This interdisciplinary course explores the history and ecology of forests, both here in the Southern Appalachians and around the globe. We will bring together perspectives from the sciences and humanities to examine how forest ecosystems sustain biodiversity and economic prosperity, and how humans, in our turn, can sustain forests.
This class first introduces forest ecology through brief lectures and small field trips to the University Nature Preserve, presenting basic scientific material at a level accessible to students in all majors. Topics covered will include biodiversity, forest fires, forest types, fall color, global carbon cycling, soil formation, and interactions of plants with other organisms. We will also tour the central ASU campus to illustrate the idea of an "urban forest." A side benefit of this unit will be to better acquaint first-year students with the campus itself!
The second unit situates our region within American environmental history. We will consider early Native American interactions with Appalachian forests, and then changes wrought by European settlers. Topics include the economic and military importance of forests, and consequent widespread deforestation, from colonial times to the present; the rise of twentieth-century conservationism; the unique role of forests in African-American experience; and efforts to increase diversity in conservation and in forest careers. This unit also draws on literature and the arts to evoke how aesthetic experience has shaped attitudes towards wilderness.
The third unit completes our "local-to-global" trajectory, zooming out to forests in other countries. Students will begin to grasp how forests around the planet influence climate, preserve biodiversity, provide homes for indigenous people, and confer innumerable other benefits. We will survey current threats to forests, and examine reforestation efforts. Ecological concepts introduced in Unit One will help us assess ways in which distant forests are biologically both similar to, and different from, those of the Appalachians. Students will use high-quality news sources to research and present brief snapshots of forests around the world.
Throughout the course, student work will include readings, class discussion, short written essays, and exams. Each student will also complete a research project to be presented in written and oral form. Resources such as the University Library and the Writing Center will be introduced as students prepare their research projects. The project will strengthen students' skills in identifying quality information resources; using these resources as evidence to build broader arguments; writing an extended paper; and public speaking.