Natural Science Courses

NS 5090 Special Topics in Secondary School Science - 1-6 graduate credits
A focused study in one of the science disciplines: life, earth or physical sciences. Course could include: field, laboratory, computer and classroom study under the supervision of a faculty member with expertise in the area. Can be taken more than once. Unscheduled.


NS 5100 Revolution in Science - 3 graduate credits
An inquiry into the way scientific models of understanding nature are reached with particular emphasis on the concept of revolutionary change in explanation. The course will consider what science is capable of knowing and how it differs with technology. Several specific revolutions will be examined, including: the scientific revolution of Galileo and Newton, Lavoisier's chemical revolution, Darwin's evolution, continental drift, DNA and genetics, and relativity. Also, the role of women in science will be scrutinized to see if a revolution in the involvement of that gender has been achieved. Finally, students will attempt to foresee what revolutions might be going on now or might occur in the future.


NS 5110 Earth: Inside and Out - 4 graduate credits
Though the geologic record is incredibly ancient, it has only been studied intensely since the end of the 19th century. Since then, research in fields such as plate tectonics and climate change, and exploration of the deep sea floor and the inner Earth have vastly increased our understanding of geological processes. This course delves into the five questions listed below in order to understand how our dynamic planet evolved and what processes continue to shape it. In the process, learners will get to know the museum's Hall of Planet Earth, explore geologic time, and gain an understanding of how scientists study vast Earth systems. How do geologists "read" the rocks? How has the Earth evolved? What causes climate and climate change? Why are there ocean basins, mountains, and continents? Why is the Earth habitable?


NS 5111 The Solar System - 4 graduate credits
The Solar System is our local neighborhood in space, comprising our closest star, the Sun, and the matter that surrounds it. This environment provides rich and diverse source material for a seminar on fundamental astronomical concepts like motion, collisions, and scientific investigation. Using the extensive resources available through the Museum, the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Museum's partners at NASA, the course will explore a series of questions: How did the Solar System form? What can we tell by looking at the surface of solar system bodies? What is an atmosphere, and how do those of different planets vary? Each week will focus on a different scientific project (such as Venus Express and the Mars rovers) to reinforce the essential concept of science as an ongoing search for better understanding of the universe.


NS 5120 The Ocean System - 4 graduate credits
The physical characteristics of the ocean and its related systems have framed its origin, incredible diversification of life, and amazing ecosystems, like coral reefs and mangrove forests. This seminar explores how oceanographers investigate the role that symbiotic relationships and other biological adaptations have in the dynamics of oceans, a dynamic that is being threatened by human activities and consumption.


NS 5121 Water: Environmental Science - 4 graduate credits
Central to all ecosystems, water is essential to life as we know it. It shapes our planet on every level, from the chemical properties of the H20 molecule to its central role in global climate. Poised to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th, water is also a critical environmental issue. Where do we find it? Is it safe to consume? Who has access to it? How can we manage this precious resource to provide an adequate supply to all the species that depend upon it? This course will focus on why water is such a critical resource, the effect of human consumption on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the social, economic, and environmental implications of water management.


NS 5125 Climate Change - 4 graduate credits
This course explores the science of climate change. Students will learn how the climate system works; what factors cause climate to change across different time scales and how those factors interact; how climate has changed in the past; how scientists use models, observations and theory to make predictions about future climate; and the possible consequences of climate change for our planet. The course explores evidence for changes in ocean temperature, sea level and acidity due to global warming. Students will learn how climate change today is different from past climate cycles and how satellites and other technologies are revealing the global signals of a changing climate. Finally, the course looks at the connection between human activity and the current warming trend and considers some of the potential social, economic, and environmental consequences of climate change.


NS 5130 Space, Time and Motion - 4 graduate credits
Throughout history, humans have grappled with questions about the origin, workings, and behavior of the universe. This seminar begins with a quick tour of discovery and exploration in physics, from the ancient Greek philosophers on to Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Einstein's work then serves as the departure point for a detailed look at the properties of motion, time, space, matter, and energy. The course considers Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, his photon hypothesis, wave-particle duality, his General Theory of Relativity and its implications for astrophysics and cosmology, as well as his three-decade quest for a unified field theory. It also looks at Einstein as a social and political figure, and his contributions as a social and political force. Scientist-authored essays, online interaction, videos, and web resources enable learners to trace this historic path of discovery and explore implications of technology for society, energy production in stars, black holes, the Big Bang and the role of the scientist in modern society.


NS 5140 Genetics, Genomics, Genethics - 4 graduate credits
Since the 1944 discovery that DNA is the universal genetic code, this young science has advanced by leaps and bounds: scientists can now decipher, examine and modify the blueprints for life. As its title suggests, this course emphasizes the relation between the underlying science of genetics, the study of genomes (genomics), and the social, ethical, and legal issues that this work gives rise to (genethics). Learners investigate topics such as the history of genetic discovery and molecular lab techniques, and emerge with an understanding of the science and the technology behind breakthroughs like therapeutic cloning and the sequencing of the human genome. The first part of the course gives learners an opportunity to grapple with the basics of genetics: the underlying science that deals with the transmission of hereditary characteristics and their mechanisms. Starting with an examination of the work of Gregor Mendel, it brings learners up to date on the foundations of modern genetics and explores related issues such as the nature-nurture debate, the theory of evolution, and the role of genetic diversity. The course goes on to investigate what's involved in the study of genomics: the technology and science of all the DNA in a cell. Discussions focus on medical advances, and the goals of the Human Genome Project. Advances in genome research lead directly to an examination of genethics, the social, ethical, and legal implications of developments such as genetically modified organisms, cloning for therapeutic and reproductive purposes, genetic enhancement of humans, and the ownership of genetic information. Throughout the course, online interaction, scientist-authored essays, video, and simulations enable students to investigate genetic variation and similarities and develop a structure for thinking about ethical issues.


NS 5150 The Link Between Dinosaurs and Birds - 4 graduate credits
Most people believe that dinosaurs disappeared over sixty million years ago... but in fact, we see living dinosaurs everyday. We call them birds. This course examines the evidence linking dinosaurs to modern birds and investigates how scientists study the evolutionary relationships between species. Learners are introduced to the world's largest collection of vertebrate fossils and the American Museum of Natural History's fourth floor Fossil Halls, exhibiting Saurischian and Ornithischian dinosaurs. This seminar uses the method of classification called cladistics to define characteristics of a group of dinosaurs called theropods. Using anatomical evidence from fossils and living birds, a case is presented for birds being direct descendents of the theropod lineage. The course looks at the process of fossilization and how scientists look for, collect, and analyze fossils. Bird behavior, along with fossil evidence, is used to infer possible behavior (such as nesting and parental care) of extinct dinosaurs. We also look at the characteristics that make a bird a bird, and explore the bird family tree and the possible origins of flight. The course also examines possible explanations for the extinction of most dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Scientist authored essays, a virtual exhibition tour, video, and web resources, enable students to explore geologic time, investigate clues to the origin of birds, and theorize about possible causes of extinction.


NS 5160 Sharks and Rays-Ecology, Classification, and Evolution - 4 graduate credits
Sharks may be one of the most readily recognized fishes in the water, but did you know that rays are one of their closest relatives? They share a 450 million-year evolutionary history, evolving extraordinarily successful body plans. This course examines these amazing fishes, their adaptations for survival, how they operate as top predators, how we study them, and why shark conservation is critical. In this life science seminar, students will draw on the fossil record, museum collections, and research by Museum scientist Dr. Marcelo de Carvalho to become familiar with the basic biology, ecology, diversity, and evolution of sharks and rays (the elasmobranches). Learners will study their complex sensory systems (hearing, smelling, vision, and electrical sensing - perhaps the most advanced of all vertebrates), and find out how sharks and rays use them to navigate and detect prey. Drawing on scientist-authored essays, online interaction, web resources, and videos, the course will also illuminate the tools, techniques and overall process of research in this field, and explain current conservation efforts.


NS 5170 Diversity of Fishes - 4 graduate credits
With well over 24,000 species alive today, the world's fishes comprise by far the largest and most diverse of all vertebrate groups. This seminar provides an introduction to this incredible diversity and looks at how scientists study fishes. Our examination asks us to re-evaluate and finally ask: what exactly is a fish? This course takes you into the lab with Museum scientists. Students are led through the steps of an actual investigation of a group of South American catfish (Hypoptopoma). Using the rules of cladistics (a system of classification) we seek to determine if a lab specimen is a new species. Specimen photos from the AMNH Ichthyology Department Collections, scientist-authored essays, video and web resources, allow students to explore the evolution, ecosystems, and biogeography of this group of animals and examine questions such as the meaning of biological success.


NS 5180 In the Field with Spiders - 4 graduate credits
Spiders were hard at work long before the dinosaurs appeared and have settled everywhere on the planet except Antarctica. Most live on land, but some spend their lives on or near water. They make their homes everywhere, from treetops to underground burrows, from suburban subdivisions to tropical caves, even 22,000 feet up on Mt. Everest. Spiders are important predators that keep many ecosystems in balance. In this life science course, students explore the concepts of morphology and classification. Learners are introduced to the anatomy of spiders, as well as the composition and use of their silk, webs, fangs, and venom. Lab, field, and collecting techniques are examined. Museum research on Australian ground spiders is also highlighted to gain insight into each of these topics. Scientist-authored essays, online interaction, web resources and video help us to look into the lives of spiders as well as the way they are studied through lab techniques, journaling, collection, drawing, classification and identification. Learners will model these techniques by making their own spider collection.


NS 5190 Evolution - 4 graduate credits
This course draws on AMNH's long-standing leadership in the fields of paleontology, geology, systematics, and molecular biology to tell a modern story of evolution. Students will learn why evolution is the fundamental concept that underlies all life sciences and how it contributes to advances in medicine, public health and conservation. The course begins by looking at how Charles Darwin developed his groundbreaking views on evolution by observing patterns in nature. Darwin's work and the perspectives of the authoring scientists - a paleontologist and an ornithologist - lay out some of the evidence for evolution. We then examine the use of molecular and phylogenetic techniques to reconstruct evolutionary history and determine the place of an organism on the Tree of Life, which documents the evolutionary relationships among all species. Mechanisms of evolution and speciation are then covered and are followed by the origin and evolution of humans. The course concludes by examining the practical impact of evolution in the areas of human health, agriculture and conservation. Course participants will gain a firm understanding of the basic mechanisms of evolution --- including the process of speciation --- and how these systems have given rise to the great diversity of life in the world today. They will also explore how new ideas, discoveries and technologies are modifying prior evolutionary concepts.


NS 5200 Action Research in Science Education - 3 graduate credits
This course is designed to be a core course offering in the MS in Science Education program. It will assist graduate students design their action research as it relates specifically to science teaching, learning, and curriculum in middle and high school classrooms. This course will help students conceptualize and design a practical and applied classroom research project which could be the basis for presentation as the capstone experience in their graduate program. The course emphasizes a constructivist philosophy of education. The emphasis is on the teacher as inquirer actively engaged in the construction of new knowledge about science education. Emphasis is placed on telecommunication networking of teachers who are actively involved in action research projects.


NS 5260 A Forest For Every Classroom - 3 graduate credits
This course will educate middle and high school teachers working in NH communities about forest stewardship issues and provide them with tools to develop curricula that meet the state's educational standards and can be implemented using their local landscape, resources, and community for real world teaching. Prerequisite: Teaching


NS 5300 Astrobiology - 4 graduate credits
This course is an interdisciplinary study centered on the search for life in the universe. Students will participate in inquiry based activities and discussion in biology, physics, and robotics to explore the science of astrobiology. Students will gain hands on experience with available online resources and current science technology enabling them to use astrobiology in the classroom to engage students in the scientific process. Prequisite: Graduate student/teacher.


NS 5400 Marine Education Methods - 3 graduate credits
This is a multi-disciplinary marine education methods course that integrates economic, cultural, historical, and ecosystem considerations for learning about the marine environment. The goal is to help educators increase public understanding of critical NH marine and coastal issues. Special attention will be given to stewardship education of marine resources. Concepts of sustainable harvesting and participatory management will be emphasized. Fieldtrips to visit marine research and education facilities on the coast will be a critical component. Dynamic, interactive web resources, including virtual fieldtrips, will also be identified. A culminating component of the course will be organizing and advertising a community-based family marine activity night sponsored by the course participants. This event will provide enrolled University students with firsthand experience in implementing and evaluating hands-on marine science learning for youth, parents, teachers, and other interested environmental educators. All materials will be aligned with national and international education standards across disciplines, including standards in environmental literacy and technology.


NS 5560 Special Topics in Elementary School Science - 3 graduate credits
A laboratory/discussion oriented content course for K-6 teachers to address specific topics in the earth, physical and life sciences. Text readings, research articles and developing a curriculum unit are required. Since topics vary, the course may be repeated with permission of the instructor. Unscheduled. Prerequisite: Restricted to those who are currently teaching.


NS 5600 Field Experience in Science Education - 3 graduate credits
This course is one of the core offerings in the MAT in Science Education degree program. It is a supervised placement with a science or environmental agency that offers educational programming with student groups of various ages. Students will be required to assist in the development of programs, and teach and assess participant learning in these settings. Examples of such organizations include the Squam Lakes Natural Science center, N.H. Fish and Game Department, Squam Lakes Association, N.H. Audubon Society, PSU Mindflight Summer Program, N.H. Department of Environmental Services and the PSU Planetarium Program to name several.


NS 5700 Science Teaching Middle and High School - 3 graduate credits
This course is designed to be a core course offering in both the MS in Science Education and the MAT in Science programs. Several major themes such as learning theory, structure of the discipline (curriculum), teaching strategies, and nature of science and technology applications will be presented throughout the course. The course is structured to help students develop the proficiencies needed to become a successful science teacher. As an advanced learner, you will be given a great deal of independence in your learning about secondary school science teaching.


NS 5800 Seminar: Current Issues in Science Education - 3 graduate credits
Current Issues, a core course in both the MS in Science Education program and the MAT in Science Education program, will provide the opportunity for classroom science teachers to identify and discuss practical issues that apply to their classroom as well as address state, national, and international issues. Current research findings will be used as the focus for seminar discussions, papers, and projects.


NS 5850 Capstone Research Project - 4 graduate credits
This course is designed to be a core course offering in the MS in Science Education program. The intent of this course is to implement the classroom-based research strategies developed in the action research course to promote improvement of existing teaching and learning strategies in the classroom. A research committee will be formed to assess the effectiveness of the study. A formal presentation will be made to faculty and other graduate students in one of the science colloquia during the academic year.


NS 5910 Independent Study - 1-3 graduate credits
Studies undertaken will be defined by students and subject to approval by appropriate staff members. Work may involve reading, conferences, historical, experimental or theoretical projects, field investigation, statistical surveys, combinations of the foregoing or other activities deemed appropriate. Students may work in the physical or biological sciences, or in interdisciplinary areas. Students may not be granted more than three credits. Consent of a faculty supervisor, department chair and the Associate Vice President is required.

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