Field Ecology (3) This field course will explore the flora and fauna of the mid-Atlantic area.
BIOL 444 Field Ecology of the Central Appalachian Highlands (3)
This course is designed to take advantage of the teaching opportunities presented by the West Virginia highlands. The main advantage of using this area as an outdoor classroom derives from the fact that there are large changes in elevation and soils, and a tremendous variety of community types located in a small geographic area, In this area, students can observe ecological communities ranging from river, bottom forests at 1500 to 2000 feet in elevation to dry ridge slope forests at 3000 feet to the unique acid soil heath barrens community of the Dolly Sods Wilderness at 4000 feet. Since almost all of this area was extensively logged in the past, students will have the opportunity to observe the results of succession, and how the process of succession is affected by variation in topography, soil type and local climate. There are also several types of aquatic communities available for study, including large rivers, small high elevation streams and acidic wetlands. The course will use an integrated natural history approach to study the various ecological communities. This will include discussion of the effects of human activity and the topography and geology of the area in addition to study of terrestrial and aquatic flora and fauna. At terrestrial site, we will, in part, follow the example of the US Forest Service's Forests of the Central Appalachians Projects
(http://www.spies.com/~gus/forests/) which uses forest walk inventories to document biodiversity. Therefore, the course would have a significant plant identification and taxonomy component. Each community can be studied as a separate unit and then compared to the aqjacent communities at different elevations. By the end of the course, students should understand the relationship of geology, topography and soil type to the distribution of plant communities. They should also understand the relationship of plant communities and water chemistry to the distribution of aquatic insect and vertebrate and be able to use aquatic insects as water quality indicators. This course will be one of several field courses that are available to students in the ecology and general option in the biology program along with the biology minor.
Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.