The Forest Ecosystem (Fall 2008-2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2021, Fall 2023)
Humans across the globe depend on forests and the myriad ecosystem services they provide for human well-being, but forests are being lost at an alarming rate in response to rapid environmental change. This course explores the ecology and sustainable management of forest ecosystems. By the end of this semester, students develop a mastery of (1) the ecological principles that govern forest ecosystem dynamics and (2) the applications of those principles for sustaining the healthy forests in the Anthropocene. These concepts and issues are at the core of the struggle to provide our descendants with a habitable planet and ecologically rich future. We will make these principles and applications tangible and personally significant by exploring the richness and complexity of the local forests here in Connecticut.
We spend lots of time in the forest in this class, where students learn and practice approaches to identification, measurement, experimentation, and the art of observing and “reading the forest.” Reading, writing, presenting, and quantitative analyses are integral to this course. These assignments are designed to improve student skills at (1) doing field work, (2) carrying out quantitative analyses, (3) critically analyzing and synthesizing information in the scientific literature, (4) characterizing and making predictions about natural systems, and (5) reading landscapes. In our information-rich society, these are lifelong skills that should help you succeed no matter what career you select. The lectures, field, and lab assignments we cover in The Forest Ecosystem emphasize the quantification of spatial and temporal patterns of forest change at scales spanning from local to global.
Body and Earth (Spring 2023)
We live in a world in which humans are inextricably connected to nature, humanity’s life support system. Yet, at the same time we live on a planet in peril, in which environmentalists across the globe are working to catalyze societal transformation for sustainable living on Earth. This course explores these themes by
1) analyzing how social and ecological systems are intertwined
2) exploring diverse ways of knowing nature through movement and mindfulness exercises
3) investigating and communicating mechanisms of sustainable environmental practice.
The course introduces conceptual frameworks and methodologies to explore the embeddedness of humans in nature–a task that remains critical for addressing today’s environmental challenges. Students engage with interdisciplinary frameworks spanning from environmental problem solving to movement and place-based approaches for experiential learning. Through case studies and individual storytelling projects, we examine how embeddedness in nature, interdisciplinary perspectives, and human agency provide sustainable pathways for both people and planet.
Fire Ecology and Management (Fall 2022)
Fire is a fundamental ecological disturbance process that regulates the structure and function of plant communities worldwide. Yet, increasing aridity under climate change and shifting human land use in recent centuries has altered recent fire behavior, imperiling many species. Fire management and stewardship is therefore a critical component of forest conservation. This course explores the ecological aspects of fire including fire as a physical disturbance (fire behavior) and the fire regime (including timing, frequency, severity and spatial patterning). Students examine shifting fire regimes over time, from Indigenous use of fire prior to European colonization of the globe, to contemporary fire management. Class participants also discuss current issues in fire ecology and learn how to apply ecological principles to fire management. Finally, students study the effects of global climate change on fire regimes and how such changes influence contemporary fire regimes and human livelihoods. The course format consist of a mixture of lectures, active class discussions, and student presentations. Students perform a case study on a fire regime of their choice in which they will present an in-depth account of the role of fire in maintaining ecosystem structure and function to the class.
Senior Colloquium in Environmental Studies (2016-Present)
This course provides an opportunity for students to share and workshop their environmental studies senior capstone projects. Each student presents a live report to the class once during each semester. Before their presentation, classmates post readings and guiding questions about their research prior to class. Students workshop the project in class via discuss and peer-critique with the goal of
1) improving the depth and content of Environmental Studies senior capstone research projects
2) sharing project content and goals among the wide range of student interests across the environmental studies major.
Sophomore Seminar in Environmental Studies (Spring 2017-2022)
Introduction to Environmental Studies( Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Spring 2020)
River Encounters (Spring 2015)
Introduction to Environmental Science (Spring 2014)
Research Methods in Environmental Studies Spring (2011-2014)
Invasive Species Biology, Policy, and Management (Spring 2009, Fall 2013, Spring 2015)
Landscape Ecology (Fall 2009)
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (Fall 2007, Spring 2008)