Environmental Studies

Student Discoveries

The Department of Environmental Studies at Lake Forest College believes that the four-walled classroom is just one kind of learning environment—and not necessarily the best one. Environmental Studies believes that the experience-based field studies courses at Lake Forest are a critical component to any student’s education.  

ES 223: African American Environmental Culture from Slavery to Environmental Justice

Until the environmental justice movement rose to prominence over the past few decades and invited a more critical perspective on the connection between race and the environment, popular understanding of the American environmental (and environmentalist) tradition had effectively been whitewashed.  But why?  This course will work to find answers to that question while unearthing the deeper roots of African American environmental culture in conversation with key moments in African American history – from slavery to sharecropping, from migration and urbanization to environmental justice.

ES 204: Summer Flora of the Great Lakes 

Image taken by Victoria Jones '13

This course introduces students to the identification, systematics, ecology, and natural history of the spring flora of the Western Great Lakes. This course includes extensive field work in the greater Chicago area, eastern Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Students learn to identify between 150 and 200 species of wildflowers, grasses, trees, shrubs, and other plants, and learn the characteristics of 15 to 20 plant families. 

ES 203: Spring Flora of the Great Lakes

This course introduces students to the identification, systematics, ecology, and natural history of the spring flora of the Western Great Lakes. This course includes extensive field work in the greater Chicago area, eastern Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Students learn to identify between 150 and 200 species of wildflowers, grasses, trees, shrubs, and other plants, and learn the characteristics of 15 to 20 plant families. 

ES 483: Senior Seminar

The Senior Seminar class, Environmental Connections between Chicago and New Orleans, spends Spring Break following the Mississippi River south from Illinois to New Orleans, Louisiana. Learn with us as we continue to share the many connections made throughout the the semester, the spring break trip and through our individual student research projects.

ES 260: American Environmental History

Introduction to the historical study of the relationship of Americans with the natural world.  Examination of the ways that ‘natural’ forces helped shape American history; the ways human beings have altered and interacted with nature over time; and the ways cultural, philosophical, scientific, and political attitudes towards the environment have changed in the course of American history, pre–history to the present.

ES 282: Lake Forestry

The subjects of Lake Forestry are the trees and forests of the Midwest. Students learn the ecology of individual trees and of the forest assemblages that they are part of. Also included in this course are forest history and the history of forestry, the relationship between forest ecosystems and urban and agricultural ecosystems, and current forest conservation and restoration efforts. All classes are held outside. 

ES 222: The Lake by the College: Geography, Ecology, History, and Current Environmental Issues of Lake Michigan

Lake Forest College calls itself the College by the Lake, yet most of us know very little about this vast inland sea.  Geography is the study of physical places on the earth’s surface and the relationship between people and those places.  This course introduces students to the physical properties of the lake and its ecological and economic significance to Chicago, the City of Lake Forest, the Greater Chicagoland region, the United States, and the world.  We explore current issues and policies about the lake’s diverse and often conflicting uses as a dump site, a highway for transportation, a pristine recreational resource, and the source of our drinking water.

ES 110: Introduction to Environmental Studies 

Environmental Studies 110 is an introduction to the methods and materials of Environmental Studies, as well as to the problems and opportunities this interdisciplinary field addresses. Our readings will encompass the three divisions of the liberal arts curriculum—natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences. We will examine environmental issues through the lenses of ecology, law, economics, ethics, policy, aesthetics, chemistry, history, religion, and literature. We will explore the major environmental issues of agriculture, climate, water, species endangerment, war, energy, and others. We will grapple with the meaning of terms like nature, conservation, development, and wilderness. There will be a particular emphasis on North American trees and wildlife. Most of all, we will learn to ask questions and make connections. 

ES 220: Evolution, Ecology, and Environment 

The diversity of life—the result of evolutionary and ecological processes—is a primary focus of environmental studies. In order to understand humans’ effects on other species, ecosystems, and evolutionary and ecological processes and interactions, a deep knowledge of those entities and processes is critical. This course takes an interdisciplinary, theoretical approach to the evolution and ecology of human–environmental dynamics, including species concepts and speciation, extinction, conservation of biodiversity, evolutionary ecology, the human dimensions of global change, demography, biogeography, human and non-human population ecology, and the status of evolutionary theory in the current political arena. 

ES 215: Environmental Psychology

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Environmental Psychology is the study of the environmental context of human well-being. This course is interdisciplinary, blending concepts and approaches not only from psychology and ecology, but also from public health, architecture and design. We consider both natural and built environments, and we explore them with a place-based method, grounding each class in the rich opportunities afforded by our local and regional environment. 

ES 484: Restoring Native Wildlife

Humans have frequently tried to restore populations of native wildlife species to areas from which they have been extirpated. This course covers a variety of different restoration efforts, looking at reasons that the species disappeared, arguments for and against restoration, methods used, and the successes and failures of the projects. We review key factors that are likely to determine the outcome of projects. The course also discusses the dual relationship between wildlife and habitat restoration projects. Case studies may include urban peregrine falcon release programs, the Eastern Whooping Crane Partnership, wolf projects in Yellowstone National Park and nearby areas, two 2015 bison restoration programs in Illinois, as well as other projects.