The Nature and Culture of Natural History

Fall 2017 and Winter 2018 quarters

Taught by

botany, ecology, environmental history
history of science

This learning community focuses on the natural history of the Puget Sound region with an emphasis on the 1,000-acre wooded campus of Evergreen. Students will examine environmental gradients and learn how climate, geology, and other factors affect plant life. To apply these concepts, students will learn to read a variety of landscapes and analyze vegetation, including lowland coniferous forests, prairies, oak woodlands, riparian woodlands, and marshes. Students will gain an ability to recognize the common plants of the Pacific Northwest. In addition to studying fresh plant material, students will also study herbarium specimens. Plant-identification skills to be developed include learning how to identify deciduous shrubs and trees in winter based on twig characteristics. Students will maintain a detailed natural history journal for six months and study 18th- and 19th-century natural history journals as models. In support of this work, students will learn basic illustration skills to sketch our observations in the field and the laboratory.

In addition to practicing the art and science of natural history, students will survey the cultural contexts in which natural history developed as a discipline. In fall, we will venture into cabinets of curiosity; follow the global travels of people, plants, and animals; and consider the challenges of taxonomy of an age of burgeoning exploration.  Our focus on the history of science will take us through the scientific revolution to the rise of biological sciences. In winter, students will explore how natural historians and botanists contribute to more egalitarian and sustainable relations with the natural world. With the aid of weekly workshops, students will improve their ability to write thesis-driven essays defended with evidence from the assigned texts in cultural studies.

Program Details

Fields of Study

botany cultural studies ecology environmental studies field studies gender and women's studies history natural history philosophy of science

Preparatory For

conservation, ecological restoration, economic botany, forestry, natural resource management, and education


Fall Open Winter Signature

Location and Schedule

Final Schedule and Room Assignment

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First class meeting: Tuesday, September 26 at 11am (Lecture Hall 03)

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$15 per quarter for entrance fees to a fungus fair, Volunteer Park conservatory in Seattle, an exhibit at the Washington State History Museum, and a visit to the conservatory in Tacoma.


2017-12-06This program will accept new enrollment with faculty signature.