Feature: Barnard College

About the Course

Taught by Timothy Kenna and Brian Mailloux, the focus of Barnard's Environmental Measurements course is an in-depth study of a section of the Hudson River Estuary using state of the art instrumentation, field methods and analytical techniques to lead the students through the process of actually conducting an environmental scientific investigation.
The course begins with one preparatory class, followed by a day-long field expedition on the Hudson River aboard the Riverkeeper. Out on the water, students collect samples and make in situ measurements along a transect between the George Washington and Verrazano Bridges. The students measure temperature, salinity, and density profiles using a CTD and collect water, sediment, and zooplankton samples. The students spend the rest of the semester analyzing samples and data in an effort to study the chemical, biological, physical, and geological properties of the Hudson River Estuary.

Through this course, students learn:

  • Basic measurements that are standard for environmental analyses

  • Biological analyses [e.g., zooplankton]

  • Chemical analyses [e.g., dissolved oxygen]

  • Nutrient analyses [e.g., nitrates, silicates and phosphates]

  • Contaminant analyses [e.g., PCBs, major and trace metals]

  • How to interpret the data

  • How to analyze their own data while checking for self-consistency and sources of error
The format of the course is fairly straightforward. The dataset is one of a kind and belongs to the students. As the instructors, we have no idea what the specific outcome or what the comprehensive picture will look like; that is up to the students to determine by measuring and interpreting the data that they collected; they are the first to look at the data. Our experience is that the students are totally engaged and excited to be in the class, each day's activity relates back to the field work and represents a piece of the puzzle they are trying to understand.

The course ends with a field trip to Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory for lab work, lab tour, a hike to admire the River they have spent all semester studying. By the time they finish, the students have not only gained a greater appreciation and familiarization with the Hudson River, but are able to perform some of the most common environmental analysis techniques

About the Instructors

As Project Director of River Summer, the Consortium's first collaborative initiative, Tim Kenna brings with him a wealth of experience, knowledge, and passion for the Hudson River.

Born in Poughkeepsie, New York, Tim spent much of his time outdoors, and most of his summers in the Adirondacks. After graduating from Vassar College, he spent several years teaching/sailing with the Sea Education Association. He received his Ph.D. from the M.I.T/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program and has been teaching at Barnard and conducting research at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory since 2002. While at Woods Hole, Tim studied the Ob River system in Siberia, returning to the Hudson Valley with a renewed appreciation of the Hudson River.
Course Syllabus            Environmental Science at Barnard