discussions.  Evaluations will be based on class participation, involvement in class discussion, and a term project involving a half-hour oral presentation.   

Level:  Intermediate.  Prerequisites:  Signature of instructor or Edible Botany.  Class limit: 16.  Lab fee $40.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES3028Calculus III: Multivariable Calculus

The functions studied in Calculus I and II are one-dimensional.  But the universe of everyday experience is, at minimum, three-dimensional.  In this course we explore how Calculus can be extended so as to apply to functions of more than one variable, and thus apply to the three-dimensional world.  We will begin by reviewing vectors and functions of several variables.  We will then learn about partial derivatives and gradients and how apply these tools to multivariable optimization.  Turning our attention to integral calculus, we will next cover double and triple integrals and their applications.  We will conclude with a treatment of line integrals, flux integrals, the divergence and curl of a vector field, and Green's, and Stokes's theorems.  Evaluation will be based on class participation and lengthy weekly problem sets.  

Level:  Intermediate.   Prerequisites:  Calculus II or the equivalent or signature of instructor.   Lab fee: none.    Meets the following degree requirements: QR

ES3030Environmental Physiology

The manner in which animals survive in extreme environments or function at levels that far exceed human capacities has always fascinated us.  In this course, we examine how an animal's physiology fashions its functional capacities under various environmental conditions.  We explore the interrelationships between physiology, behavior, and ecology using an integrated and evolutionary approach in order to understand regulatory responses in changing environments.  Major areas to be covered include thermoregulation, behavioral energetics, and osmoregulation.  Emphasis is placed on vertebrate systems to elucidate general patterns in physiological attributes.  This course has two lecture/discussion sessions per week and students are evaluated on class participation, a series of take-home exams, and a class presentation.

Level: Intermediate.  Prerequisites: Biology I & II, or equivalent.  Class limit: 15. Lab fee:  $65.00  Meets the following degree requirements: ES


This course will explore the many roles that genes play in the biology of organisms, the molecular basis of gene function, and the methodologies used in genetic research and application.  Students in this course should already have a basic understanding from an introductory biology course of the structure and function of genes and chromosomes, the processes involved in gene expression, and patterns of inheritance.  This course will explore these phenomena more deeply as well as delve into a range of other topics, including population genetics, quantitative genetics, genes in development, genomics, and using genetic data to understand human evolution.  We will also discuss the use of genetic engineering in industry, agriculture, medicine, and research.  We will meet twice weekly for lectures and once per week for discussion of readings and problem sets.  Evaluation is based on short problem sets, take-home exams, an oral presentation, and a final paper.  

Level: Intermediate. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Biology I or permission of instructor. Class limit: 16.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES3036The History of Natural History

Natural History can be regarded as the oldest "science" -indeed, at one point within the Western canon Natural History WAS science.  Beginning with discussion of early hunter-gatherers, working past Ashurbanipal, King of Kings, Hellenistic Greece, the Roman Empire, and into the herbals and magicians of the Middle Ages, this course will survey the development and eventual fragmentation of Natural History into more specialized branches. Once a foundation has been established, we will engage with the naturalists of the great age of exploration and conquest during the 17th through the 19th centuries, ending with an examination of Natural History's legacy in the rise of modern Ecology.  Course readings will draw heavily on original sources, using translations where appropriate. Towards the end of the term we will discuss the strengths and limitations of inductive and deductive reasoning in science and the implications of the 20th and 21st centuries' increased emphasis on theoretical reasoning.  Students will gain a better sense of Euro-American history overall and of the history of science in particular; the ability to use original sources; understanding of the importance of comparing multiple sources in arriving at historical conclusions and of the importance of recognizing cultural and historical biases in interpretation of information.  Evaluation will be based on class participation and the spoken and written presentation of individually chosen research on a person or topic important to the development of natural history as a science.  ES HY 

Level: Intermediate. Prerequisites: none.  Class limit: 12.  Lab fee: $100.  Meets the following degree requirements: HY

ES3042Composting: Waste Management to Resource Creation

Composting is an art at the heart of gardening and farming and can quickly produce humus that is of the highest quality.  Anyone and everyone can produce great humus.  In this course we will examine what is compost and why it is important, the basic biology of a compost pile and differences in biology based on different composting approaches, and the current challenges with contamination and scaling up from small to large projects. How compost is produced depends on human aims and to be successful needs to take into account social, economic and ecological concerns. The laboratory exercises and projects will take these perspectives into consideration as we compare and develop institutional approaches to composting, from small-scale vermicompost to more commercial level production.  Readings will include a historical perspective on composting, basic microbiological processes, scientific literature, and papers on compost success stories.  Students will be evaluated on participation, quizzes, field exercises, and a final project presentation to the COA community.  

Level:  Intermediate.  Prerequisites: Permission of instructor and oOne of the following courses:  biology, chemistry, theory and practice of organic gardening, soils.  Class limit: 12.  Lab fee: $50  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES305Tropical Marine Ecology

This course in tropical marine ecology explores topics including organismal diversity, natural history of fish, invertebrates, algae, habitat diversity (coral reefs, mangroves, etc.), fisheries, and conservation. Students meet as a class weekly, alternating between a single three-hour evening seminar session and individual meetings with the instructors to discuss primary readings and research projects. In addition, this course includes a required 18-day field trip to the Yucatan over winter break. Field work is based out of Akumal on the Yucatan peninsula. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisites: a strong performance in previous classes (especially biology), the ability to work well as a member of a group, and enthusiasm; permission of instructors required. Class limit: 8-14 students. Lab fee: estimated at $1200. *ES*

ES3060Marine Mammal Biology I: Field Studies

This Fall course provides an introduction to the biology and natural history of marine mammals, specializing in species resident within the North Atlantic, in a field setting.  Students spend the last two weeks in August of the preceding summer at the College's Mt. Desert Rock Marine Research Station. In addition to introductory topics in marine mammal biology that include phylogeny and taxonomy; anatomy and physiology; behavior; sensory ecology; and management/conservation issues, students also integrate themselves into the resident research team and work on team projects that will include observation of animals in their natural habitat. In the Fall, students meet 3-4 further times for dissection of specimens, team project presentations, and optional attendance at a regional conference. Assessment is based on two individual literature-based reviews, one species- and one system-based, to be presented in class, participation in research projects, and written submissions of their research. Lab fee covers costs of field trips, including boat and field station time, and conference costs. A $200 nonrefundable deposit is required by June 1.  Offered every other year.

Level:  Intermediate.  Prerequisite: Biology I, II and a writing-focused class or permission of instructor.  Class limit: 15.  Lab fee: $500.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES


This class will examine the anatomy, physiology, ecology, and evolutionary history of class Mammalia. Beginning with the evolutionary origin of the first mammals in the Triassic we will follow the adaptive radiation within the group, and the development of increasingly specialized organisms in response to changing climactic and biological conditions. During the final portion of the course, we will examine current theories of hominid evolution and the effects of human dispersal patterns on mammalian biodiversity. Lab work will focus on the identification of North American mammals, but we will also take advantage of other specimens, as they become available. Evaluation based on a series of quizzes, a lab practical, and a term project focusing on one family of mammals. Three hours of lecture/discussion per week plus one three hour lab. Intermediate/Advanced. Biology I & II required, additional courses in ecology and evolution strongly encouraged. PERMISSION OF INSTRUCTOR. Lab Fee $25.00. Offered based on demand. *ES*

ES361Environmental Chemistry: Water

Billions of years ago, ancient water molecules traversed a Goldilocks-like walk through our slowly condensing solar system, looking for a home. Mercury and Venus were much too hot. Mars and the outer planets were much too cold. Earth seemed 'just right.' With conditions capable of sustaining all of water's phases, Earth became the 'water planet.' The solid surface of the earth became sculpted by water. The composition and temperature of the earth's atmosphere became largely determined by its water. All life (that we know) came to be based upon water. It is within the water of its cells that the machinery of life grinds away and it is into water that life disposes of what it finds un-useful. Many life-forms live their entire existence bathed in water as we are bathed in air, and even we who live surrounded by air require more water every day than any other foodstuff. As such, it is appropriate to look at how our water is doing these days. Students will be evaluated on their participation in class discussion of the readings, problem sets, and participation in field studies of focused on monitoring and modeling the conditions of local waters. Level: Intermediate. Lab fee: $50. *ES*

ES373Marine Mammals and Sound

This advanced seminar class examines the role of sound in the biology of marine mammals. We start with an examination of the behavior of sound underwater, covering concepts that include sound production, propagation and reception, SONAR equations, and noise. We continue with a review of how marine mammals, with a specific focus on cetaceans, use sound to communicate, sense and orient within their environment. We conclude with a bioacoustic examination of specific management problems in marine mammal science. Topics covered in this final part will include, but will not be limited to: marine mammal fishery interactions, shipstrikes, effects of industrial noise, whale song and dialects, baleen whale orientation, and marine mammal strandings. Classes will be run in seminar style, reading intensive, with students responsible for leading discussions and topics. Evaluation is by class participation, two term papers and (possibly) a class project. Although no lab period is set for this class, students are expected to invest some time outside of class for the purpose of possible class projects. Level: Advanced. Class limit: 5-10 students. Lab fee $100. *ES*

ES383Fisheries and Their Management

Humans have exploited the biotic resources of the ocean for thousands of years. Although early harvesting probably had minimal ecological and population impact, increased exploitation due to increasing market demand and technological advances have placed significant stress on many of the world's "fisheries". Those exploited species that have thus far avoided becoming commercially or biologically extinct, are, in many cases, threatened by collapse due to over-fishing. This course examines the exploitation of biotic resources in the oceans, including invertebrates, fish, and marine mammal populations. Importantly, it also examines the fishing techniques, fisheries technology and management of fisheries, and critiques and reviews the development of the mathematical modeling on which management is based. The class will be offered in seminar style, with students involved in the discussion and critique of readings, and researching and presenting various case histories. Students will be evaluated on the basis of participation and quality of presentations and term projects. Level: Intermediate. Class limit: 12. Prerequisite: Signature of the instructor, by demonstration of competence in QR and ES disciplines. Course fee: $60. *ES*

ES395Physics III: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics

This course is designed to introduce students to the two central ideas of quantum mechanics. First, the outcomes of experiments cannot be predicted exactly; one can only predict the probability of various outcomes. And second, these probabilities do not behave like normal probabilities; the probabilities interfere with each other in a manner that has no counterpart in our everyday experience with probabilities. We will develop these ideas by taking a close look at a prototypical quantum system: "spin-1/2" particles. We will carefully discuss the experimental evidence for quantum mechanics, and we will also look at some of the well-known conundrums of quantum mechanics, such as the two-slit experiment and the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox. Along the way, students will also be introduced to basic probability theory. We will conclude by looking at some of the applications and implications of quantum mechanics, such as: the Bohr atom, quantum computation, quantum cryptography, and the photoelectric effect. Quantum mechanics is an exciting, challenging topic which has made an impact in many different fields. As such, this course is designed to appeal to a wide range of students --- both those whose interests lie outside of science as well as those who are concentrating in the sciences or mathematics. Students who successfully complete this course will have gained a solid understanding of the central ideas of quantum mechanics. This understanding should be mathematical and quantitative as well as conceptual. Students will also gain some experience with scientific reasoning and quantitative problem solving. Evaluation will be based on class participation, weekly problem sets, and a final presentation or paper. Some computer work may be required, but no computer experience is necessary. Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisites: Familiarity with algebra and trigonometry and high school chemistry or physics. Physics I and II are not prer


Why do we get shorter and wrinklier with age?  Were dinosaurs warm-blooded?  How do grasshoppers hop?  These diverse questions are all within the realm of biomechanics.  A knowledge of biomechanics, or the ways in which plants and animals cope with the laws of physics, can promote an understanding of organisms at all levels of organization, from molecules to ecosystems.  In this course we explore several areas of physical science, including mechanical engineering, materials science, and fluid dynamics, as a means of gaining insight into the biological world.  Students attend two lecture sessions per week and one three-hour lab session for discussions of current research in biomechanics, review of homework assignments, and laboratory observations or demonstrations.  Evaluations are based on participation in discussions, weekly problem sets, two term papers, and a final exam.  

Level: Intermediate/Advanced.  Prerequisites:  One college-level course in Biology and one college-level course in Math or Physics or signature of instructor.  
Class limit: 16.  Offered every other year.  Lab fee: $15.  Meets the following degree requirements: QR ES

ES4012Winter Ecology

In higher latitudes and higher altitudes of the world, up to nine months of each year can be spent locked in winter.  Although migratory species appear to have a selective advantage over non-migratory species during the winter season, year-round resident animals have evolved a remarkable array of physiological, morphological, and behavioral adaptations that allow them to cope with potentially lethal environmental conditions.  In this course, we focus on the special challenges of animals wintering in northern latitudes.  Some of the topics that we address are:  the physical properties of snow and ice, general strategies of animals for coping with sub-freezing temperatures, life in the subnivean environment, animal energetics and nutrition, physiological acclimatization, and humans and cold.  There are two discussions/lectures and one field exercise every week, as well as two weekend field trips.  Students should be prepared to spend a significant amount of time outdoors in winter conditions.  Students are evaluated on class participation, exams, and a student term project.  

Level: Intermediate/Advanced.  Prerequisites:  Permission of instructor.  Class limit:  14.  Lab fee $100.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES4016Island Life

Islands have played a major role in the development of ecological and evolutionary theory. Most recently, islands have served as an important metaphor in the development of conservation biology. Maine is blessed with a plethora of islands -between 4500 and 6000 at the last count- and the history and pre-history of these islands is intimately entwined with that of the continent itself. This course examines historical and current interpretations of island biogeography and the interplay between natural and human history and human ecology. The class will be taught as a combination of term-time seminar and in the field, based on the College's field station on Great Duck Island and the R/V Indigo. During the Spring term we will be meeting regularly to examine the theoretical basis of Island Biogeography and islands as the subject of scientific and literary discussion since Aristotle. Readings will include Darwin, Alfred Russell Wallace, and contemporary authors.  In late August we will re-convene for the field component of the class. During the first half of this component, we will be focusing primarily on Great Duck Island and its immediate surroundings, learning and applying theoretical approaches to islands' landscapes, with extensive reading from the primary literature. During the second half of the class, we will move further afield, exploring a variety of islands in eastern Maine, and relating our observations to theoretical predictions. Ultimately we hope to travel to Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy to observe a large island community, see the traditional weir fishery, and observe firsthand migrating Right and Hump-backed whales, and northern seabirds. Evaluation based on participation, quizzes and a term project. Intermediate/Advanced. Class size limited to 8. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor. Workshop in boat-handling and/or significant experience on the water is a good idea. INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED Lab fee: $150, which helps to cover food  and travel for the field component of the course. Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES4028Plants with Mettle

The course deals with the biology and applied ecological aspects of a unique flora, the metallophytes. Metallophytes are plants that are tolerant of and restricted to areas that are high in heavy metals, either naturally or due to anthropogenic activities. We will discuss a wide range of topics relating to metallophytes including natural history, phytogeography, systematics, physiology, evolution, ecology, and how these plants may help us clean vast and growing areas of heavy metal contaminated sites found all over the world. You will become involved in research at two heavy metal-rich sites in Hancock County - nickel and chromium-rich on Deer Isle and the copper, zinc-rich Callahan Mine in Harborside, ME. Both sites offer excellent opportunities to examine the role extreme soil conditions play in generating and maintaining plant diversity as well as examine the potential for phytoremediation. The course is directed at students with interests in plants, their environment and green technologies. Evaluations are based on a mid-term exam, a group project, and a final class presentation.

Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisites: an intermediate or advanced course in botany or the consent of the instructor. Class limit: 15. Lab fee: $60. Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES4030Costa Rican Natural History and Conservation

This team-taught, intensive, field-based course examines the ecology and biotic diversity found at several sites within Costa Rica and the implications of this diversity on concepts of conservation biology. Whereas primary emphasis will be placed on Central American herpetofauna and avifauna, we will also discuss and examine issues of botanical, mammalian, etc. diversity and abundance, and the significance of the full array of species in more general studies of land-use and protective strategies. Students will meet during the winter term to discuss a range of articles and book-chapters dealing with aspects of conservation biology and Costa Rican natural history and culture during the winter term but the major emphasis of the course will be a two-week immersion in key habitats within Costa Rica itself during the March break. Non-travel days will consist of early to late-morning fieldwork, afternoon lectures/presentations followed by early evening to late night fieldwork. The course is based out of three field sites: lowland Caribbean slope rainforest at Tirimbina ecological reserve in north central Costa Rica, montane forest of the Arenal and Tenorio volcanic region, and Pacific slope dry forest of the Nicoya Peninsula. Evaluation will be based on detailed field journals, course participation, and a series of examinations testing student’s knowledge of species and concepts.

Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor. Course fee $1000.00 (covers food, transport and lodging in Costa Rica, students provide airfare to Costa Rica). Class limit: 15. Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES4032Marine Ecology

This course is intended for students who have some familiarity with the natural history and ecology of local marine organisms and are eager to take their understanding to the next level in the context of an intensive summer course.  The class will meet all day, every day for 15 days, and will comprise several parts, including lecture and discussion of papers from the primary literature, field trips to explore diversity of local habitats, and several research projects.  We will work together on two class projects.  One will involve the reproductive biology of mummichogs, a small, estuarine fish that is locally abundant.  Although not on the scale of wild salmon runs, mummichog spawning is a frenzied spectacle of nature involving dozens of fish simultaneously releasing gametes in the shallows at high tide.  Students will collect data on spawning behavior and patterns of survivorship among eggs laid at intertidal sites.  The other class project will involve population biology of three species of intertidal snails and how parameters such as species abundance and diversity, size-frequency distribution, and population density vary among populations on various small coastal islands.  We will access these islands for censusing via sea kayak, and students interested in learning more about safety and navigation in sea kayaks will have that opportunity.  We may include an overnight trip if weather and timing permit.  Finally, students will also design their own independent projects, and they will meet individually with instructors to discuss hypothesis generation, experimental design, data collection and analysis, and final communication of results.  The final day of class will involve a presentation of individual projects.  Students will be evaluated on participation on the class projects and other activities, short written assignments, and the quality of the final project.  

Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisites: Marine Biology, Invertebrate Zoology or an intermediate-level course in ecology or behavior and permission of instructor. Class limit: 16.  Lab fee: $80 Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES4038Ecology and Natural History of the American West

The American West has played a key role in the development of modern ecology and in our overall understanding of the Natural History of North America. Researchers such as Joseph Grinnell, Starker Leopold, Ned Johnson, Phillip Munz and Jim Patton contributed enormously to our understanding of the interactions, distribution and abundance of the enormous range of plants and animals occupying the western states, while the incredible variety of topography found between the Pacific slope and Great Basin Desert, containing both the highest and lowest points in the Lower 48, has provided an ideal setting for both observation and experimentation. This intensive field-based course will provide students with the opportunity to examine first-hand some key habitats within Nevada, California, and New Mexico, and to conduct a series of short projects on the fauna and flora in select sites. Areas to be examined will include terminal saline lakes, open deserts , montane meadows, pine forest, riparian hardwoods, wetlands, and agricultural landscapes. Readings will include primary sources and more popular accounts of both locations and the peoples who have lived in these lands over the past several thousand years. Evaluation will be based on class participation, a series of individual research projects and presentations, a detailed field journal, a mid-term and a final exam.  This course will be integrated with and requires co-enrollment in Reading the West and Wilderness in the West.

Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor.  Class limit: 9.  Lab fee: none.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES412Ecology of the Winter Coastline

This is a course studying marine botany, marine algae and monitoring the "spring" time blooms of phytoplankton in Frenchman Bay. The class will cover topics such as the biology, taxonomy and ecology of marine algae. A major component of this course will be focusing on the primary productivity of marine ecosystems. Students will experience these exquisite and ephemeral phenomena through extensive lab work identifying and monitoring individual species of marine algae and phytoplankton. We will explore the flora and fauna of the islands, bays and coastal waters surrounding Mount Desert Island by looking at those organisms which make up wintertime communities. Peripheral topics will include the seasonal movement of different species of seabirds and marine mammals; discussing those species that are conspicuous by their absence, those which have stoically remained behind and those species that are entirely winter visitors. Many consider January and February as deep winter, yet this is the time when the first signs of spring appear. Students are expected to keep a field/lab notebook and to write several term papers. Students should anticipate several field trips which might test their winter hardiness. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisites: Intermediate biology/ecology course or signature of instructor. Class limit: 14. Lab fee: $85. *ES*

ES472Physics II: Introduction to Circuits

This course will provide students with a broad introduction to circuits. Students with little or no previous knowledge in electronics will learn the fundamentals of circuits in both the analog and digital realm. The course will cover topics such as current, voltage, power, resistors, capacitors and digital logic circuits, This is a hands-on course focusing more on the "how to" than the "why". By the end of the course students should be able to independently develop, implement, test and document basic circuits. Evaluation will be based on problem sets, participation in lab and class, and a final project or exam. This course makes extensive use of algebra. A college level math, physics, or chemistry class is recommended but not required. Level: Introductory. Prerequisite: High School Algebra. Class limit: 15. Lab fee: $50. *ES* *QR*

ES478Evolutionary Processes in Plants

What is a species? What is the process by which species originate? Does the evolutionary process in plants differ from that of animals? What are the evolutionary consequences of being a plant? The course will address aspects of plant evolution including variation, natural selection, breeding systems, species and speciation, adaptive radiation, co-evolution, and systematics. Classic case studies of plant evolution will be used to examine the nature of the evolutionary process and introduce current hypotheses of plant evolution. The course is directed at students interested in evolutionary biology, plant ecology, and systematics. Evaluations are based on class participation, two oral presentations and term paper. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Lab fee: $25. Prerequisites: Advanced course in Biology, Signature of the instructor. Class Limit: 8. *ES*

ES480Introduction to Collections Care: Saving all the Parts

Natural history museums are major players in the great human enterprise that was started by Linnaeus over 250 years ago: to catalog all of Earth's species and understand the inherent order of these organisms. While the Earth's biotic inventory is far from complete, natural history collections presently held by reputable institutions represent extremely valuable and, in some cases, irreplaceable sources of knowledge regarding life on our planet. This course introduces students to current principles and practices of caring for and organizing collections through hands-on work with the holdings of the Dorr Museum. This course will focus on the proper storage, handling, and exhibition of collections, and cataloguing collections in accordance with currently accepted evolutionary relationships among represented taxa. Through individual and group projects, students will research and pilot practices that address short- and long-term needs of collection material. Students will be evaluated on level of class participation and successful completion of class projects, including a final project that will form the basis of a strategic plan for collections care at the Dorr Museum. This course is suitable for students interested in the study of natural history, vertebrate biology, educational studies, and exhibition in museums and galleries. Level: Introductory. Class limit: 14. Lab fee: $30.00.

ES5010Biochemistry I

This course's goal is to develop the student's ability to understand the biochemical literature and to relate the structures of biological chemicals to their properties and by surveying the aims and designs of the most important, basic metabolic processes.  Emphasis is on features common to all pathways (enzyme catalysis and regulation) and purposes unique to each (energy extraction, generation of biosynthesis precursors, etc.)  Most of the course looks at processes that most organisms have in common; some attention is paid to how these processes have been adapted to meet the demands of unique environments.  This course should be especially useful to students with interests in medicine, nutrition, physiology, agriculture, or toxicology.  The class meets for three hours of lecture/discussion each week.  Evaluations are based on a midterm exam and a final paper.  Offered every other year.

Level:  Advanced.  Prerequisites: At least one term of organic chemistry. Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES5012Conservation Biology

This course examines the causes, extent, and ecological significance of the endangered species "crisis."  We examine the role of extinctions in evolutionary history and compare "natural" extinctions to current events in the Neotropics, Orient, and Oceania.  We also discuss the significance of successful introductions of exotic species into different regions and their effects on native forms.  Changes in land use patterns and the science of Landscape Ecology are investigated.  Finally, we examine current conservation techniques in an effort to establish a workable synthesis for specific case histories.  There are two lectures/discussions per week, occasional evening lectures.

Level: Advanced.  Pre-requisites: One intermediate Ecology course and/or signature of instructor.  Class limit: 15.  Lab fee $10.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES5014Organic Chemistry II

This class will continue to discuss the occurrence and behavior of additional functional groups not covered in Organic Chemistry I. Meeting twice a week, we will work our way through the remainder of the fall text and then apply the material by reading articles from the current literature of environmental organic chemistry. Assessment will be based on keeping up with the reading, class participation, and three take-home problem sets.

Level: Advanced.  Prerequisite:  Organic Chemistry I.  Offered every other year.  Lab fee: $50. Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES5016Plant Systematics

This course is aimed at those interested in exploring the taxonomy of non-woody plants of New England and learning the science of plant systematics. Lectures will cover aspects of taxonomy and topics of systematics, including botanical nomenclature, methods and principles of plant systematics, classification systems of flowering plants, advances in molecular systematics, plant evolutionary process, phylogenetic relationships of flowering plants, and specimen preparation and identification. Laboratories will introduce students to plant families of the region including species-rich families such as Asteraceae, Poaceae, and Cyperaceae.  Evaluations are based on the identification and preparation of 50 plant specimens belonging to 25 plant families, 5 quizzes, and a 20-minute presentation of a final project.

Level:  Advanced.  Pre-requisites:  ES 421 - Trees and Shrubs of Mount Desert Island or an intermediate/advanced course in Botany, Signature of Instructor.  Class limit: 12.  Lab fee: $40.   Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES5020Lichen Biology

Lichens are unusually diverse and abundant along the coast of eastern Maine as a result of the cool, moist maritime climate, including the frequent occurrence of summer fog. This advanced course will focus on the nature of the lichen symbiosis and the structure, reproduction, physiology, and ecology of these intriguing organisms. Particular emphasis will be given to laboratory sessions where principles of microscopic technique and chemical tests used for identification will be learned. Students will also be introduced to standard references, keys, and the scientific literature, including on-line sources useful in lichen identification. At least one, possibly two, all-day Saturday field trips to representative habitats are planned. A final project will be required involving the preparation of a collection of properly identified and curated specimens. Students are expected to be able to work independently outside of the scheduled class meeting time. The final student grade and evaluation will be based on class participation, evidence of independent work, and completion of the final project.

Level: Advanced. Prerequisite: Permission of the Instructor. Lab fee: $25. Class limit: 6.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES519Tutorial: Advanced Evolutionary Ecology Seminar

This advanced seminar takes a topic within evolutionary ecology and examines it using a wide range of sources staring with classic evolutionary texts and moving forward to current primary literature. Students need to be capable of reading and critiquing primary literature, understanding statistical tests of hypotheses, and be ready to move among diverse taxonomic groups and theoretical work. Readings include papers in evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology, and life-history theory. The seminar will meet twice weekly. Assessment will be based on student participation in the seminar and multiple short writing assignments. Level: Advanced, Permission of Instructor required, Class Limit: 5

ES525Applied Amphibian Biology

Most amphibians are small vertebrates that require moist microhabitats and/or unrestricted access to fresh water to sustain their populations. Despite their diminutive size, need for moisture, and cryptic habits, the 6000+ species of extant amphibians are found on all continents except Antarctica and are extremely diverse in their morphology, ecology, and behavior. Amphibian diversity peaks in tropical regions but salamanders are thought to be the numerically dominant vertebrate species in mature forest habitats of the eastern US. Because their combined numbers represent a significant amount of living biomass, amphibians are increasingly being used as bio-indicators to assess the ecological health of natural communities. Worldwide declines in anuran populations are well documented but the underlying cause(s) of these declines are still not fully known nor is the impact of these losses on the short- and long-term stability of the environments in which they live. In this course, students will examine amphibians native to Maine and to Costa Rica in order to compare and contrast the life history, ecology, and conservation of temperate and tropical species. Coursework during the regular term will focus on current field methods and data analysis used to assess species abundance and distribution through readings and field work, with the first half of the term devoted to Maine species and the latter half examining neotropical species. This will be followed by a mandatory 10-day field trip to Tirimbina Rainforest reserve in Costa Rica, where students will conduct their own field study on a topic relevant to the course. Level: Advanced. Permission of Instructor. Lab Fee $775 (Note: students who enroll in both Applied Amphibian Biology and Neotropical Conservation Ecology pay a single lab fee). *ES*

ES526Neotropical Conservation Ecology

The neotropics have been at the center of conservation research and policy for more than half a century. In spite of an enormous amount of effort however many issues remain unresolved and debate continues on appropriate strategies for protecting both the vast array of plants and animals present in the region and the livelihood of the peoples dependent on a broad range of agriculture and industry. This class will examine a range of issues dealing with the botany and zoology of Central America with a primary focus on issues affecting conservation strategies and sustainable utilization of the rainforest. Work during the regular term will consist of extensive readings and discussions of the primary literature, with particular attention to the research efforts of pioneers such as Daniel Janzen, Alexander Skutch, etc. This will be followed by a mandatory ten day field trip to the Tirimbina Rainforest reserve in Costa Rica, where students will have the opportunity to conduct their own research on issues of biodiversity, behavior, and ecology. Level: Advanced. Permission of Instructor. Lab fee: $775. *ES* Note: Students who enroll in both Neotropical Conservation Ecology and Applied Amphibian Biology pay a single lab fee.

ES529Environmental Chemistry: Air

Living things are exposed to air more than any other material, and yet many people seldom give a second thought to whats in air, why its there, how it behaves or what it may do them and to other living things. This class will examine such questions. Well start by looking at how the molecular structures of materials determine how much they vaporize and what consumes them when vaporized - and how their atmospheric levels reflect those competing processes. Well then apply such knowledge to understanding phenomena such as the pressure and temperature structures of the atmosphere, global weather patterns, the earths ozone layer, urban smog, acid deposition, the earths greenhouse effect and indoor air pollution. For each topic, we will discuss: Why is it important? Why is there as much of it as there is? What can increase it or decrease its amount? How have people tried to control it? What do we still not understand about it? Readings will be from both a text and from papers from the scientific literature. Evaluations will be based on problem sets for each topic and on the design (but not actual construction) of a museum exhibit addressing some air quality issue. Some background in basic chemistry is desirable but not essential. Level: Intermediate. *ES*

ES540Plant Communities of the Americas

Plant communities consist of distinct assemblages of plant species which interact with each other as well as with other biotic and abiotic elements of their environment. Plant communities vary both spatially and temporally and are generally distinguishable by their overall appearance based on species present, as well as their size, abundance, distribution relative to one another, and species-interactions. The study of plant communities has contributed much to ecological and evolutionary theory and provided insight for conservation in light of climate change and other stressors impacting native plants and their communities in every region of the Americas. The course introduces you to the stunning geographic patterns of plant diversity across the Americas with respect to climatic, topographic, and edaphic gradients. We will explore major plant communities of the temperate, Mediterranean and tropical regions of the Americas, including grasslands, rock outcrops, deserts, chaparral, wetlands, boreal forests, and rainforests, focusing on key species which characterize these communities, their functional traits, and other aspects of their ecology. Readings will include topics on plant morphology and diversity, ecophysiology, population biology, community ecology, evolutionary ecology, and conservation. Evaluations are based on class participation, weekly readings and their presentation, and a final paper and its presentation. Offered every other year. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Pre-requisite: Trees and Shrubs of MDI, Plant Morphology and Diversity, Plant Physiological Ecology, History of Life, Biogeography, or Ecology (at least one). Class limit: 20. Lab fee: $25. *ES*

ES558Plant Systematics

This course is aimed at those interested in exploring the taxonomy of non-woody plants of New England and learning the science of plant systematics. Lectures will cover aspects of taxonomy and topics of systematics, including botanical nomenclature, methods and principles of plant systematics, classification systems of flowering plants, recent advances in molecular systematics, plant mating systems, plant evolutionary processes, phylogenetic relationships of flowering plants, and herbarium specimen preparation and database management. Laboratories will introduce students to approximately 30 plant families of the region including species-rich families such as Asteraceae, Poaceae, and Cyperaceae. Students participate in this course for one academic year and receive one credit. This course will meet once a week, 3 hrs, in both Fall and Spring terms for lectures and labs. Students will be expected to commit to a week of collecting and preserving plant specimens with the instructor in the late Spring OR Summer prior to Fall, as well as independent work in Winter. Evaluations are based on the identification and preparation of 50 plant specimens belonging to at least 25 plant families and a 30-minute oral presentation of a final project. Level: Advanced. Pre-requisites: Trees and Shrubs of MDI and Plant Taxonomy OR Plant Communities of the Americas. Instructor permission required. Class limit: 10. Lab fee: $30.*ES*

HE1010Human Ecology Core Course

Human Ecology is the interdisciplinary study of the relationships between humans and their natural and cultural environments.  The purpose of this course is to build a community of learners that explores the question of human ecology from the perspectives of the arts, humanities and sciences, both in and outside the classroom.  By the end of the course students should be familiar with how differently these three broad areas ask questions, pose solutions, and become inextricably intertwined when theoretical ideas are put into practice.  In the end, we want students to be better prepared to create your own human ecology degree through a more in depth exploration of the courses offered at College of the Atlantic.  We will approach this central goal through a series of directed readings and activities.

Level:  Introductory.  Lab fee: $25.  Meets the following degree requirements: HE

HS148Philosophy of Science

This course examines both the nature of science and its role in molding the modern world. The historic origins of science are explored from the late middle ages through the 18th century, in order to present clearly the development of key concepts and to contrast science with other views of the world it displaced. Particular attention is paid to the work of Galileo and Newton. General issues covered include theory formation, laws, confirmation and evidence, reductionism, determinism and teleology. Philosophical problems raised by such areas as evolution theory, quantum mechanics, feminist theory, and modern cosmology provide additional topics as interest dictates and time permits. Level: Intermediate. Offered occasionally. Class limit: 20. *HS*

HS3023International Wildlife Policy and Protected Areas

"Save the whales"; "save the tiger"; "save the rainforest" - - increasingly wildlife and their habitats are the subject of international debate with many seeing wildlife as part of the common heritage of humankind.  Wildlife does not recognize the political boundaries of national states and as a result purely national efforts to protect wildlife often fail when wildlife migrates beyond the jurisdiction of protection. This course focuses on two principle aspects of international wildlife conservation:  1) the framework of treaties and other international mechanisms set up to protect species; and 2) the system of protected areas established around the world to protect habitat. We begin with an examination of several seminal wildlife treaties such as the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, CITES, migratory bird treaties, and protocols to the Antarctica Treaty.  Using case studies on some of the more notable wildlife campaigns, such as those involving whales and elephants, we seek to understand the tensions between national sovereignty and international conservation efforts.  The Convention on Biological Diversity and its broad prescriptions for wildlife protection provide a central focus for our examination of future efforts.  Following on one of the key provisions in the Convention on Biological Diversity, the second half of the course focuses on international and national efforts to create parks and other protected areas.  In particular we evaluate efforts to create protected areas that serve the interests of wildlife and resident peoples.  Students gain familiarity with UNESCO's Biosphere Reserve model and  the IUCN's protected area classifications.  We also examine in some depth the role that NGO's play in international conservation efforts.  The relationship between conservation and sustainable development is a fundamental question throughout the course.
Level: Intermediate. Recommended courses:  Use and Abuse of Public Lands, Global Politics and Sustainability, Global Environmental Politics.
Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS3026Whitewater/Whitepaper: River Conservation and Recreation

Loren Eisely once remarked, "If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water." Eisely's observation is an underlying premise of this course - that there is something very special about moving water. This course is taught in a seminar format in which students will read and discuss ecological, historical, sociological, political and legal aspects of river conservation and watershed protection. Special emphasis is placed on understanding the policy issues surrounding dams, river protection, and watershed planning. In conjunction with readings and class discussions, students will use a term-long study of a local stream to learn about the threats facing rivers in the United States and the legal and policy mechanisms for addressing these threats. In addition, the class will take an extended field trip to western Massachusetts to gain first-hand knowledge of the tremendous impact river manipulation can have on a social and ecological landscape. We will spend time looking at historically industrialized and now nationally protected rivers in the region. Through weekly excursions on Maine rivers, students will also develop skills to enable them to paddle a tandem canoe in intermediate whitewater. Evaluation will be based on problem sets, role-playing exercises, contribution to the class, short essays, and paddling skills. Weekly excursions to area rivers entail special scheduling constraints as we will be in the field all day on Fridays.

Level: Intermediate.  Prerequisite: Signature of instructor.  Class limit: 11.  Lab fee: $100.

HS3031Our Public Lands: Past, Present, and Future

By definition "public lands" belong to all of us, yet public lands in this country have a history of use (and abuse) by special interests and a shocking absence of any coherent management strategy for long-term sustainability.  This course is taught in seminar format in which students read and discuss several environmental policy and history texts that concern the history and future of our federal lands.  We also use primary historic documents and texts to understand the origins of public ownership and management.  We examine the legal, philosophical, ecological, and political problems that have faced our National Parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, and other public lands.  An effort is made to sort out the tangle of laws and conflicting policies that govern these public resources.  Special attention is given to the historic roots of current policy debates.  Evaluation is based upon response papers, a class presentation, participation in class discussions, and a group project looking closely at the historical context and policy implications of a management issue facing a nearby public land unit.  

Level: Intermediate.   Prerequisite:  Introductory history or policy class recommended.  Class limit: 20.  Lab fee $15.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS HY

HS3036Oceans & Fishes: Readings in Environmental History

This course will explore the rapidly expanding field of marine environmental history and historical studies that focus on fish and fisheries.  Recent methodological and conceptual work as well as growing interest in the history of these topics driven by conservation and policy issues has made this an important and innovative field.  Using the work of a variety of scholars from different fields the class will explore how historical accounts can be constructed with an emphasis on the types of available sources, the use of evidence, and how each author builds their argument.  We will explicitly compare the methods, use of evidence and other aspects of different disciplinary approaches to the topic to highlight the strengths and limitations of each approach.  This dimension of the class is particularly interesting because of the dynamic and interdisciplinary nature of scholarship right now that brings a wide range of research into dialogue. Students will learn about the history of oceans and fishes by looking at how historians and other scholars frame their works and make their arguments.  Students will be evaluated on their preparation for discussion, mastery of the material, short written assignments, and a final project made up of a presentation and essay.  This course is appropriate for students with interest in history, community-based research, marine studies, and environmental policy.  Students who are just curious and interested in lots of things are also most welcome.

Level: Intermediate. Class limit: 15  Lab Fee $75.00 Meets the following degree requirements: HS HY

HS3039Communicating Science

This course is designed for science students developing their research skills working on research projects for a principal investigator; specifically this course will improve the students' writing ability and introduce them to writing for the scientific community.  The course involves not only learning to write an abstract and literature review but also understanding the protocols for writing a scientific paper based on lab or field data.  In addition, students will prepare a power point presentation on their research to present at a meeting or conference such as the Maine Biological Science Symposium or the annual INBRE meeting.  In addition to working with the instructor, students will work on the content of their writing with the principal investigator. Offered every other year.

Level: Intermediate. Prerequisite: Signature of instructor.  Class limit: 12.  Lab fee: $20.  Meets the following degree requirements: W

HS320The Human Ecology of Wilderness

Wilderness has been the clarion call for generations of environmentalists. Henry David Thoreau once said, "In wildness is the preservation of the world." That single sentence and the controversy surrounding that idea provides the central focus of our explorations over the term. This course examines the question of wilderness from multiple perspectives in the hopes of providing an understanding of the concept and real spaces that constitute wilderness. Starting with a week-long canoe trip down Maine's Allagash Wilderness Waterway, we look at historical and contemporary accounts of the value of wilderness, biological, and cultural arguments for wilderness, and the legal and policy difficulties of "protecting" wilderness. Considerable time is spent evaluating current criticisms of the wilderness idea and practice. Students are involved in a term-long project involving potential wilderness protection in Maine. This involves some weekend travel and work in the Maine Woods. Classwork emphasizes hands-on projects as well as theoretical discussions. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisite: Introduction to the Legal Process, Signature of instructor. Class limit: 14. Lab fee: $200. *HS*

HS4026Environmental Law and Policy

This course provides an overview of environmental law and the role of law in shaping environmental policy.  We examine, as background, the nature and scope of environmental, energy, and resource problems and evaluate the various legal mechanisms available to address those problems.  The course attempts to have students critically analyze the role of law in setting and implementing environmental policy.  We explore traditional common law remedies, procedural statutes such as the National Environmental Policy Act, intricate regulatory schemes, and market-based strategies that have been adopted to control pollution and protect natural resources.  Students are exposed to a wide range of environmental law problems in order to appreciate both the advantages and limitations of law in this context.  Special attention is given to policy debates currently underway and the use of the legal process to foster the development of a sustainable society in the United States.  Students are required to complete four problem sets in which they apply legal principles to a given fact scenario.

Level: Intermediate/Advanced.  Prerequisites:  Introduction to the Legal Process or Philosophy of the Constitution strongly recommended.  Offered at least every other year.  Class limit: 20.  Lab fee $20.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS4042Reading the West

The spectacular range of habitats between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Basin and Sonoran Deserts has generated some of the most significant “place based” writing within American literature. In this intensive field-based course students will be required to read a range of materials dealing with key places, people, and events in the western landscape during the summer prior to the formal start of the course. The class will then convene in California and begin a trek eastwards into the Great Basin Desert, south to the Carson/Iceberg Wilderness, Yosemite, the Hetch Hetchy Valley and Mono Lake, and then finally southeastward across the Sonoran desert to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where students and faculty will participate in a conference celebrating the first 50 years of the Wilderness Act. Readings will include work by Muir, Didion, Steinbeck, and Fremont. Evaluation will consist of class participation, a series of essays and journal essays, and a final term paper that will be completed following the end of the field portion of the course.  This course will be integrated with and requires co-enrollment in Ecology and Natural History of the American West, and Wilderness in the West.

Level:  Intermediate/Advanced.  Prerequisites: Permission of instructor; camping/backpacking ability.  Class limit: 9.  Lab fee: $1500.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS4043Wilderness in the West: Promise and Problems

Wilderness has been the clarion call for generations of environmentalists. In a letter in support of the Wilderness Act, writer Wallace Stegner characterized the importance of wilderness as an essential “part of the geography of hope.” That single phrase and the current controversy surrounding the concept of wilderness provide the central focus of our explorations of wilderness in western lands. This course examines the question of wilderness from multiple perspectives in the hopes of providing an understanding of both the concept and real spaces that constitute wilderness. Through conversations with wilderness managers, field work, and experience in federally designated wilderness areas in National Parks, National Forests, Wildlife Refuges and on BLM lands, the course will also examine what “wilderness management” means on the ground in the varied landscapes of the western United States. In this context, we look at historical and contemporary acco unts of the value of wilderness, ecological and cultural arguments for wilderness, and the legal and policy difficulties of "protecting" wilderness. Considerable time is spent evaluating current criticisms of the wilderness idea and practice. The class will culminate at a week-long national conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The 50th Anniversary National Wilderness Conference provides an incomparable opportunity for students to hear from and interact with federal management agencies, academics, recreation experts, and environmental advocacy organizations. Presenting their final course work at this conference will also give students an opportunity to share their ideas and to receive valuable feedback from this sophisticated and well-informed audience of wilderness experts. Classwork emphasizes hands-on service-learning projects as well as reading, writing, and theoretical discussions. Students will be evaluated on journal entries, contributions to the class discussions, response papers, engagement in field activities, questions in the field, and contributions to group work.  This course will be integrated with and requires co-enrollment in Reading the West and Ecology and Natural History of the West.

Level:  Intermediate/Advanced.  Prerequisites: Ecology, Our Public Lands, and permission of instructor and concurrent enrollment.  Class limit: 9.  Lab fee: none.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS782Tutorial: Advanced Seminar in Human Ecology

The purpose of this tutorial is to review the many uses of the term ?human ecology?. It begins with an historical review of the academic and intellectual origins of human ecology. From these foundations, we proceed through the development of more interdisciplinary approaches to human ecology --- working with primary source materials (e.g., books, articles, position papers, academic program descriptions and related documents). We will further explore the activities of various regional, national and international associations and the aims of leading educational institutions. Assignments and discussions will revolve around several current problems that face human ecology. In particular, we will focus on: various theoretical controversies within and between biological and human ecology; issues and proposed methods of inter-disciplinary problem-solving, planning and application; and the growth of professional opportunities in human ecology worldwide. Evaluations will be based on careful reading and review of assigned materials, participation in discussions, individual papers and a collaborative group project. Level: Advanced; Permission of instructor required; Class limit: 3 Permission of instructor required.

MD042Humans in Place: Natural/Cultural History of Maine's Islands

This intensive field-based course is an interdisciplinary examination of the changing relationship between humans and landscape in a region where people have lived continuously for several thousand years: the eastern Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy. The Gulf of Maine?s vast archipelago of islands is the setting for a wide range of both human and non-human communities. This is one of the richest areas of biological productivity in eastern North America and its fisheries have supported human cultures since pre-Columbian times. Sitting on the intersection between cold northern currents and the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, the region provides feeding and breeding grounds for a broad range of species from both arctic and tropical regions. For example, the Gulf provides breeding habitat for more than half of all seabirds nesting in eastern North America, and is also a critical feeding area for the endangered Right Whale and many other marine mammals. In this course we will study historical and current relationships among human cultures, fisheries, seabirds, and marine mammals, focusing on the feedbacks that change or preserve human cultures and economies. These case studies will serve as a model for understanding other land/seascapes, including the home regions of participants. The class will be team-taught by faculty from three colleges within the EcoLeague, and supported by several guest speakers. Two students from each EcoLeague institution will be selected to participate. The bulk of the course will be based on three sites: the College of the Atlantic?s two field stations on Great Duck Island and Mt. Desert Rock, and Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy, Canada. Course begins August 18th, ends on September 8th in Bar Harbor, ME. Level: Advanced. Prerequisites: Ecology and/or Natural History, and at least one other course in interdisciplinary environmental studies/human ecology, and permission of EcoLeague faculty panel through written application p

MD043Penguins to Polar Bears: Journeys Across the Ice

This course is a general introduction to the Arctic and Antarctica. We will begin by examining the unique ecologies of the polar regions by reviewing the life histories of some iconic polar creatures - Polar bear, Arctic tern, Emperor penguin and others. This ecological framework will provide a backdrop for our review of the history of exploration in these harsh regions. The search for the Northwest Passage and the quest for the Poles captured western attention for hundreds of years, and the stories of hardship, heroism, absurdity, and sheer luck are compelling. The course concludes with an examination of the human ecology of both poles - politics, resource exploitation, tourism and the rapid climate changes affecting both regions. Assessment will be based on classroom participation, several short papers, and an independent research project. Level: Introductory. Class limit: 15

MD3010Biology Through the Lens

Photography is one of the primary means through which scientific observation and research is conducted and presented to the public.  The most provocative images of the natural world don't just happen; they are made by individuals skilled in both photography and the life sciences.  In this course, students will develop technical, observational, and aesthetic skills to extract relevant information from the natural world and organisms collected from nature. Through acquired skills, students will be expected to conceive methods to document the biological world and communicate concepts using strong visual imagery.   Photographic techniques and historical examples will be learned and applied.  Students will be evaluated based on their successful completion of a series of project-based assignments, participation in discussions and critiques, and their ability to  effectively convey biological principles through photography.  Pre-requisite: at least one introductory-level biology course and one photography course or permission of instructor. Students will be expected to provide their own camera for the course; a digital camera with interchangeable lenses is recommended.

Level: Intermediate.  Class limit: 12.  Lab fee: $95.00.


  • Field Ecology and Conservation Biology Faculty include:
  • John G.T. Anderson
    B.A. University of California, Berkeley
    M.A. Ecology and Systematic Biology, San Francisco State University
    Ph.D. Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island
    » Course areas: anatomy and physiology, animal behavior, conservation biology, ecology, zoology
  • Don Cass
    B.A. Carleton College
    Ph.D. Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley
    » Course areas: Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry
  • Helen Hess
    B.S. University of California, Los Angeles
    Ph.D. Zoology, University of Washington
    » Course areas: biomechanics, history of life, invertebrate zoology
  • Suzanne Morse
    B.A. University of California, Berkeley
    Ph.D. Botany, University of California, Berkeley
    » Course areas: agroecology, biology, botany, science and society
  • Chris Petersen
    B.A. University of California, Santa Barbara
    Ph.D. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona
    » Course areas: biology, evolution, ichthyology, marine ecology, marine policy, statistics
  • Nishanta Rajakaruna
    B.A. Human Ecology, College of the Atlantic
    M.Sc. Botany, Plant Ecology, The University of British Columbia
    Ph.D. Botany, Evolutionary Ecology, The University of British Columbia
    » Course Areas: field botany, plant taxonomy, plant evolutionary processes, and
  • Steve Ressel
    B.S. Millersville University
    M.S. Zoology, University of Vermont
    Ph.D. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut
    » Course areas: general biology, vertebrate biology, herpetology, winter ecology, biological photography and imagery
  • Sean Todd
    B.S. University College of North Wales (UK)
    M.S. Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland
    Ph.D. Biopsychology, Memorial University
    » Course areas: biology, marine mammals, oceanography, sensory ecology, statistics

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