Reconstructing Environmental Change, EES-459, 3 credits

Course description

Natural archives, such as those preserved in the sediments of lakes and bogs, provide critically important long-term perspectives on past environmental variability and the evolution of modern climate and ecological systems. During the past couple decades, considerable advances have been made in our ability to quantitatively reconstruct past environmental conditions, including reconstructions of temperature, precipitation, physiochemical conditions, trophic status, and community composition. These recent advances are dramatically improving our ability to assess timing, rates, magnitudes, and biotic responses to past environmental perturbations. Throughout this course we will examine and critically evaluate the techniques used to reconstruct environmental conditions of the recent past.

Course objectives

    1. Develop an understanding of the array of archives and proxies that can be used to infer Holocene environmental variation, including their strengths, weaknesses, interactions, spatial and temporal resolution, and response times.
    2. Become familiar with the quantitative methods used in paleoenvironmental reconstruction, including the development of age-depth models, cluster analysis, ordination techniques, time-series analysis, and transfer function models.
    3. Refine your skills at assimilating and discussing primary literature.
    4. Gain depth in a particular technique, method, or area of interest within the paleoenvironmental sciences by developing and completing a novel project/paper, involving a quantitative synthesis or portrayal of available data.



*Some of the pictures on the banner at the top of this page were from NOAA's paleoclimatology web site.