Natural History and Science Writing: Observations and Representations

We are aware of missing faculty photos in the directory and catalog and will be updating them shortly. Thank you for your patience.

Spring 2017 quarter

Taught by

This program will help students gain fluidity as readers and writers of science. They will be able to evaluate the quality of science writing found in the mainstream and specialty media, and among poetry circles. Students will appreciate the importance of natural history writing to everyone’s health and well-being by connecting with our environment.

Natural history is the scientific study of animals and plants, especially based on observation rather than experimentation. Through storytelling, we will consider how natural history helps us understand the living world and travel the byways of our past, present and future. Crucial personal and public decisions must be based on good scientific research, and effective science writing is often the catalyst between scientists, the public, and policy makers.

We will consider what science is and how it works, explore natural history, including that of the Pacific Northwest, and work toward developing a scientific perspective on some current major issues, such as global climate change. We will work toward developing skills to communicate information and concepts using verbal and graphic representations and equation

Science writers work in various genres – scientific papers, spoken word and literary poetry, and journalism – that are fascinating and engage audiences such as the scientific community, general public, and poetry lovers. Science writers of today –  scientists, journalists, poets – are making it possible for the public to engage with critical issues, such as climate change, health equity, food sustainability, environmental justice, and systems of privilege and inequity built into these debates.  In this hands-on, writing-intensive program we will explore the import and versatility of science writing and reading through abstracts, journalism and poetry within the framework of natural history.

Assignments may include writing: 1) an article abstract suitable for a scientific journal 2) a journalistic article based on attending a local public policy meeting or hearing, live interviews and additional research, 3) a discussion of a topic in science accessible to an educated public, 4) spoken word or literary poetry for stage and page using natural history as a framework and/or theme, as well as illustrated field journals. Students may also track and critique natural history articles in a variety of mainstream, alternative, and specialty media for effective communication of science appropriate to various audiences. Activities will include lectures, workshops, seminars and field trips.

Required readings may include Charles Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle, Jon Luoma's The Hidden Forest: Biography of an Ecosystem, works by Mary Oliver and John Muir, and science articles written for popular and professional audiences.

This program will serve as a foundation for advanced study or work in natural history, science writing, journalism, poetry, communication, nonprofits, government and education.



Program Details

Fields of Study

environmental studies literature natural history sustainability studies writing

Preparatory For

natural history, science writing, journalism, poetry, communication, nonprofits, government and education.


Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

Saturdays 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., plus required field trips Thursday evening April 20 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., Wednesday evening May 17 from 6:30-8 p.m. for community poetry events and possibly one overnight field trip.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$20 for admission/entrance fee for field trips.


2017-03-17This program is now open to all levels.
2017-03-17New Title: Natural History and Science Writing (previously Natural History and Storytelling). Content of program has not changed.