Consisting entirely of field trips, this course will explore the nature of Vermont’s landscapes from an interdisciplinary perspective. Through site visits and projects students will learn skills to help understand why landscapes look the way they do. We'll investigate a variety of locations including lakeshores, cliffs, uplands, and ravines—looking at the interactions among rocks, soil, water, plants, animals, weather and human activity, emphasizing how the past has shaped the present. From Aristotle's insights on plant lifeforms to the myriad of natural scientists that travel daily to the smallest and broadest features of Earth, we will draw upon the fundamental questions of natural history that evolved from Francis Bacon and others of the dawn of modern science – who created with the explorations of Cook and Darwin the paradigms of the great natural historians of a century ago – and reveal simple pictures of local events in the interwoven scapes of many scales viewed so wonderfully from College Hill. Time, space, dimensions – along with entities and energy – bring forth patterns built by processes constrained by simple principles in complex interactions. We will study these not as Watson, but as Mr. Holmes (Sherlock, that is) always asking deductively to what each observable is a clue. Our axioms are the principles and facts hard won through centuries of observation combined with inductive and experimental research. Yet this Western approach is but one investigative and epistemological tool, indigenous knowledge and the wisdom of Coyote bring other insight and realities. Perspectives from natural history, landscape ecology, historical analysis, agriculture and forestry, conservation biology, and aesthetics will be integrated during site assessments.
Ian Worley or Alicia Daniel
ENVS 001 or NR 001