Students will learn introductory plant biology in an interdisciplinary format. They will learn about plant anatomy, morphology, evolution, and systematics. As a learning community we will explore how form and function informs us about the evolution of major groups of plants such as mosses, ferns, conifers, and flowering plants. Lectures based on textbook readings supplement the laboratory work. Students will get hands-on experience studying plants under microscopes and in the field. Some previous experience with botanical illustration or drawing will be valuable but is not required. Students will maintain a detailed and illustrated nature journal focused on learning to identify deciduous trees and shrubs during the dormant season.
This program is designed to support students learning about the connections of plants and people, known as economic botany. Students will focus on people's relationships with plants for food, fiber, medicine, and aesthetics. They will engage with seminar texts, films, and lectures that examine agriculture, forestry, medical botany, and horticulture. Using a series of case studies, we will investigate the history of human relationships with specific plants, paying special attention to the socio-political and economic factors that shape those relations.
Considering historical context, we will ask why people have favored particular plants over others or have radically changed their preferences. In our readings, we will examine the significant roles botany has played in colonialism, imperialism, and globalization. We will consider the influence of increasingly globalized production since the scientific and industrial revolutions and the rise of capitalism. We will pay attention to the role of botanists in shaping relations with plants. We will also investigate contemporary efforts to establish sustainable and ethical production and consumption.
Students seeking to learn how to write a major research paper will be well served in this program. They will choose a vascular plant to study and apply what they have learned through their study of plant biology, economic botany, and environmental history. 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. They are encouraged to analyze how race, class, and gender influence human relations with the plant they choose to research.
Ability to write a thesis driven essay at an intermediate to advance level.
Must demonstrate an ability to write a thesis driven essay at an intermediate level. Please email faculty the day after Academic Fair and provide two samples of your expository writing in the form of a Word file or PDF. Knowing your academic goals would also be helpful to advise whether this is a good course of study.
Course Reference Numbers
agriculture, botany, ecology, environmental history, forestry, plant taxonomy and restoration ecology
Up to 12 units of upper-division science credit may be earned in economic botany, independent research in botany, and winter twig identification.