GEO 201 Measuring Climate Change: Methods in Data Analysis & Scientific Writing

Professor: Adam C. Maloof

In this course, students will use drone-derived photographs and elevation models of landscapes, georeferenced field observations of the natural world, and data mining of the primary literature in combination with quantitative modeling and interpretation to answer questions like: How have ancient climate changes been preserved in modern landscapes and the rock record? How is climate changing now, and how do we measure it? What impact does climate change have on modern human society, and how have humans affected climate change? How do we quantify the uncertainties on measurements of climate change, and how do we communicate these uncertainties to the public?

Fall 2016 Student Evaluations

Quality of Classes (n=8)


Quality of Written Assignments (n=8)


Quality of Readings (n=8)


Overall Quality of the Course (n=8)


1. Quality of the Classes

Thursday lectures were awesome...very exciting, interesting, engaging.

Lectures were excellent, covering broad swaths of material in just a few days. Sometimes, they weren’t always directly related to what we were doing (such as with the energy balance discussion), but they were always extremely interesting regardless. The pace was a little relentless, but in a brain-stretching way. Questions were usually answered comprehensively, but we almost always ran into the next class.

awesome lectures were tailored to our interests and it was obvious that adam is highly invested in the class and extremely knowledgeable about the subject matter (or is adept at educating himself and others simultaneously) 10/10

Phenomenal professor. F***ing smart and has the most endearing personality. But simultaneously, he has the power to single-handily uproot your mental health and shatter every ounce of possible self esteem that you could have mustered over all your years of living. He will not hesitate to point out your flaws, whether they are in submitted work or scientific capabilities. He is willing to spend time to help any student, as long as they are willing at the start of the class to *sign away every single ounce of free time, self-confidence, friends, mental health, physical well-being, and faith they possess to dive head-first into the brutal, unforgiving realm that is geoscience.

The classes were great! I always left excited to apply concepts and methods leaned in class. Classes were also very engaging because of the level of engagement of the students thoughtful questions and energized discussions. Adam is an amazing teacher the field trip was an incredible educational experience.

Adam's classes were very enjoyable, though I would have preferred some more theory and less matlab/arc training.  No other class has excited me or forced me to think independently and gain new skills as much as this one. Only wish I could have kept the drone, but The Shay said he might be able to sneak me an old one. Dr. Maloof's Trimble abilities were top-notch.

Adam Maloof did a fantastic job making everything seem super interesting and having the answers to just about any question that came up. He did a great job of providing us with the conceptual and computational tools we needed in order to feel a sense of freedom in how to best analyze our data, as well as acting as a fantastic mentor concerning presentation of data (using both figures and prose).

The best professor I have had at Princeton so far. Always engaging, pushing us to our limit and incredibly enthusiastic.

2. Quality of Written Assignments

TONS of feedback on labs & various drafts of W01 and W02...definitely more (constant) feedback than I've had in any other class...very helpful

There were often lots of assignments, especially when labs and writing assignments overlapped in the first few weeks. Once we got going with our individual Utah-related projects, I was actually glad for all the immediate deadlines, as they helped keep me on track for the final assignments and provided frequent feedback. Streamlining the labs in the second half to allow for more choice and less busy work was great! Certain defined norms, like the 3-layer motive, were useful guidelines to go by in writing, though others (like the hypothesis) were still a bit unclear.

at the time everything was freakin impossible but looking back the labs and assignments were extremely helpful in building a toolbox with which to attack the larger independent projects. critiques by professors were incisive, relevant, helpful, and important. student critiques were great, helpful and well organized this encompasses the core of the class 10/10

They are willing to put in time as long as you are willing to [see Classes - Adam Maloof section from *]

There was a good amount of guidance and support in this class. I do think though that it would have been too overwhelming if I had not already taken FRS135 (a class with Adam teaching). I think that the level of commitment required by this class is excellent but not often experienced by princeton sophomores.

Everything was very good, and there was a ridiculous amount of it. That said looking back I wouldn't lessen the load. I learned so much so quickly from being forced to complete all of the assignments and in the end it was definitely worth it. CRITIQUES: I think the overall trajectory of the course, especially the field work, could have been explained better from the beginning. I also wish that matlab/arc lunch hour was at a better time for me.

The workload was the most stressful thing I've ever experienced, but it causes you to learn an absurd amount about data analysis and scientific writing in a relatively short time. It really helps prepare you for independent work (JPs and Theses).

I feel like the non-scientific readings that were assigned were completely useless and irrelevant. They were clearly given as busy work. Not a fan whatsoever. In fact I burned some of the readings for fuel to survive the winter storms.

Amanda was extremely dedicated to the class. Having amanda to bounce ideas off of and provide
suggestions helped balance the class and also make the class a much more healthy learning environment.

Classes usually had a solid plan for what needed to be accomplished, but we often had difficulty allotting time evenly between activities (or people being workshopped), and usually ran over. While we did have the time, though, feedback was structured well and helpful for our projects, though it could have been less datafocused. I wish we had used even more time to do this, and cut time out of analyzing literature articles, which people seemed less interested in.

Also very helpful. Amanda's written critique of our writing is extremely detailed, focused and with clear
intention of helping us improve.

Prof. Irwin Wilkins was incredibly invested in the course, and did a great job of teaching us the organization, discussion, and collaboration aspect of research. The writing process is always harder than I expect, and she was available at almost any time of the day to help. She also helped make the workload bearable through team building exercises, overall friendliness, and capacity to deal with the emotions of others, which belied the fact that she was responsible for most of the back-breaking labor.

not enough ice-breaker games but otherwise great highly invested in students' success, extremely
knowledgable and helpful with writing aspects of class, and extraordinarily accessible 10/10

Amanda was a fantastic counterpart to Adam. Both in subject specialization and in disposition, she was able to offer just about everything that Adam wasn't able to. She brought the writing seminar aspect to the course (which sounds negative, but I assure you it was not). She is very engaging and does a good job of teaching writing techniques and skills in a way that is both entertaining and lasting. 

3. Quality of Readings


Visuals (as in Adam’s lecture slides and sample lab material) were very helpful in understanding what was being discussed. The focus on visuals for our presentations was also useful. Readings were not always as useful; sometimes it could be good to see how real researchers were making style and content choices (not always good ones!), but often people felt less invested in the readings than in their individual projects.

readings were great and helpful going over readings as a class provided a great basis for analyzing our sources as well as our classmates' papers

good science, got me free copy of Desert Solitaire

The readings of scientific papers were definitely helpful to my development as a writer.

Lecture slides and assigned readings were all good.

4. Overall Quality of Course

Awesome...and hard...thankful there were only 2 writing assignments, not 3

The professors showed really great flexibility, adapting week-to-week (or even day-to-day!) based on what seemed to work best. The workload was really on the edge of the survival for the first few weeks (during the steep software learning curve), but it became more streamlined and reasonable once our projects got going. Our work linked up really well with our trip activities, and the trip itself was phenomenal. I’m glad I took the class based on my experience level, but I see that it’s not for everyone.

it was exceedingly challenging but awesome i think that the structure of the class as a whole was great and have no major criticisms providing more structure to deciding the initial direction of independent could have made the projects better, but the way it was done also provided important learning experience which is non-existent in most classes

This course was amazing. I think that spending a bit more time focused on the reviewing of code and
instructions in class were we can discuss concepts or go over intricacies was very valuable. I think that it might have been more helpful to focus more on the data analysis aspect for the first month and then the writing aspect in the second month. I feel like if we had more time spent focused learning the data analysis part at the beginning of the semester we could then move toward interpretation and presentation in in after the first few weeks. Also, please have all of the future students download ArcGIS at the beginning of the summer to mess around with the program.

I have been astounded by the investment of the professors in this course, and in the success of the students. They really led by example and inspired the entire class to work hard and give it their all.

Super difficult, super stressful, super fun, and super worth it.

Advice For Other Students

This class is amazing. You might cry. You will skip meals. You will stay up until 6am looking at your Matlab screen. You will get up at 6am to eat warm oatmeal before heading into the field. You will laugh in class and everything will make sense. You will leave class and realize nothing makes sense. YOU WILL LEARN! This class is not for the faint of heart or will. You need to want it. Want to understand the Earth. If you are deeply curious about how things work in the natural environment this is the best thing you could possibly take. Don't be fooled by it being one class. It will take up the time of two. If you are really dedicated it will consume your life. But, it is the best class I have taken probably since coming to princeton. Adam and Amanda will put in an incredible amount of time to help you succeed. But, you need to want it! This is not a class where someone will hold your hand. This is a class were you have to reach out for help. And there will always be help. Take this class!!! Did you come to princeton to do busy work and labs that have been done 23,486 times before. No! You came to Princeton to think and to grow and learn. This is a once in a lifetime experience. Yes it will become your life. The trip to the southwest will be SICK! You've just gotta hang in there. Come on. Give it a try. This class is more than anything you can imagine. So go for it! (TIP: download ArcGIS in the summer and play around with it).

The first day, our professor said he liked his classes “on the edge of survival.” He wasn’t kidding. For me, the first few weeks were the toughest, due to a fairly steep software-learning curve. But the rest of the course was more streamlined, focusing on analyzing a chosen site in Utah before and after we went there over fall break. The trip itself was fantastic, and I learned a ton overall, but I’d consider looking into the software beforehand.

A fantastic course that truly immerses the student into the world of scientific research. The spatial analysis techniques taught also come extremely in handy in the Geosciences. Nevertheless, a very challenging class, but remember that the things that are worthwhile in life are never easy.

This has been my favorite class in Princeton by far. A genuine "Heinie Kicker" -- This class will teach you more in one semester than you would have thought physically possible. IMO, harder than ISC. Definitely more work. Any science major should consider this course, as it is basically independent work (which we all have to do eventually) guided by two top notch professors and supported by an entire seminar class. IDEAL. If you are not prepared to spend the vast majority of your time for five months on work for this course, it is not worth taking. However, full investment is definitely worth it, and is matched by the incredible work that the professors put into this class. You will learn the effort involved in planning, designing, and executing an independent research project. You will learn matlab and arcgis real good. You will get to talk smack in weekly video challenges, and get to play with stuffed animal versions of your professor. It is a no-brainer. I mean, lets break this swizzle down right quick: - They give you free drones. - They give you free field trip. - They give you kitchen utensil names. I am a sifter. I sift things. I sift everything. I am also a mushroom. And a wolf. And a schwarma, and an apple pie, and GonzoFozzyBear, and Princess Padmé Amidala, and a Pignut Hickory, and a sitar, and Gates to the Arctic. My radio call-name is 1213BravoYankeeOscarBravo. Have I lost my mind? Well, probably. If I did, it was definitely because of this course. Most likely it is stuck in a Tamarisk at the bottom of Chicken Safari Road with the tree-corer spatula and a headless beaver carcass. ah we few, we happy few. - The Taming of the Shrew.

GEO 201 is the best class I have taken so far at Princeton. The assignments were extremely challenging in both the amount of work and the type of work assigned, and all assignments were held to a rigorous standard. Amanda and Adam are more invested in the students than in any other class I have taken, were highly accessible, experts in their fields, and very fun and personable. This class will teach you how to approach independent scientific work, design your own experiments, conduct fieldwork, critique and engage with scholarly scientific papers, and will reward you with the quantitative tools and writing abilities to rock future endeavors. This class is often infuriatingly difficult and you will have to make significant sacrifices in your other courses in order to successfully complete the course. It is worth it. Take this class if you value learning and growth over high grades and compliments and you are tired of intro STL courses insulting your intelligence. It is not a class for whiners, so come ready to work and don't complain. You will know what you are signing up for if you read the reviews and talk to people. Come prepared knowing what type of candy, pie, landscape feature, muppet, kitchen appliance etc. you identify with most. The field trip is amazing.

This class will destroy you, but from your own ashes you will be reborn with so much knowledge and skill that you could only have gained from Adam and Amanda. Totally worth it, as long as you're committed.

Amazing class! Very will almost break you...and you'll probably find yourself ignoring all your other classes to do work for this one. Still, this class is so fun and engaging that it's definitely worth it. Favorite class at Princeton so far.

 Fall 2014 Student Evaluations

Quality of Lecture (n=8)


Quality of Written Assignments (n=8)


Quality of Readings (n=8)


Overall Quality of the Course (n=8)


1. Overall Quality of the Course

I'm glad I took it.

It was good in terms of testing my limits and sometimes rewarding because I did things I never thought I'd be able to do. I learned a lot in the field. I am definitely a better writer at the end of the semester. It was really bad in terms of my mental health. GEO 201 was the albatross around my neck. It single-handily made my semester hell.

This was a great course, but it was definitely a lot of work. Research never has a definitive end point. There's always some extra analysis or some new dataset to consider. It should really be two classes that fulfills an STL and LA.

Again, a great course, but a little overwhelming.

The quality of the course was excellent in the sense that Adam and Amanda put a ton of work into it, and expectations were always clear. I have many problems with the workload and the fact that the class is open to juniors, which I mentioned earlier.

This is the type of course you come to Princeton to take. It is challenging, time consuming, and difficult to manage, but you take away concrete skills and an increased confidence in your ability to do independent work. The professors are committed whole-heartedly to the students' learning experience and believe that you are capable of doing great work. This is an excellent class.

This course was extremely difficult and not worth the mental anguish and frustration. I spent a lot stressing about it. I have never taken another course where sheer effort was taken into so little consideration.

Geo201 was the most challenging and time consuming course I have ever taken. I devoted a wildly disproportionate amount of time to this class compared my others this semester. That said, I learned so much in a relatively short amount of time and the material covered was fascinating.

2. Why did you take this course? How would you describe your level of engagement in the course?

I took this course because I knew I would learn a lot, and I wanted to practice writing.

Departmental/Adam told me to. I've never had to be more engaged in a class.

I took this course because I am interested in research and studying climate change. The field trip was a plus,and I had enjoyed a class with Professor Maloof in the past.

I definitely completed this course to the best of my ability.

I took this class because I wanted to learn more data analysis methods and to improve my scientific writing in preparation for future independent work. I felt very engaged by the course throughout the semester.

I've taken two classes by Prof. Maloof before and both have been extremely rewarding learning experiences. This class offered an opportunity to improve research, writing, and data analysis skills. I was very engaged with the course.

Learn more about scientific methods and writing

I put more effort and time into this course than I have in any previous class. I engaged with the professors and my classmates outside of class and spent lots of time researching techniques and information to help with my papers and labs.

3. How would you describe the overall quality of the lectures?

Adam is a great lecturer and I personally get a lot out of his lectures. He also has a knack for creating bonding within the class, and he's very willing to help and provide feedback.

I learned a lot from Adam. He challenged everyone and really really expected a lot, but I'm definitely a better student at the end of this class. I think the hard thing was getting feedback from Adam. It's pretty damn harsh. Kinda makes you afraid to even ask for feedback. Also, he hikes too fast.

The classes were very engaging. I think Adam did a good job adjusting as the semester went on so that we got the most out of the class time. He has a lot to share based on his research experience.

fantastic for the second half- working in labs in class didn't work out too well in

The classes themselves were excellent. Adam is a really great lecturer and he tried to adapt content to class questions. He was also extremely helpful outside of class and always answered questions quickly and thoroughly. The mini-lectures during the field trip were totally awesome, and they finally converted me into thinking rocks are cool.

Adam is a great lecturer and teacher. His classes taught useful skills in Matlab and ArcGIS and he was always available to answer questions during and after class. He has high expectations but also the belief that students can rise to those expectations, giving you truly incredible opportunities to do interesting and meaningful work, and he will help you get there.

Maloof lectures were good. They were highly technical and sometimes went very very fast.

Adam has extremely high expectations and provides no sugar coating when critiquing students work. He can be intimidating, especially when coming into this class with very little geo background, but he clearly cares about improving his students' work and is incredibly good at doing so. He is always available and willing to help students outside of class and he challenges us in a way that we have no choice but to learn a ton and improve our skills.

Amanda's lectures were great too, she and Adam balanced each other well.

Wonderful. So incredibly helpful and available in the writing process. Very kind and engaging. Offered constructive feedback in a way that didn't make you feel like a failure. She definitely made me a better writer. One of my favorite professors!

Amanda provided a great non-scientific perspective for the class. Her lessons were valuable for making my writing accessible and understanding how to communicate an argument comprehensively and effectively. She asked probing questions that really focused my papers and shaped my data analysis into a true motive/thesis.

Amanda's classes were wonderful. I think everyone felt comfortable asking questions and benefited from the big-picture discussions of the writing process. The peer editing sessions were some of my favorite parts of the class. It was also nice to have a more empathetic vibe in the room on these days!

Amanda's classes were focused on writing workshopping. She was very good at getting everyone to participate and share ideas about the paper that was being critiqued. Her classes taught me how to critically evaluate science papers and helped me improve my own writing.

Sometimes it felt like we spent a long time getting into things rather than actually spending time on people's writing. I would have really appreciated more work on prose.

Amanda is a super helpful and kind teacher, but she also has very high standards and drives students to improve their writing. I think it must have been difficult to get us to focus on and improve our writing with the many hours of data crunching and arcGIS work, but Amanda was able to do it and my writing definitely benefited.

4. Papers, Problem Sets and Examinations

The assignments were great, except for the initial communication in the first assignment.

Labs were chaos. I had no idea what I was doing. Still to this day I don't really know what we did in lab. I just google how to do things in ArcGIS. Labs could definitely use some improvement. Papers were okay. Data processing was a huge pain. I feel like class time for paper discussion was not always productive. I didn't like having to write the entire third paper over break. It sucked. A lot. But I always felt very accomplished after each paper because it was a huge feat.

The lessons were essential for the labs and papers. The data analysis and writing techniques that were addressed in class were directly applied in the written work. The comments and feedback were very helpful for improving from assignment to assignment.

the guidance was great- but, I do think it might have been a little too much.

Adam and Amanda definitely gave enough guidance in preparing us to do written work, and the expectations were always clear. Comments on drafts were extremely detailed and insightful, and the project topics were very exciting. I think that the structure of the course could help students prepare for future independent work. However, I think that there was fundamentally too much work, and that juniors should not be allowed to take the class given the work required for the JP. There were many weeks when I exceeded 60 hours working on this class, which would be fine if I were taking one or two classes (or if this class counted as two classes, which is worth looking into - they do that for integrated science, which has definitely comparable levels of work. That could enable you to keep the same workload and make it feasibly possible to complete). As it was, I found it extremely overwhelming and often impossible to complete. I do not think it is fair to expect this from a single class. I think that this problem could be fixed by: (1) having 2 assignments instead of 3, (2) giving students less autonomy in choosing their projects for W02 (e.g. saying you can only analyze one tile) to make sure the projects can be completed, (3) making one of the projects a group project (the last project would be a great candidate for this), (4) having less intermediate assignments (assignments that are not rough or final drafts of the major writing assignments), or (5) having the class count as 2 classes, as I mentioned above. I also wish that we understood the grading of the class more (which assignments were graded, how much different drafts would contribute to the final grade).

The papers are big projects designed to teach you what it feels like to do independent work. Adam and Amanda give you huge amounts of freedom in what you write about with the expectation that you will put in the effort to make it a quality project. Adam and Amanda offer tons of help, support, and guidance through individual draft conferences, office hours, and 24/7 email responses. The papers are an incredible opportunity to challenge yourself and to learn the entire process of research writing from start to finish.

There was wayyyy too much work for this course. I totally tipped all of my academic scales and was super frustrating. I had to spend almost every night throughout the week working on assignments. Evening office hours would have changed my life.

The work for this class certainly took up a ton of time, but the labs and papers were interesting, relevant exercises that provided many skills applicable to future work and studies. Some of the small assignments during w02 and w03 seemed to be unnecessary busywork, but for the most part everything was useful. If the amount of data crunching associated with w02 and/or w03 were reduced, I think it would allow us to develop our writing a little bit more, but I learned a ton from both projects.

5. Readings

The readings were helpful, mostly for the first paper.

There weren't too many readings, mostly scientific papers in journals or written by our peers. It was helpful to analyze these and think about how to learn from them for our own writing.

I loved the readings for W01, and I think all later readings were also interesting and relevant to the class.