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NR 85
Sustainable Landscape Ecology
 Jump Start Admitted Students 2013
: Walter Poleman
: July 29 - August 9, 2013, Monday - Friday (9:00AM – 3:30 PM)
Enrollment target
: 20-25
This course will focus on the concept of place, which we define as a geographic settingwhere nature and culture intertwine and unfold through time. This integration of natureand culture reflects our belief that humanity is inseparable from the natural systems onwhich it depends, and to study them in isolation reinforces an artificial dichotomy. Ourclass will foster an opportunity to think of the places we live as complex systems withinwhich we are integral components. Thinking in systems helps us to understand both thecomplexity and the reality of the interdependence of the ecological systems and socialsystems that make up a place. Using the Burlington landscape as our classroom, we willspend the two weeks exploring how our actions impact other components of the system,and reflecting on how we can live sustainably within our places.One way to gauge the sustainability of a community is to examine the degree of "fit"between local culture and landscape. The more closely attuned cultural practices are tothe ecological potential and constraints of a place, the more likely the community will beable to persist through time without exhausting its relationship with the natural systemsupon which it depends.This notion of "fitness" is drawn from the niche concept in ecology, which describes theunique way of life of a given species and the adaptations that allow it to fit and persistwithin an ecosystem. Just as a species must evolve and adapt to changing environmentalconditions, so must a community if it is to endure and thrive. In the face of the realitiesof climate change and peak oil, an increasing number of communities around the worldare adopting a strategy of relocalization -- building a society that is rooted in place, yetintegrated into regional and global systems. These communities are actively transitioningaway from dependence on cheap fossil fuels (and high carbon emissions) toward a futurecharacterized by local production of food, energy, and goods.This quest for increased self-reliance and resilience is predicated on an intimateknowledge of the ecological potential and cultural heritage of the local landscape. Suchan in-depth understanding of a particular place -- the flora, fauna, climate, culture,physical features, and ecological processes that make it unique -- is fundamental to ourability to design elegant ways of living that promote sustainability and vitality. As Vander Ryn and Cowan explain: “Ecological design begins with the intimate knowledge of aparticular place. Therefore, it is small-scale and direct, responsive to both localconditions and local people. If we are sensitive to the nuances of place, we can inhabitwithout destroying."
Course Format
We will begin this field-based course with an overview and exploration of the natural andcultural history of Burlington landscape. We will then focus our work on threefascinating sub-geographies within the city of Burlington: The Intervale, Rock Point, andthe Burlington Waterfront. At each location, we will utilize an interdisciplinary approachto landscape analysis that stresses not only inventorying the biotic and physicalcomponents (pieces), but examining how these pieces are distributed in the landscape(patterns) and what forces drive these patterns (processes). A strong emphasis willbe placed on interpreting the history of how the landscapes we see today hasunfolded through time-from their geological origins to their importance to native peoplesto the impacts of European settlement and 20th century land-use. We will also examinethe relationship between people and the land, exploring how cultures shape theirlandscape and are shaped by it.
Monday, July 29:
Meet and greet, course overview
Introduction to the Burlington landscape and building the analytical framework,how to look at a landscape and begin to map out pieces, patterns and processes.
Field-based ecology and mapping activity: Centennial WoodsTuesday, July 30 through Wednesday, July 31: Intervale
Food systems and riparian ecology: floodplain forests and farms alongsideVermont’s largest river
Soils, sediment, river geomorphology, plant communities, human history in theIntervaleThursday, August 1 through Friday, August 2: Rock Point
Geology, plant communities, and wetland ecology: Champlain thrust fault, richnorthern hardwood forest, and cedar bluff community
Shallow and deep sediments: 1.2 billion years of history revealedMonday, August 5 through Tuesday, August 6: Burlington Waterfront
Transportation and industrial shoreline of Burlington: the evolution of Burlingtonharbor
Lake Champlain ecology, urban centerWednesday, August 7 through Thursday, August 8 Team Projects
Students spend two days assessing a field site in small groups. Tell the story of the place and how cultures have adapted to its ecological setting.Friday, August 9: Student Presentations and wrap-up
Travel to each field site for group presentations
Assign individual project – What is local?

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