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Snow Ecology

Winter 2020
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 20
16 Credits per quarter
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What types of communities exist on, within, and beneath the snow pack? What does it take to not only survive, but to thrive in snow-covered environments? We will explore these questions from a variety of perspectives: macroscopic to microscopic, external to internal, research to experience. The major topics will be snow science, ecology, and outdoor leadership.

We will examine the microbial ecology of the snowpack, the ecology of snow-covered ecosystems and the amazing adaptations of various life forms to cold habitats. We’ll also study how snow changes over time and use this information to assess avalanche hazards, both through terrain analysis and field studies. Our studies of outdoor leadership will range from logistics to group process; from calculating the amount of calories and food needed for an expedition; to resolving conflicts in groups. Students will also learn winter travel and camping skills and then combine all of these skills with field investigations of snow-covered ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest.

There will be a significant field component to this class, regardless of weather. Students must provide their own winter camping gear and winter safety gear (avalanche shovel, transceiver, and probe). Winter travel means (snowshoes or skis) will also be needed. A limited amount of winter camping gear and snowshoes is available for rent on campus. There will be a multi-day field trip that will be scheduled after the snowpack develops (think snow!).



College-level ecology and/or biology, and willingness to camp in the snow. Due to the demanding nature of this program, students should be physically fit and able to hike with a pack across snow at elevations of 4,000 ft. and above.

Winter 2020 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 20234
So - Sr (1 - 16): 20513

Academic details

Preparatory For

Environmental education, Experiential education, Ecology, and Outdoor leadership

Maximum Enrollment
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.
Class Standing

$200 for multi-day field trips.

Special Expenses

Additional costs will vary student to student depending on what winter camping, winter travel and snow safety gear students already have.

Upper Division Science Credit

Up to 4 credits of upper division science credit may be earned in ecology upon completion of an independent research project. Students with a solid foundation in lower-division science seeking to earn upper-division credit must contact the faculty to discuss options prior to the start of the quarter.



Time Offered
Advertised Schedule

First winter class meeting

Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

SEM 2 D2107 - Seminar