Temperate rainforests are a highly valued ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the world. They support a complex and interconnected web of life that encompasses a tremendous diversity of biota, including humans. In this program, we will learn about these ecosystems using a variety of contemporary ecological methods. Our particular focus will be on ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling in rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula.

We will examine the scientific process that ecologists use to study complex ecosystems through historical, philosophical and scientific readings. In addition, we will study the human impacts on temperate rainforests and social pressures and environmental policies that influence the health of these ecosystems. Seminars will draw on diverse readings, including scientific articles from the primary literature. Students will also learn how to write and critique scientific writing, and will undertake an independent study project that draws on natural history and the scientific method.

We will take advantage of our own rainforests in Washington state by taking several multi-day field trips to the eastern and western lowland areas of the Olympic rainforest to study the natural history of plants and animals, carry out short-term ecological field studies, and visit lumber mills, secondary forest product processing plants, and other elements of human exploitation of rainforests. We will also visit coastal systems to better understand the links between temperate rainforests and the marine environment. To complement the scientific approach, we will examine how to convey information about temperate rainforests to the public in writing and other media.

Up to 16 credits of upper-division science in college-level forest ecology, natural history, environmental history, and philosophy of science may be earned by students with appropriate background and strong performance. Students not meeting these standards will be awarded lower-division credit.