Course code:



I - Introductory

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • ES - Environmental Science

Lab fee:


Typically offered:

Once every three years

The Arctic and Antarctic represent some of the most extreme environments on the planet. As physical places, both poles play an important role in governing the planet’s climate and heat flow. Both are suspected to be rich in minerals and are thought to perhaps hold short-term relief from current world shortages in natural resources. As ecosystems, both are hugely productive in spite of, and in part because of the extreme temperatures they experience; certain species are found nowhere else and in fact thrive in these remote locales. Superimposed upon these natural environments is the presence of humans. Exploration of both areas has been particularly focused in the past century, with countless stories of the perseverance and persistence of our pioneering spirit. Initially surveyed to forward nationalistic agendas, both poles are now sites of scientific inquiry. In particular, the political model that currently governs Antarctica as one massive Protected Area has no precedent and perhaps suggests a way forward for environmental agendas working on global scales. More recently, the poles have been exploited by ecotourism businesses.

This class examines the provinces of the Arctic and Antarctic, wildernesses whose boundaries can be defined physically, biologically, geologically and politically. We will examine the rich and highly adapted diversity of life as it is affected by local and global oceanography and atmospheric science, and assess the impacts of climate change on these fragile environments. We will also review our relationship with these places and examine what future we might play in preserving, and/or exploiting the polar regime, using Human Ecology as a model for our understanding. Evaluation will be by two term papers and participation in class activities.



Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.