Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30-11:45 AM in POST 708
Visit the Schedule page for Lecture Note Downloads
course announcement now available in pdf format.
syllabus in pdf format.

Instructor: Ken Rubin
How to find me:
    Office: POST 606E; Office hrs: up to class.
    Phone: x68973,x66836 (lab)
Course Content:
This class is about natural processes of Earth's surface and the impacts of human activities on environments.
FOR students preparing for a career in the environmental and geotechnical fields, or
FOR students just wanting to know more about the environment around them, or
FOR students who plan to pursue the new GG MGeo degree once it is approved.
Both global and local phenomena will be examined from a chemical perspective. We will cover natural and anthropogenically perturbed aspects of the Earth's hydrosphere and its interaction with surface rocks, sediments, soils, the biosphere and the atmosphere. Topics will give insight into the science behind today's environmental issues. Course content is largely based on applied geochemistry, with supporting content in theoretical geochemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, soil science, biochemistry, and microbiology. A student doesn't have to be a chemist by training or an environmentalist by temperament to succeed in this class.
Topics include:
  • Organic molecules in nature; Organic contaminants in ground water: sources, sinks, remediation techniques.
  • The geochemistry of the atmosphere and atmospheric precipitation, "acid rain", the ozone layer, some atmospheric pollutants.
  • The global carbon cycle, stable isotope geochemistry, atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; Global Climate: Past, Present and Future.
  • Energy, technology and resources 
  • Aquatic Microbial Biochemistry 
  • Lakes, Rivers and estuaries: nutrient overloading, oxygen depletion, urban sewage.
  • Heavy metals in ground and surface waters, both natural and non-natural distributions.
  • Drinking water and Sewage Water Treatment
  • Chemical weathering, soil formation, geochemistry of clays, vadose groundwater composition.
  • The oceans, marine chemistry, primary productivity, Gaia, Marine Sediments: a record of environmental global history, light isotope geochemistry.
  • Natural radioactivity; Radioactive waste composition, storage and disposal.
Is based on a curve. 1 Midterm exam (33% each); homework problem sets (33%) final project (33%) Class participation is not mandatory, but I do consider it in borderline grading situations. Please turn homework assignments in on time. I do not accept assignments once solutions are posted. Also, I apply grading penalties of 10%/day unless we have discussed your situation in advance.
a photo of the textbook cover Text: 
Manahan "Environmental Chemistry", 9th Ed. 

Supplemental Reading: as needed (Located  in bookcase outside my office).

Class Format: This is a lecture course. I encourage students to actively ask questions in class, particularly if the discussion isnít clear of if you want more information. Most important material will be discussed in class, but is typically covered in more detail in the reading assignments. Keeping up with the reading will help you get the most out of the lectures.
Lecture Notes: Download from the course website ( as adobe acrobat files. These are not required reading, nor are they a substitute for taking your own notes or reading the text. They are a guide to lecture content. Also, the notes include supplemental figures discussed in class that are not in the textbook. These will be useful for homework assignments and studying for exams.
GG Learning Objectives: GG department has defined 5 learning objectives for the undergraduate degree program related to Relevance of Geology and Geophysics, Technical knowledge, Scientific method, Oral and written skills, and Evaluating Phenomena. This course directly incorporates content relevant to 4 of those:
  • SLO1 - throughout the course you will learn about the relevance of geochemistry to understanding and providing for human needs, and to impacts on society and planet Earth.
  • SLO2 - you will solve problems using real world data sets
  • SLO4 - you will reconstruct knowledge in a written report (final project).
  • SLO5 - in all assignments you will evaluate, interpret, and summarize basic principles to explain complex phenomena at the interfaces of chemistry, geology, biology, hydrology, soil science, geography and human industry.

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last  update on 8 Jan 2013