Botany: Plants and People


Fall 2015 and Winter 2016 quarters

Taught by

botany, ecology, environmental history

This program focuses on people's relationships with plants for food, fiber, medicine, and aesthetics. Students will study economic botany through seminar texts, film, and lectures that examine agriculture, forestry, herbology, and horticulture. They will examine political economic factors that shape our relations with plants. Through economic and historical lenses, the learning community will inquire about why people have favored some plants and not others or radically changed their preferences, such as considering a former cash crop to be a weed. In our readings, we will examine the significant roles botany and natural history have played in colonialism, imperialism, and globalization. Initiatives to foster more socially just and environmentally sustainable relations with plants will be investigated.

In fall, weekly workshops will help students improve their ability to write thesis-driven essays defended with evidence from the assigned texts. In winter, students will write a major research paper on a plant of their choosing, applying what they've learned about plant biology and economic botany to their own case study. Through a series of workshops, they will learn to search the scientific literature, manage bibliographic data, and interpret and synthesize information, including primary sources. Through their research paper, students will synthesize scientific and cultural information about their plant.

This program serves both advanced and less experienced students who are looking for an opportunity to expand their understanding of plants and challenge themselves. This two-quarter program allows students to learn introductory and advanced plant science material in an interdisciplinary format. Students will learn about plant anatomy, morphology, and systematics. Lectures based on textbook readings supplement the laboratory work. The learning community will explore how present form and function informs us about the evolution of plants such as mosses, ferns, conifers, and flowering plants. Students will get hands-on experience studying plants under microscopes and in the field. Students will also learn how to maintain a detailed and illustrated nature journal to develop basic plant identification skills of common species.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

conservation, ecological agriculture, ecological restoration, forestry, natural resource management, plant ecology, and plant taxonomy.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day

Advertised schedule: First winter class time: Monday, January 4 at 10am (Sem II E3109)


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$15 per quarter for herbology workshops, entrance fees and other supplies.

Upper Division Science Credit

In winter quarter, students may earn up to 16 units of upper-division science credit in plant anatomy and morphology, economic botany, independent research in botany, and winter twig identification.


Date Revision
July 1st, 2015 Winter fee has been reduced (from $30 to $15).
April 29th, 2015 This program will accept winter enrollment with signature.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 24


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10042
So - Sr (16 credits): 10045

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Accepting New Students

Signature Required

Students will need to have taken Introduction to Plant Science in a form that covers evolution of major groups as well as basic morphology and anatomy. Contact the faculty for more information.

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20018
So - Sr (16 credits): 20019

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