Climate Change, Fire, and Carbon in Terrestrial Ecosystems

Fall Open
Class Standing
Dylan Fischer

Terrestrial ecosystems play a critical and dynamic role in regulating global carbon cycles. Disturbances like fire and volcanic eruptions can have dramatic and long-lasting impacts on ecosystem carbon budgets and succession. In this program we will examine climate change and ecosystem carbon cycles together with disturbances like wildfire. We will have a particular focus on forest ecosystems, since forest ecosystems represent the most carbon-dense ecosystems on the planet. Recent increases in frequency and extent of wildfires have also raised major questions about how forests and wildfires interact with the global carbon cycle. Students will learn: theoretical concepts in forest ecology, biogeochemistry, fire ecology and soil science; quantitative approaches and tools in ecosystem carbon assessment, and basic ecology surveying methods; develop laboratory skills for measuring soil and plant carbon; field skills for determining forest structure and carbon sequestration, and remote and GIS methods for determining trends in forest loss, carbon gain, and vegetation density using aerial and satellite imagery.

We will also hold a weekly seminar on books that address human interactions with forests, and especially in the Pacific Northwest. The texts will cover terrestrial ecology concepts, climate change, fire ecology, environmental history, and global issues in terrestrial ecosystem management and conservation.

This program will also include weekly field days where we will use local forests and The Evergreen State College Ecological Observation Network (EEON) as a living laboratory. A series of labs in the use of GIS will survey current use of remote sensing in ecology and teach students basic skills for navigating and interpreting GIS data in the context of carbon cycles and climate change. Scientific writing, quantitative skills, work with common computer software, field skills, and presentation/communication skills will all be emphasized. Finally, a multiple-day overnight field trip will allow students to measure and learn about recent wildfires firsthand early in the quarter. 


This program assumes that students are ready for upper-division work in the sciences. Students should have prior lower-division experiences in chemistry, biology, and/or math. Students should consult directly with the faculty before enrolling if they have not taken any lower division offerings in biology.

Course Reference Numbers

Jr - Sr (16): 10023

Academic Details

Studies or careers in ecology, environmental studies, resource management, ecological restoration, conservation biology, and the liberal arts.


$350 total: $50 required lab fee, $300 a week for a 1-2 week field trip early in the quarter

Up to 16 credits of upper-division science credit may be awarded in forest science, forest measurements, and GIS upon successful completion of the program objectives.


In Person (F)

See definition of Hybrid, Remote, and In-Person instruction

Schedule Details
Purce Hall 2 - Lecture