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Abstract Detail

Education and Outreach

Paris, Catherine [1], Thompson, Elizabeth [2].

Pieces, Patterns, and Processes: Botany and the Field Naturalist Approach to Reading the Landscape.

Housed in the Plant Biology Department, the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist (FN) Program is an integrated field science program focused on conservation, natural resource management, science communication, and stakeholder education. Over the course of its 35-year history, the FN program has trained scores of graduates who have taken their places as leaders in conservation science, environmental education, and natural resource management, both for NGOs such as The Nature Conservancy and a suite of governmental agencies. At the core of the FN education is a set of field courses introducing students to the biota and the landscape of Vermont (the pieces), the natural communities into which organisms are arrayed on the landscape (patterns), and the ecological forces that shape those communities (processes).
In this talk, we focus particularly on a course we developed for first-year students in the FN Program, Field Botany for Natural Resource Professionals (PBIO 369). Co-taught by a pair of instructors, one an academic botanist and the other, the director of conservation science for the Vermont Land Trust, PBIO 369 offers the skills taught in a traditional field botany course (e.g., use of dichotomous keys, plant family recognition, herbarium specimen preparation) combined with an introduction to those plants in the context of the landscape. Here we focus on the ecological determinants of plant distribution, including climate, substrate, landscape position, ecological processes, and disturbance history. Basic concepts of soil science are introduced: students learn to dig and interpret soil pits, evaluating soil moisture, texture, and pH. Most of the class time is spent in the field in a variety of natural community types, examining soils, observing patterns of plant distribution, studying plant structure, and keying out new plants. The course also includes a set of taxonomic workshops, held indoors so that dissecting microscopes might be used, designed to introduce students to traditionally challenging plant groups such as grasses, sedges, composites, and ferns. Conservation ethics and strategies are interwoven throughout the course. PBIO 369 thus provides a foundation on which much of students’ subsequent work in the program is built.

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Related Links:
UVM Field Naturalist Program
Vermont Land Trust

1 - University of Vermont, Plant Biology, 111 Jeffords Hall, 63 Carrigan Drive, Burlington, VT, 05405, USA
2 - Vermont Land Trust, Conservation Science, 226 Bridge Street, Richmond, VT, 05477, USA

botany education
field botany
conservation science
UVM Field Naturalist Program.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: EO1, Education and Outreach I
Location: Tucson C/Starr Pass
Date: Monday, July 29th, 2019
Time: 11:30 AM
Number: EO1014
Abstract ID:542
Candidate for Awards:None

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