More than Just a Class About Water

Connecting local aquatic systems to international social issues

April 20, 2022

Aquatic Geochemistry (CHM 340) is a thought-provoking combination of readings, classroom discussion, and hands-on learning. The course explores the chemical processes that control freshwater and marine systems.

You’ll conduct some of the weekly labs at Grinnell’s Conard Environmental Research Area, a field station 11 miles from campus. At CERA, you will get practical experience studying freshwater ecosystems.

Associate Professor Andrew Graham hopes that CHM 340 students will grow as problem-solvers and systems-level thinkers. He wants students to develop valuable skills they can use to evaluate and use models to predict the complex behavior of chemicals in both natural and engineered settings.

Another crucial part of the CHM 340 experience is gaining an appreciation for the vital biogeochemical cycles that dictate the distribution of elements at the Earth’s surface, Graham says. These observations will help you connect critical social issues, such as climate change and environmental justice, with the course material.

Geochemistry is an inherently interdisciplinary field of study; as a CHM 340 student, you’ll integrate readings and respond to case studies in the literature that connect the major course themes to essential social issues, often with an international emphasis.

In the past, these international issues have included mercury pollution associated with small-scale gold mining in Amazonia and West Africa, coal fly ash spills in Appalachia, and arsenic contamination in Bangladesh. 

CHM 340 is an in-depth, upper-level elective for chemistry majors and Environmental Studies concentrators; it is taught much like a graduate-level class. Many students of CHM 340 have gone on to pursue careers in environmental science, engineering, geoscience, and analytical chemistry, Graham says. The course can also be a stepping stone toward grad school and a PhD. A highlight for Graham is assigning students to read research papers written by course alumni.

Whether you intend to move on to higher-level classes, pursue grad school, or conduct field research, Aquatic Geochemistry has much to offer.

Learn more about studying chemistry at Grinnell

We use cookies to enable essential services and functionality on our site, enhance your user experience, provide better service through personalized content, collect data on how visitors interact with our site, and enable advertising services.

To accept the use of cookies and continue on to the site, click "I Agree." For more information about our use of cookies and how to opt out, please refer to our website privacy policy.