Ecological Niche: The Interface of Human and Animal Behavior

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, and Spring 2017 quarters

Taught by

George Freeman
clinical psychology
  • UG

The word environment encompasses multiple meanings, from the natural to the built, from the interiors of our minds to the spiritual. In each case there is a constant interface of environments with one another and with other creatures, each defining and circumscribing our experience of the world.   

Some of our essential questions revolve around how we define the environment and how we are shaped by as well as how we shape the environment, both natural and built. For example, does the concept of wilderness include humans? Is the ecological niche of a human essentially different from that of other living things? We will explore the habitats we occupy along with other creatures in those environments. We will explore dichotomies that foster dynamic tensions, such as the dichotomy between concepts of "natural" versus "human." We intend to investigate these tensions through our study of psychology, personal biography, biology, environmental studies, ornithology, and cultural studies.

Fall quarter we will develop the foundational skills in environmental studies and psychology needed to understand and critique the writings and current research in community ecology, animal behavior, and conservation biology; and to examine the conscious and unconscious, and the theories of perception and cognition in psychology. We will examine parallels and links among disciplines in terms of methods, assumptions, and prevailing theories. Winter quarter we will continue building on this foundation and move ourselves from theory to practice through an emphasis on methodologies in ecological and social science research, analyses, and their underlying assumptions. Spring quarter we will implement the skills and knowledge we've developed through specific student-directed projects and a field trip. Faculty will foster creativity, experimentation, and imaginative processes as means of discovering and bringing a new awareness to our extraordinary world. Students will respond to program themes through individual and collaborative projects.

To build our learning community we will use experiential collaboration activities such as Challenge and Experiential Education as a means to develop a sense of commitment and group citizenship. We will use multicultural discussion opportunities such as Critical Moments to explore the politics of identity and meaning. We will develop our observational skills via field workshops and field trips. We will have writing and quantitative reasoning workshops to further develop students' current skills and to develop advanced skills in these areas.

Students completing this program will come to a stronger understanding of their personal lives as situated in a variety of contexts. They will develop strategies for engaging in a range of settings to promote social change, in-depth personal development, increased self-awareness, critical commentary and analyses, and practices that promote stewardship of our personal lives, our immediate environment, and global communities.

Program Details

Fields of Study

biology cultural studies ecology environmental studies field studies natural history psychology zoology

Preparatory For

psychology, behavioral sciences, and environmental science.


Fall Open Winter Open Spring Closed

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First spring class meeting: Tuesday, April 4 at 10am (Sem II C3105)(Sem II C3107)

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$65 for entrance and other fees in fall, $65 for entrance and other fees in winter (applies to new students only), and $450 for a field trip in spring.


2017-02-22Spring fee reduced ($650 to $450).