In addition to the five classes described below, Landscape and Livelihood students participate in other activities and experiences geared towards cultivating and enhancing their connection to the local community. Each student spends an entire weekend with a local family on a “homestay,” providing an opportunity to discuss the scientific and social aspects of natural resource management with people of diverse backgrounds.

Please contact us if you would like to receive complete syllabi for these courses.

BIOGEOGRAPHY OF NORTHWEST MONTANA

GEOGRAPHY (GPHY) 395
4 SEMESTER CREDITS

Emphasizing direct observation, this course teaches students to identify elements of various biotic communities as well as to recognize and understand patterns produced by combinations of geological forces, climate, fire, forestry, agriculture, and human settlement. Biogeography of Northwest Montana focuses specifically on the Swan, Blackfoot, and Flathead Valleys. Students learn to use a scientific field journal as an important tool for improving their powers of observation as well as for recording observations made in the field. Students explore human relationships with the landscape by gathering oral histories about the physical and environmental changes from long-time residents and local historians. As they study habitats both within designated wilderness and across the lower elevation working landscape, students learn practical skills of navigation and backcountry survival to enable them to confidently travel, live, and work in remote field settings.

FORESTS AND COMMUNITIES

NATURAL RESOURCE SCIENCE AND MANAGEMENT (NRSM) 346
3 SEMESTER CREDITS

In this non-traditional forestry course, students explore the complex relationship between forest ecosystems and human communities. Students begin with developing an understanding of the ecology of local forests and the wildlife that depend on them. They then trace the historical and current patterns of human utilization of forest resources beginning with Native Americans. The course asks the question, ‘what constitutes the sustainable use of forest resources?’ and explores many different perspectives currently held by individuals, groups, agencies and companies on this topic. Students study local, state, and national policies to understand the role that these policies play in forest management. They build on their knowledge of forest and wildlife ecology, policies, and management and the subsequent impacts to rural communities by visiting local logging and forest restoration projects, lumber mills, and other value-added forest product enterprises. The course does not offer a definition of sustainable forestry, but encourages students to engage in their own critical thinking on this question. A large number of Swan Valley residents are involved in this course as speakers, guides and hosts. The interaction of students and local residents is a keystone element of this class and of the entire program as it promotes an understanding of the connection of ecology to rural economy and culture.

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WATERSHED DYNAMICS AND MANAGEMENT ISSUES

NATURAL RESOURCE SCIENCE AND MANAGEMENT (NRSM) 345
3 SEMESTER CREDITS

Students spend much of this course in a pair of waders, learning to understand and appreciate how water moves from mountain crest to river bottom. The course begins high in the Bob Marshall Wilderness where we begin to trace water's movement from rocky peaks through subalpine meadows and on down into more managed landscapes. We investigate watershed function, stream hydrology and morphology, as well as the ecology of aquatic habitats including the varied wetlands that make the Swan Valley unique. Students compare adjacent watersheds of the South Fork Flathead, the Swan, and the Blackfoot Rivers to contrast varying land uses and management. Through active field exploration, students study the impacts that forest management, agriculture, and other forms of human development have on hydrologic processes and native aquatic species. Field tours allow students to see first-hand how local communities are actively protecting their watersheds and study ongoing restoration projects from engineering, economic, and social perspectives.

AGRICULTURE AND SUSTAINABILITY

GEOGRAPHY (GPHY) 395
3 SEMESTER CREDITS

Agriculture and Sustainability delves into the intricacies of growing food and sustaining rural communities in Western Montana. The course explores the intersection of natural resource conservation and economic opportunity on the working agricultural landscapes of our region. The course examines the role of agriculture in rural and regional economies, the resource conservation issues associated with agriculture, and the barriers and opportunities that exist within these economies for producers to sustain both natural resources and their livelihoods. Students will specifically engage with cattle ranches in the Blackfoot Valley; diversified producers in the Mission Valley; and family subsistence farms in the Swan Valley to investigate the potential for sustainable resource use, value-added products, and emerging strategies to secure long-term benefits to both communities and landscapes. Students will gain practical experience visiting and working with regional food producers, including work in our own Beck Creek Garden.

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COMMUNITY CONSERVATION PROJECT

ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES (ENST) 395
3 SEMESTER CREDITS

CCP is an opportunity to design and carry out an original, self-directed project. This course provides the space for students to dive deeper into a topic that sparked an interest during the field semester. This project is meant to introduce students to the intersection of community-based conservation and research. Students will combine their experiences of working with and being in a community with the structure and objectives of academic research. The community component allows students to learn how to identify and respond to a community’s needs, act as an ethical and responsible professional within a community, and assess the potential for conservation work in the community. The process of developing a specific, feasible research question and designing and implementing the appropriate methodology encourages students to think about place-based research and incorporating local knowledge into scientific data. Upon completion of this project, students will have developed and practiced communication, research, and public speaking skills.


IMAGE: Top - Faith Bernstein