Northwest Forests: Biogeochemistry and Management

Fall 2017
Winter 2018
Class Size: 50
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

forest and plant ecology
Paul Przybylowicz
ecology, biology, mycology

Forests are among the most biologically complex ecosystems in the world. How do forests develop? How do they function? How do human activities affect them? Is sustainable harvest a reality or an oxymoron? We will use a biogeochemical lens to examine these forests, their effects on us, and our impacts on them. Topics covered will include forest ecology, ecosystem ecology, soil microbial ecology, biogeochemistry, sustainable forestry, and forest conservation.

In fall quarter, we will explore how forests work through studying forest ecosystem science that includes both global and regional perspectives, with a focus on carbon and nutrient cycling. We will also examine the tremendous fungal biodiversity found within the local forests of the Pacific Northwest. We’ll cover methods in forest biogeochemical measurement, fungal biology, taxonomy, and advanced forest ecology.

Human impacts on northwest forests will be the focus of winter quarter. We’ll focus on sustainable forestry, both theory and practice, which with our foundation in forest ecology will deepen our understanding of forest function and the short- and long-term impacts of various forestry practices. These topics will merge as we explore carbon sequestration in forest ecosystems, which is an emerging component of sustainable forestry. We will explore current and past controversies in forest ecology related to old-growth forests, endangered species, and biofuels.

Our program time will consist of fieldwork, laboratory work, lectures, workshops, and weekly seminars. Expect to research topics in the primary scientific literature and to summarize and share your findings with the entire class. We’ll cover various sampling techniques that are used to measure nitrogen and carbon cycling in forested ecosystems. Hands-on research experiences will be a core theme for both group and individual projects.

In addition to one-day trips regularly scheduled throughout both quarters, there will be a multiday field trip each quarter. In the fall, we’ll do field research in northwest forests. In the winter, we’ll tour the Pacific Northwest and visit a variety of managed and unmanaged forests. Plan to spend a lot of time in the field (and remember that every field day generates three to four days of work once we return). Students who may need accommodations for field trips should contact the faculty as soon as possible.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

ecology, public policy, forestry, and field research


Credits per quarter


Two quarters of general biology or ecology and two quarters of general chemistry. Interested students can take a self-corrected quiz to see if their background in chemistry is sufficient.

Online learning:
  • Hybrid Online Learning - This offering delivers < 25% of its instruction online, rather than via face-to-face contact between you and your instructors.

$250 in fall for overnight field trips to research sites; $350 in winter for a weeklong field trip to sites throughout the Northwest.

Upper division science credit:

Upper-division science credit will be awarded to all students who demonstrate a solid working understanding of the prerequisites and successfully complete all of the program work.

Class Standing: Junior–Senior
Class Size: 50

Scheduled for: Day

Advertised schedule:

First class meeting: Tuesday, September 26 at 9am (Sem II A1107)

Located in: Olympia