01:460:203 Building and Maintaining a Habitable Planet (premiering Fall 2013)
Humanity has become a geological force, reshaping Earth’s land, atmosphere, oceans and climate through our activities. Some geologists have proposed that this era of human influence be recognized as a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. “We are as gods and we HAVE to get good at it,” the writer Stewart Brand says, yet “civilization’s shortening attention span is mismatched with the pace of environmental problems.” How do we reconcile the time scale of news cycles, quarterly reports, and elections with the timescale of our impacts, which will last for tens of thousands if not millions of years?
This course will prepare students to become informed citizens of our empowered global civilization, able to step outside the realm of short-termism and interpret the environmental changes humanity is effecting today in in the context of our planet’s 4.6 billion year history. We will address questions such as: Why is the Earth so habitable, while Mars is at best marginally so and Venus totally uninhabitable? How did life evolve to regulate the planet’s chemical and energy flows before we arrived on the scene? How does human civilization fit into this long history, and what are the implications of the planetary and human experience for the frequency of intelligent life in the Universe?
16:460:611 Joint Rutgers-Princeton Graduate Seminar: Geological Constraints on Climate Sensitivity (Spring 2013)
Climate sensitivity and Earth system sensitivity relate changes in greenhouse gas concentrations and other radiative forcers to changes in temperature, both in Earth's past and in the future. The Cenozoic record provided by paleo-temperature and paleo-carbon dioxide proxies can constrain these parameters and thus also the projected response of the planet to human-induced changes in greenhouse gas concentrations. This seminar will explore the concepts of climate and Earth system sensitivity, the methods and records of paleo-temperature and paleo-carbon dioxide proxies in the Cenozoic, and the statistical challenges of inferring sensitivities from these proxies.
01:090:252 Rutgers SAS Honors Seminar: Energy in Nature and Society: From Earth’s Deep Past to Civilization’s Future (Fall 2012)
The flow of energy drives natural and human systems. The balance between incoming solar energy and outgoing thermal energy is the fundamental driver of Earth’s climate. The photosynthetic transformation of solar energy to chemical energy, and the respiratory transformation of chemical energy to other forms of chemical energy, to useful work, and to heat drive almost all of Earth’s biosphere. The development of human civilization has been closely tied to the ability to capture an ever-increasing fraction of the Earth’s energy budget, first primarily through agriculture and later primarily through combustion of fossil fuels. As a side effect, humanity is effecting major changes to both the climate and the biosphere in which it evolved. Concerns about these changes and about the security of energy supplies are major drivers of modern economic and policy decisions.
This seminar, intended for students from all academic majors, will examine the evolution of energy supply, energy demand and the global energy system as a whole, from the rise of photosynthesis to the development of agriculture, the Industrial revolution, and the modern, carbon-constrained world. It will investigate the historical relationship between energy use and economic welfare and possible scenarios for the coupled development of the global energy system and Earth's climate over the coming centuries. Familiarity with basic mathematical and scientific concepts (comparable to high school physics) will be assumed; moderately sophisticated mathematics (e.g., calculus) will be discussed but not required for homework.
16:460:613 Graduate seminar on Major Transitions in the Evolution of the Global Carbon Cycle (Spring 2012): This special topics course covered the evolution of the global carbon cycle over the 4.5 billion years of Earth’s history, with a particular focus on the relationship between the carbon cycle and paleogeography. | Syllabus
11:546:196 Rutgers SEBS Honors Seminar: State of the Planet (Spring 2012): I served as the guest instructor for the week on energy issues in the Rutgers School of Environmental & Biological Sciences honors seminar. | Slides | Reference Sheet and Reading List | Personal Energy Audit Exercise
Ge11b: Earth and the Biosphere and Ge 104: Introduction to Geobiology (Winter 2005, 2006): At Caltech, I served for two years as TA for Ge11b: Earth and the Biosphere and Ge 104: Introduction to Geobiology, taught by Joe Kirschvink. As TA for Ge 11b and Ge 104, I led the redesign of the readings, assignments, and laboratory exercises for these classes. | Reading List
Other TA roles at Caltech (Fall 2003-Summer 2005): I also served as teaching assistant for Ge 124: Paleomagnetism and Magnetostratigraphy, taught by Joe Kirschvink (spring 2005), and ACM 118: Methods in Applied Statistics and Data Analysis, taught by Tapio Schneider (fall 2003). In addition, I've coordinated several field trip classes, including weekend classes to southwestern Utah and the Colorado Plateau and two-week summer field trips to Western Australia in 2004 and to Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and the Beartooth Range in 2005.
Last updated: 15 May 2013