Introduction to Environmental Studies: Land

Fall 2016 quarter

Taught by

Dylan Fischer
forest and plant ecology
  • UG

In this program, we will explore the complexities of environmental issues in terrestrial (land) environments. We will use climate change as a central theme, demonstrating how social phenomena and natural environments are intertwined. We will also explore how local forests and communities affect, and are affected by, climate change. We will focus especially on forests, which dominate the land-base of the Pacific Northwest, and are central to the evolving global agreements on climate change. Because environmental issues are not strictly science problems, and not strictly social problems, our focus will be equally divided between the social and natural sciences.

For the social science component, students will be introduced to several key approaches to examining the environment-society relationship, including explanations of the social determinants of the destruction of the environmental commons as well as their solutions. We will explore various theories about the environment-society relationship, including those that focus on population growth, economic growth, technological innovation, and social justice, using examples and case studies from the local and global environments as appropriate to illustrate concepts. Students will consequently develop familiarity with key debates in the broad field of the environmental social sciences, and develop the capability of engaging with this scholarly conversation by formulating and defending a well supported position in these contentious debates. Students will apply this learning to the context of the global atmospheric commons, critically evaluating policies to mitigate climate change, including those that involve carbon sequestration in forests. Student learning will be facilitated by a variety of texts, films, workshops and seminar discussion that will delve into these topics in various ways.

For the natural science component, students will learn about climate change and forest ecology from a carbon cycling perspective. Students will learn to do basic forest measurements, inventory carbon sequestration in forests, and identify the dominant tree and forest species of our region. Weekly field labs will give students hands-on experience working with our local forests in a series of permanent forest measurement plots in the Evergreen State College forest reserve. Students will then learn about how these measurements are related to global carbon budgets and how global carbon budgets are related to climate change.

Our studies will use a combination of weekly lectures in social science and forest ecology, data analysis labs, seminars, workshops, and weekly field labs to accomplish our goals. The program is also designed to give students a foundation for understanding multiple environmental issues such as conservation biology, pollution, invasive species biology, and bioengineering.

This program will be repeated in winter quarter. Students who take this program in fall should not register for the winter quarter repeat.

Program Details

Fields of Study

botany cultural studies ecology environmental studies field studies geography natural history

Preparatory For

environmental studies, government, geography, social science, ecology, and forestry.


Fall Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First class meeting: Tuesday, September 27 at 9am (Sem II E2105)

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$300 for overnight field trips to explore marine and terrestrial environments.


2016-01-29IES: Land is now a 1-quarter program that will repeat in winter quarter.