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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Michael Kucher
TESC 490
Tacoma Campus

Topics in Environmental Science

Class description

Historical Ecology is the use of techniques from a variety of disciplines to reconstruct changes in a landscape over time, thus explaining how it took its current form. These changes include both human -induced and naturally occurring forces, as well as those like fire, which have multiple causes. Naturally occurring drivers of landscape change include glaciers, tsunamis, blow downs, beaver dams, succession, and lightning-induced fire. Human-caused changes include fire management, agriculture, hunting of keystone species and top predators, construction, forest clearance and logging, grazing, erosion, and paving. Sources for reconstructing the history of a landscape lie in far-flung places not easy to categorize, ranging from pollen cores to land grants and boundary surveys. Rapidly emerging are sources from remote sensing along visible and invisible wavelengths (e.g. lidar) and online means of aggregating data and maps such as Google Maps and David Rumsey's web site http://www.davidrumsey.com/. Students will chose a particular landscape to investigate and produce a heavily illustrated report or poster on their work. Fieldwork is integral to the success of the course. If you cannot commit to participating in all the field trips, you cannot take this course.

Student learning goals

Field courses are intended to be the pinnacle of the undergraduate environmental science curriculum, allowing you to apply the skills you’ve acquired in lecture and laboratory courses to real-world field studies. Students will hone their observational skills by working with the instructor and other students in the field and comparing their notes and observations with each other. They will also gain an overview of local, state, and federal sources, both in print and manuscript form that will supplement their field work. In addition, they will use online sources and tools to synthesize their data. Finally, they will present their research to their colleagues and instructor for comments and review.

General method of instruction

Field work including van trips to the Olympic Peninsula, Federation Forest, National Archives and Record Center in Sand Point, and Suzzallo library.

Recommended preparation

Students should be fluent in library research skills and have good knowledge of Puget Sound Region. If they are new to the area, they should buy and read Arthur Kruckeberg, Puget Sound Country. (UW Press, 1991)

Class assignments and grading

Intensive reading, analytic reviews of literature, culminating with design of individual research projects on a particular local landscape and how it has changed over time.

Quality of questions posed, participation in field work, collegiality in the field and classroom, thoroughness of research and excellence of projects submitted. 50% Participation in field work and class discussions. 20% Research Proposal 30% Final Research project.


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 Michael Kucher
Date: 11/12/2008