Life around us seems to pause during the winter season – lively green of summer fades and fall yellows and reds ensue, followed by snow covered landscapes; bird songs and humming insects become absent and everything feels cold. In this course we will explore how plants and animals manage the unique survival challenges of winter. During the first part of the course, we will delve into the fundamentals of winter ecology including the changing snowpack, life under the ice, plants and animals in the winter environment and plant-animal interactions. The second part of the course will focus on environmental change and how it might alter the winter ecology around us. Once we approach spring at the end of the semester, we will be studying fundamental chemical and physical processes that drive the natural world emerging out of its apparent hibernation.
We will use the outdoors as a classroom to gain hands-on knowledge and practical experience. Field experiences will be fundamental in your understanding of the ecology that surrounds us, we will take field trips to various locations to gain crucial insight into the natural world during the winter and spring seasons. Your outside experience and learning will be complemented by lectures, group discussions, readings, and field experiments. For the term project, we will ask you to track phenological changes throughout the semester through drawing, writing, and environmental monitoring data. At the end of the semester, you will present your term project to your peers and hand in a final assignment that summarizes the phenological changes you captured throughout the winter and early spring.
Specific learning objectives
- Understand basic winter ecological processes and principles
- Collect, analyze, and interpret ecological data
- Use and operate scientific equipment and software available at the McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS) for ecological research
- Read, analyze, and discuss scientific literature
You can download the complete syllabus here: