Field Plant Taxonomy and Biodiversity Conservation

Spring Open
Class Standing
Frederica Bowcutt
Botany, ecology, environmental history
Lalita Calabria
Botany, phytochemistry, systematics

How can we identify, track, characterize and measure patterns in floristic diversity? How can plant taxonomists help to assess the health of ecosystems? How can scientists help to protect species and restore the ecosystems that support them? This program fosters field plant taxonomy skills needed to address such questions for both vascular plants (flowering plants, conifers, ferns and fern allies) and non-vascular plants (bryophytes). Lecture topics will include plant systematics, ecology and evolution, as well as plant biodiversity and conservation. Students will learn about the importance of herbaria as the basis for scientific inquiry including how plant specimens that reside in herbaria can serve as both physical and genetic resources for examining patterns in species diversity and distribution. 

In weekly labs, students will learn how to use technical dichotomous keys for identifying unknown plants. We will spend time discussing diagnostic characters of plant families with emphasis on vascular plants. We will also support sight recognition skill building with both vascular and non-vascular plants with extensive time spent in the field. Weekly plant walks are critical to the work of the program and active engagement in this weekly activity is required. This will include day-long and multi-day field trips. Through detailed notes and botanical drawings, students will document their observations in their lab/field journal and pocket sketchbook. Students will have the opportunity to apply their new identification skills to a floristic inventory of bryophytes and will learn how to properly collect and curate plant specimens.

Seminars will provide students with the opportunity to explore plant biodiversity and conservation topics, including threats to Pacific Northwest plant communities such as climate change as well as small- and large-scale disturbances (e.g. fire, grazing, and air pollution). Through reading assignments, discussions, and lectures, students will also learn about the ecological restoration of various Pacific Northwest plant communities, including prairies, oak woodlands, wetlands, and coniferous forests. This offering will prepare students for careers and advanced study in: conservation, ecological restoration, floristic research methods, forestry, natural resource management, plant ecology, plant taxonomy and vegetation ecology.

Anticipated Credit Equivalencies: 

4* - Bryophyte Taxonomy

4* - Field Plant Taxonomy

4* - Ecological Restoration Seminar


Introductory plant biology that included morphology, evolution, and systematics. Also, the ability to write a college-level expository essay. Students are encouraged to email faculty to confirm that they have met the prerequisites.


Course Reference Numbers
Jr - Sr (12): 30063

Academic Details

conservation, ecological restoration, floristic research methods, forestry, natural resource management, plant ecology, plant taxonomy and vegetation ecology.


$50 required lab fee

Students can expect to spend roughly $75 on art and dissection supplies.

Up to 12 upper-division science credits may be earned


Hybrid (S)

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

Schedule Details
SEM 2 A1105 - Lecture


Date Revision 2023-03-03 This program is now 12 credits (was 16) and the field trip and associated student fee have been removed.