2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Landforms and Lifeforms


Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 quarters

Christopher Coughenour sedimentology, geophysics , Peter Impara geography, landscape studies
Fields of Study
ecology, environmental studies, field studies, geology, hydrology and mathematics
Preparatory for studies or careers in
geology, field ecology, environmental science, land management, geography, and conservation biology.
Students must be proficient in college algebra, and have had one complete year of both college-level biology and physical geology.

This program will merge the fields of geomorphology and ecology to provide students with a broad understanding of both how landscapes form and function and how lifeforms (microbial, plant and animal)organize themselves across this earth template. The many processes and steps in the geological evolution of an area profoundly influence the ever-changing physical environment (e.g. the soils, nutrient transport, surface and ground waters, climate, among others when taken together) and, thus, the organisms and ecosystems that so intimately interact with these environments. How species are distributed, how communities are structured, and how ecosystems function are all dependent upon interactions with the physical environment.

We will cover major topics in geomorphology: plate tectonics and the large scale evolution of Earth's surface, weathering and sediment transport in the continental and marine realms, climate, and environmental controls on the physical and chemical evolution of landscapes. We will also cover important concepts in ecology and biogeography: evolution, ecosystem ecology, community ecology, population ecology, and landscape ecology. Topics that will be particularly informed by the synergy of ecology and geomorphology are early Earth evolution, climate change, extremophiles, ecological succession, and paleoecology. Students will be exposed to a variety of environments through local and overnight field trips. One multi-day field trip will involve a visit to the Death Valley National Park to observe extreme environments, geologic processes, and extremophile biology.  Group research projects will focus on studying the biology and environments of extremophiles, including but not limited to microorganisms, fungi, invertebrates, plants, and vertebrates.  Seminar readings will familiarize students with topics in environmental studies as related to ecology and/or geology. Students will be evaluated on attendance, assignments, scientific writing,field and lab work, and exams.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$200 per quarter for an overnight field trip.
Research Possibilities
Students will be involved in several field studies.
Upper Division Science Credit
Upper division science credit will be awarded for upper division work.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
November 17th, 2011 Description has been updated.
June 22nd, 2011 Faculty change, program length extended to winter quarter
April 27th, 2011 New program added.