Botany: Plants and People


Fall 2013 and Winter 2014 quarters

Taught by

botany, ecology, environmental history

This two-quarter program allows students to learn introductory and advanced plant science material in an interdisciplinary format. The program is suitable for both advanced and first year students who are looking for an opportunity to expand their understanding of plants and challenge themselves. Students will learn about plant anatomy, morphology and systematics. Lectures based on textbook readings will be supplemented with laboratory work. The learning community will explore how present form and function informs us about the evolution of major groups of plants such as mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants. Students will get hands-on experience studying plants under microscopes and in the field. To support their work in the field and lab, students will learn how to maintain a detailed and illustrated nature journal. Instruction will be given in the history and practice of botanical illustration.

A central focus of the program is people's relationships with plants for food, fiber, medicine and aesthetics. Economic botany will be studied through seminar texts, films, and lectures that examine agriculture, forestry, herbology and horticulture. Students will examine political economic factors that shape our relations with plants. Through economic and historical lenses, the learning community will inquire about why people have favored some plants and not others or radically changed their preferences, for example considering a former cash crop to be a weed. Readings will examine the significant roles botany has played in colonialism, imperialism and globalization. Students will also investigate the gender politics of botany. For example, botany was used to inculcate "appropriate" middle and upper class values among American women in the 19th century. Initiatives to foster more socially just and environmentally sustainable relations with plants will be investigated.

In winter, students will write a major research paper on a plant of their choosing. 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.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

plant science, plant ecology, economic botany, agriculture, forestry and environmental education.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$35 for a trip to the Portland Chinese Garden and an herbology workshop.

Upper Division Science Credit

A maximum of 20 upper division science credits in economic botany, plant anatomy and morphology, and independent research in botany will be awarded if earned. Students need to demonstrate comprehension of key concepts through their essays, lab notebook, exams, and seminar participation. Their research paper will also need to indicate an effective ability to search the scientific literature and skillfully synthesize technical information gleaned from that search.

May be offered again in



Date Revision
December 10th, 2013 $35 fee added in winter.
November 6th, 2013 This program will accept new enrollment during winter quarter with faculty signature.
April 10th, 2013 This program is now offered to Sophomores through Seniors.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 25


Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 10059

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Accepting New Students

Signature Required

Interested students are encouraged to email two expository essays as samples of their writing skills by December 6th along with the names of two faculty they've worked with who can serve as references.

Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 20053

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