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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Iris M. Kemp
FISH 547
Seattle Campus

River Ecology and Watershed Management

Characterization of streams and rivers from a watershed perspective with an emphasis on fundamental processes affecting the structure and dynamics of communities and the riparian zone. Identifies river-related conflicts and human-induced changes at the watershed scale, and explores approaches to improve river management

Class description

A watershed perspective is used to learn about the ecology of streams and rivers, with an emphasis on the coastal region of the Pacific Northwest. The general topic is well supported by a variety of theoretical concepts, and these are used as foundations for developing a regional knowledge of aquatic communities and the associated riparian zones. Strong emphasis is placed on ‘natural’ systems. Topics addressed include general hydrology and geomorphology, stream classification, riparian zones, roles of animals, hyporheic processes, suspended and benthic organic matter, trophic ecology, system metabolism, decomposition, biogeochemical cycles, and microbial ecology. Nevertheless, in the current debate over the scope of watershed and ecosystem management, it is widely recognized that there are significant technical and cultural constraints to effective implementation of ecological principles related to rivers. These constraints relate to such important issues as identifying appropriate spatial and temporal scales, monitoring and assessment, developing an adaptive management process, and using cultural values and philosophies that allow river management to be successful. The ability of rapidly increasing human populations to alter watershed characteristics makes it essential to incorporate an ecological perspective into management, if there is to be a healthy resource base for future generations. This course also explores the consequences of human-induced changes to river systems at local to global scales, and discusses approaches to improve watershed management. Specific topics include linkages between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, pervasive human alterations and their consequences, designing monitoring and assessment protocols, roles of social organizations and institutions, and emerging approaches to effective management

Student learning goals

Students will develop a broad overview of both the ecology of rivers and the management of watersheds (from a river perspective) at regional to global scales. It is expected that students will understand and be articulate about the basic/natural structure and function of streams and rivers, and will develop a working understanding of the complexities of watershed management. Graduate students will further explore a topic of contemporary interest in stream or river ecology that has important implications for watershed management. It is expected that the published literature will be the primary source of information but other avenues of information gathering (e.g., data from agencies) will be encouraged.

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Students are expected to play an active role in class and in group discussions, and be prepared for each lecture. Think critically and educate classmates with personal insight, knowledge, and experience whenever possible. Demonstrate academic integrity at the highest level. Also, expected to read assignments before lecture, work to integrate new concepts and terminology as the lectures progress, discuss concepts and questions inside and outside class, and keep the big picture in mind, but be familiar with the details. You will be expected to comment on selected readings on the Catalyst class discussion board prior to lecture. Additionally, there will be periodic short quizzes in some class periods based on a selection of the readings, which will contribute to your participation grade.

Class assignments and grading

Participation (15%): Class discussions & quizzes. Written Assignment (25%): 10 page paper Mid-term Exam (30%): In-class written exam Final Exam (30%): Take Home (Short answer, essay & synthesis questions)


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Iris M. Kemp
Date: 09/07/2012