The Nature and Culture of Natural History

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Fall 2017
Winter 2018
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

botany, ecology, environmental history
history of science

This learning community focuses on the natural history of the Puget Sound region with an emphasis on the 1,000-acre wooded campus of Evergreen. Students will examine environmental gradients and learn how climate, geology, and other factors affect plant life. To apply these concepts, students will learn to read a variety of landscapes and analyze vegetation, including lowland coniferous forests, prairies, oak woodlands, riparian woodlands, and marshes. Students will gain an ability to recognize the common plants of the Pacific Northwest. In addition to studying fresh plant material, students will also study herbarium specimens. Plant-identification skills to be developed include learning how to identify deciduous shrubs and trees in winter based on twig characteristics. Students will maintain a detailed natural history journal for six months and study 18th- and 19th-century natural history journals as models. In support of this work, students will learn basic illustration skills to sketch our observations in the field and the laboratory.

In addition to practicing the art and science of natural history, students will survey the cultural contexts in which natural history developed as a discipline. In fall, we will venture into cabinets of curiosity; follow the global travels of people, plants, and animals; and consider the challenges of taxonomy of an age of burgeoning exploration.  Our focus on the history of science will take us through the scientific revolution to the rise of biological sciences. In winter, students will explore how natural historians and botanists contribute to more egalitarian and sustainable relations with the natural world. With the aid of weekly workshops, students will improve their ability to write thesis-driven essays defended with evidence from the assigned texts in cultural studies.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in: conservation, ecological restoration, economic botany, forestry, natural resource management, and education

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$15 per quarter for entrance fees to a fungus fair, Volunteer Park conservatory in Seattle, an exhibit at the Washington State History Museum, and a visit to the conservatory in Tacoma.

Scheduled for: Day

Located in: Olympia

Final schedule and room assignment:


Advertised schedule:

First class meeting: Tuesday, September 26 at 11am (Lecture Hall 03)

2017-12-06This program will accept new enrollment with faculty signature.