Western Water, Landscapes, and Sustainability (upper-level Ecology)
(Not taught in the 2019-20 Academic Year)
In this upper-level elective course, students adopt an interdisciplinary approach to landscape ecology and the role of water therein. We will develop techniques for exploring, interpreting, and studying both wild and cultured landscapes, beginning with an introduction to landscape ecology with a primary focus on exploring the interconnected landscapes of the Colorado Plateau. The geophysical, biological, socio-cultural, aesthetic, and politico-economic landscapes will be examined as distinct entities and as an interconnected mosaic of landscape layers. Topics covered include the ecology and natural history of water, biogeography of flora and fauna, landscape evolution, weather and climate change, artistic and literary interpretations of landscapes, past and present roles of humans on landscapes (and rivers in particular), and the role of public lands in landscape preservation, conservation, and restoration. With landscape ecology as a foundation, we will spend much of the second semester studying the regional landscapes in the context of sustainability, the Anthropocene Epoch, and the pervasive influence of humans on the land. While each of these topics will be explored in the context of the Colorado Plateau, we will also compare the arid West with other regions across the globe. Students will engage in project-based learning, research, and presentations related to sustainability in the context of water, food, energy, and transportation systems. Field trips to riverside locales, research stations, museums, and state and federal water projects will round out the curriculum for this course. It is designed to be a year-long course, but it is adaptable enough to allow motivated students to join after Semester 1.