Advanced Field and Laboratory Biology in Southwestern Ecosystems
Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 quarters
The southwestern U.S. is unique in the diversity of habitats that can occur along with dramatic temperature and moisture gradients. Major advances in ecology have been made in these extreme environments, and important work in global change biology is currently being conducted in these ecosystems. This program will use field sites in the desert Southwest as living laboratories for investigating patterns in ecology, biology, microbiology and evolution. Students will learn about arid environments, plant ecology, field biology and molecular genetics. They will also conduct student-originated research projects in both laboratory and remote environments.
We will use detailed studies of southwestern cottonwood trees, lichens, mosses, tardigrades (water-bears) and micromolluscs as examples that will let us dive deeply into laboratory and field experiments. We will pair those investigations with broader exploration of southwestern environments to learn about ecosystems and how climate change impacts organisms within them. Students will learn to conduct DNA analyses on plants and skills in microbiology and molecular biology so that they can apply these methods in new investigations. We will then travel to remote field sites in the Southwest to apply these techniques to questions about organisms in southwestern ecosystems. All students will participate in a mandatory two-week field ecology module each quarter where they will engage in major research projects examining the effects of desert-tree genetic diversity on ecosystems and the biodiversity of cryptic organisms. During the trips, students will learn to identify plant species of the Southwest and conduct field science experiments in these harsh habitats. We will also visit environmentally significant sites in the Southwest, including cactus forests, canyons, mountain peaks and water diversion projects. Students will use research conducted on these trips as the foundation for research papers they will write throughout both quarters. Students will receive specialized training in scientific writing, presentation, statistical analysis of data and techniques in laboratory and field biology.
This program is designed for students who have a strong background in biology or ecology and are ready for advanced work. There will be an emphasis on student- and faculty-derived research projects, requiring students to do large amounts of lab and/or field work, reading of the literature, writing a research proposal and presenting their work at the end of the program. Students should be prepared for extensive time living and working in the field and should be committed to working through conflicts in group dynamics.
If you are a student with a disability and would like to request accommodations, please contact the faculty or the office of Access Services (Library Bldg., Rm. 2153, PH: 360-867-6348; TTY 360-867-6834) prior to the start of the quarter. If you require accessible transportation for field trips, please contact the faculty well in advance of the field trip dates to allow time to arrange this.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day