Olympia to the Olympics: The Place and Its People


Fall 2013, Winter 2014 and Spring 2014 quarters

Taught by

geology, earth science, biogeochemistry
public administration, Native American studies, art
environmental education

Through studies of Olympic National Park and the Salish Sea (formerly known as the Puget Sound) lowlands, this program will consider connections among natural places, their respective natural histories and their people. What forces have shaped the geology, natural history and culture of the Olympics and Salish Sea areas? What are the connections between a place and the species that follow?

This program will investigate the role that geology plays in influencing biota and cultures that take up residence in these geographically close but ecologically and culturally distinct locations. This approach will allow us to consider questions including: What do we know about the natural and human history in these regions and how might this predict the future? What are the interrelationships of people, place, flora and fauna in these regions?

In fall quarter, we will focus on place, studying parts of the region that are geographically close but ecologically distinct as we consider the long-term geologic processes that have shaped and continue to influence the area, as well as the region’s flora and fauna, with an emphasis on bird life. Students will keep detailed natural history journals and engage in a quarter-long writing project on geologic processes and/or a species of interest.

During winter quarter, we will narrow our focus to recent millennia (centuries) to consider the people of the region and shorter-term geologic processes important on human time scales including soil formation, nutrient cycling, climate change and human impacts. Students will continue to develop skills as natural historians, learning to effectively communicate with and teach others as we examine environmental education as a way to build an understanding of the connections between a place, its natural history and its people.

Spring quarter will be dedicated primarily to student-driven individual or small group 12-credit projects that build on program themes from previous quarters. For the remaining 4 credits of this full-time 16-credit program, class will meet one full day a week for seminar and workshops, engaging students in Coastal Salish art, the canoe culture and other features of western Washington indigenous cultures. Field trips during each quarter to Olympic National Park and locally around Salish Sea will provide multiple opportunities to consider differences in the geology and natural history of these areas.

Field trips during each quarter to the Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park or locally around Salish Sea will provide multiple opportunities to consider differences in the geology, natural history and human cultures of these areas.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

earth sciences, geology, environmental education, natural history and Native American studies.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$300 per quarter in fall and winter for overnight field trips and supplies.


Date Revision
January 4th, 2013 This program is no longer offered.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Sophomore; 50% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 46


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Accepting New Students

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Enrollment Closed

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