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NYC Coastlines: Past, Present, and Future

Semester and Year SP 2019
Course Number IDSEM-UG2004
Section 001
Instructor Karen Holmberg
Days MW
Time 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SCI


Section 002 for Environmental Studies majors only.


This course entwines archaeology, geomorphology, climate change considerations, and science fiction to think about the changing coastlines of New York City and the impact of urbanism on the natural environment. We will examine the past, present, and future of our waterways and become familiar with the range of marine biology projects currently in place in the New York harbor area. The course will entail several field trips, including to the 21 West End archaeology exhibit, The River Project wetlab, and the NYC Archaeology Repository. A major portion of the course will be centered around the artifact that each student will choose to examine from the site of 7 Hanover Square, a late-16th century house site once owned by the pirate Captain Kidd and later by Alexander Hamilton. This site contains some of the first water lots granted for landfill extension, by which real estate was created through a remarkable assemblage of materials (coral from ship ballast, glacial boulders, trash, dead animals, etc.). What is the current context of these landfill sites in our post-Sandy city? What is the future of lower Manhattan overall? In addition to scientific publications, we will draw from historic representations such as  The Big Oyster  by Mark Kurlansky, the futuristic imaginations of Kim Stanley Robinson’s  NY   2140  ,  and contemporary efforts such as the Billion Oyster Project to regenerate the waterways in order to envision the relationship between the historical, contemporary, and future material culture and coastlines of New York City.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)