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Academics at Prescott College

Joel C. Barnes, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus, Env. Studies, Adventure Ed., & Sustainability Ed. - BA, BS, MA & PhD Programs

Ph.D., Union Institute & University, Environmental Conservation and Education, 1999; M.S., California State University at Humboldt, Natural Resource Studies in Wilderness and Water Resource Management, 1991; B.A., Prescott College, Environmental Sciences and Education, 1981.

Joel has been teaching environmental studies, sustainability, and adventure education at the secondary and college levels for over 30 years, much of this at Prescott College as a professor in undergraduate and graduate programs; he also served as Director of the Graduate Teaching Assistant Program and the Grand Canyon Semester. His research and teaching explore the ecology, conservation, and restoration of aridland river systems and watersheds in the American West. In 2017, Joel accepted the position of Director of Experiential and Sustainability Education at Wasatch Academy, a private international boarding school in central Utah. Joel still works at Prescott College, from a distance, with undergrdauate and graduate students as a mentor for independant studies, and as a member of thesis and dissertation committees. 

With the Colorado Plateau as the geographical context of much of his work, interdisciplinary, experiential, and student-centered best describe the pedagogical context of his teaching. At the heart of his teaching philosophy is his belief that the best teachers are also the best learners. He shares with his students his thirst for new knowledge and engages with them in the experiential learning process. He dives in with them to role model the notion that learning is a continual, life-long process.

His students sense his compassion for the natural world and his drive to better understand how human systems are nestled within and dependent upon the larger natural systems. The triple bottom line of sustainability resonates with him on a personal and professional level, and he strives to integrate content from environmental studies and sustainability education with the praxis of experiential education and project-based learning.

Joel's personal interests include natural history field studies, bioregional living & gardening, hiking, recreational boating on rivers, lakes, & oceans, surfing, conversational Spanish, foreign travel & wildland expeditions (including 50 trips down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon, extensive explorations throughout the American Southwest and the Colorado Plateau, as well as New Zealand, southeastern Alaska, Costa Rica, Iceland, mainland Mèxico, the Baja Peninsula and Yucatàn Peninsula).

"Through teaching and advising I encourage students to wrap their education around their passions and run with it. I am proud to be part of this progressive academic community that encourages this student-driven approach to learning."

Joel C. Barnes. Ph.D.



Ph.D., Union Institute & University, Environmental Conservation and Education, 2005.

M.S., California State University at Humboldt, Natural Resource Studies in Wilderness and Water Resource Management, 1991.

B.A., Prescott College, Environmental Sciences and Education, 1981.



Joel's doctoral studies focused on the conservation of river systems and watersheds in the American Southwest, and included a six-year research partnership with Grand Canyon National Park to support Wild and Scenic River (WSR) designation for the Colorado River and its tributaries. As the WSR Project Leader from Prescott College, Joel coordinated the WSR study for over 500 miles of rivers and streams in and adjacent to the Park. The field phase of this project was designed as a series of undergraduate courses and engaged over 60 students as field research assistants. Ultimately, this WSR study could result in one of the largest WSR designations ever passed by Congress, and would more than double the mileage of WSRs in the southwest. Joel’s research has advanced the College’s reputation as a leader in bioregional conservation, and has helped set the stage for future collaborative research between the College and Grand Canyon National Park.

In the early 2000's, Joel served as a topical expert and consultant for Grand Canyon National Park, the Arizona Wilderness Coalition, Prescott Creeks Preservation Association, and other entities that champion environmental conservation and education. Joel is also engaged in ecological restoration and education projects focused on Lower Butte Creek on the Prescott College campus, and other rivers and streams in Central Arizona.

From 2009-2017, Joel directed the efforts to establish and develop the Graduate Teaching Assistant Program (GTAP), the College's first on-campus, residential graduate program.The GTAP brings about a dozen graduate students each year to the Prescott campus where they explore the College's unique style of experiential education philosophy, methods, and techniques, work with faculty teaching undergraduate classes, and help to enrich the residential community.

Joel's current research and teaching focus on the nexus of experiential & sustaniability education, landscape ecology & transdisciplinary water studies, and sense of place & expeditionary learning.




Environmental Conservation & Education; Experiential & Adventure Education; Sustainability Studies; Desert, River, & Riparian Ecology; Water Resource Management; Aridland River & Watershed Management; Restoration Ecology; Community-based Environmental Education; Adventure-based Environmental Education; Bioregional Studies; Whitewater Rafting & River Guides Training; Flatwater & Whitewater Canoeing; Conversational Spanish; Human & Animal Play.


Doctoral level:

Sustainability Theory and Practice for Education I & II

Sustainability Education and Transformational Change


Masters level:

Experiential Education Theory, Methods, and Practice at Prescott College: Preparing for a Successful Graduate Teaching Assistantship

Philosophy and Methods of Experiential and Adventure Education


Undergraduate level:

Environmental Education: Theory

Environmental Education Methods for Adventure Educators

Environmental Topics in Adventure Education

Origins & Directions in Adventure Education

Concepts of Ecology

Restoration Ecology: Watersheds of the Sountwest

Water in the West

Park & Wilderness Management

Grand Canyon Explorations: River Research & Expedition Leadership

Grand Canyon Semester: Wilderness Explorations and Landscape Studies

Environmental Perspectives & Whitewater Rafting

River Guides Training

Marine Conservation: Local & Global Perspectives

Coastal & Cultural Ecology of Kino Bay

*Mentor/advisor for individualized courses at the doctoral, masters and undergraduate levels covering a broad spectrum of topics in environmental studies and adventure education including experiential & environmental education, restoration ecology & ecological restoration, riparian & landscape ecology, water studies & water resources management, river ecology & conservation, bioregional studies, sustainability education & leadership, whitewater rafting & expeditionary skills, origins and directions in adventure education, etc.



  • • Barnes, J. 2017. The River In You. Boatman's Quarterly Review. Summer 2017 29 (2). Grand Canyon River Guides, Flagstaff, AZ.
  • • Barnes, J. 2017. Combining Landscape Studies and Experiential Education: Cultivating a Deeper Sense of Place in Grand Canyon. Boatman's Quarterly Review. Summer 2017. 29 (2). Grand Canyon River Guides, Flagstaff, AZ.

Barnes, J.,  G. Richard, R. Shimoda. 2014. River Studies and Leadership Certificate. River Management Society Journal. 27 (2). Summer 2014. River Management Society, Missoula, MT.

Barnes, J. 2013. Awareness to Action: the journey to a deeper ecological literacy. Journal of Sustainability Education. Vol. 5, May 2013. ISSN: 2151:7452.

Barnes, J. 2013. Protecting Wild and Scenic Rivers in Grand Canyon. The International Journal of Wilderness. Spring 2013. 19 (1). 

• Barnes, J. 2013. Wild and Scenic Rivers in Grand Canyon. If Not Now, When? Boatman's Quarterly Review. Winter 2012-2013, 25 (4). Grand Canyon River Guides, Flagstaff, AZ.

• Barnes, J. 2012. A Grand Canyon Semester of Wilderness Explorations & Landscape Studies. River Management Society Journal, 25 (3) Fall 2012. River Management Society, Missoula, MT.

• Barnes, J. 2011. Prescott College & Grand Canyon National Park Offer a Semester of Wilderness Explorations & Landscape Studies. River Management Society Journal, 24 (3) Fall 2011. River Management Society. Missoula, MT.

• Barnes, J. 2005. Protecting Wild Waters in a Dry World: The Role of Wild and Scenic Rivers in the Conservation of Aridland River Systems and Watersheds in the American Southwest. Doctoral dissertation. The Union Institute & University. Cincinnati, OH.

• Barnes, J. 2005. Awareness to Action: the journey toward a deeper ecological literacy.Prescott College Press. Prescott College.  Prescott, AZ.

• Barnes, J. (ed.). 2005. Winter Wilderness Orientation Bioregional Resource Guide. Prescott College Press. Prescott College.  Prescott, AZ. 

• Barnes, J. 2000. Wild & Scenic Rivers in the Grand Canyon Ecoregion. River Management Society Journal, 13 (3) Fall 2000.  River Management Society, Missoula, MT.

• Barnes, J., B. Tershy, L. Bourillòn, L. Meltzer. A Survey of Ecotourism on Islands in Northwestern Mèxico. 1999.  Environmental Conservation, 26 (3), 214-217.

• Barnes, J. 1999. Seeps, Springs and Tusayan Development. Boatman's Quarterly Review. Winter 1999, 12 (4). Grand Canyon River Guides, Flagstaff, AZ.

• Barnes, J., P. Sneed, S. Munsell. 1998-2005.  Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Study of theColorado River and Selected Tributaries in Grand Canyon National Park. Research reports on file at the GCNP Science Center. Grand Canyon, AZ.

• Barnes, J. 1992. Granite Mountain Wilderness: Recreation Use Inventory and Management Considerations. Monograph on file at the Prescott National Forest, Bradhsaw Ranger District.

• Barnes, J. 1991. Social Perceptions of Wilderness: Granite Mountain, A Case Study. Masters Thesis, Humboldt State University. Arcata, CA.  



• Landscape Studies, Experiential Education and Sense of Place in Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon River Guides Training Seminar. Grand Canyon, AZ. April 3-9, 2017.

• The River Studies & Leadership Certificate: An inter-university collaboration with the River Mgt. Society. Webinar co-facilitated with Dr. Gigi Richard, sponsored by       RMS. April 15, 2015.

 • Local and Regional Water Issues in the Central Arizona Highlands. One of five speakers on an expert panel; citizens posed questions to elected officials and topical   experts about local and regional water issues. Peregrine Book Co., Prescott, AZ. August 16, 2014.

•   Restoration Ecology & Ecological Restoration. Teleconference taught for undergraduate students at Northland College. Ashland, WI. May 1, 2014.

•   The River Studies and Leadership Certificate. Workshop facilitated at the River Management Society Annual Symposium. Denver CO, April 2014.

•   Assessing Complex Issues of Resource Protection and Allocation: A Grand Canyon Case Study. Co-presented with Cassie Thomas, Linda Jalbert, & Bill Hansen, all from the NPS. Workshop facilitated at the River Management Society Annual Symposium. Denver, CO. April 2014.

•   The Butte Creek Restoration & Education Project. Fundamentals of urban watershed & riparian restoration. Workshop facilitated at the Natural History Institute, Prescott College, Prescott, AZ. Feb. 21, 2013.

   Natural history & ecological restoration, connections with nature through observation & action. Workshop facilitated at the Grand Opening of the Natural History Institute, Prescott College, Prescott, AZ. Nov. 9, 2013.

   Wild & Scenic Rivers in Grand Canyon. If Not Now, When? Grand Canyon River Guides Training Seminar. Grand Canyon, AZ. March 30, 2013.

•   Protecting the Wet Parts of Our Dry World.  January Colloquium, Prescott College Master of Arts Program. January 19, 2013.

  Landscape Geography & Interpretation for River Guides: Sharing the Stories of Grand Canyon. Canyon Explorations Expeditions. Flagstaff, AZ. July 11, 2012.

•  Wild & Scenic Rivers in Grand Canyon, and Landscape Interpretation for Sense of Place Education. Grand canyon River Guides Training Seminar. Grand Canyon, AZ. May 1, 2012.

•  Integrated Landscape Studies & Sense of Place Learning - Prescott College’s First Grand Canyon Semester. Association of Experiential Education, Rocky Mountain Regional Conference. Durango, CO. January 17, 2012.

•  Voices of Learning and Leadership from the Greater Prescott Community. Panel speaker, 1st Annual Nat’l. Sustainability Education Symposium, Prescott College. June 3-5, 2009.

•  Prescott Waterways and Local Ecosystems Perspectives. Workshop facilitated at the 1st National Sustainability Education Symposium at Prescott College. June 3-5, 2009.

•  Ancient Voices, Modern Times. The Future of Phoenix. Public debate & panel discussion speaker, sponsored by High Country News in Scottsdale, AZ. January, 2008.

 Riparian Restoration in Aridland Watersheds of the Southwest: Principles & Practice. Workshop facilitated at the Walnut Creek Research Station. Walnut Creek, AZ. April, 2006.

•  Using Wild and Scenic Rivers to better understand and protect riparian areas in the American Southwest, a case study with Grand Canyon National Park. Presentation at the Arizona Riparian Council Annual Symposium. Flagstaff, AZ. April, 2006.

 The Role of Wild and Scenic Rivers in Grand Canyon’s Backcountry. Presentation at the GCNP Backcountry Research Workshop. Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon, AZ. January 2006.

•  Strengthening the Bridge Between Agencies & Educational Institutions. J. Barnes & R. Peters. River Management Society Symposium. Boise, ID. May, 2002.

  Environmental Ethics in Adventure Education. J. Barnes & R. Peters. Association of Experiential Education, Rocky Mountain Regional Conference. Prescott, AZ. April, 2002.

 Environmental Literacy at Prescott College. 15th Annual Environmental Education ConferenceSponsored by the Arizona Association for Learning in and about the Environment. Heber, AZ. October, 1994.

•  Identification of fish species in the Bay of La Paz, and their relative importance to the California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) and artisenal fishermen of La Paz, Baja California, Mèxico. Barnes J. et al. Poster presented at the 1992 XVII Reunion Internacional de Mamiferos Marinos.  La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mèxico. 1991. Also presented at Conference of the Society for Ethnobiology. Wash., D.C. 1992.

•  Cross Cultural Programs Addressing Environmental Issues in the Sea of Cortèz. J. Barnes, D. Hulmes, L. Meltzer. North American Ass. of Environmental Ed. San Antonio, TX. 1992.




•  Central Yavapai County Community Leadership Excellence Award. 2014 Nominee. Prescott Alternative Transportation. Prescott, AZ.

•  Funding obtained from the Prescott College Sustainability Council for The Butte Creek Restoration and Education Project. $4,000 in 2012, $19,700 in 2013, & $18,870 in 2014. .

•  Montclair Who’s Who in Collegiate Faculty.  2007/2008.

•  Cambridge Who’s Who Executive & Professional Directory.  2007/2008.

•  Funding obtained (in collaboration with Prescott Creeks Preservation Association) from the Yavapai County Environmental Fund of the Yavapai County Community Foundation (an affiliate of the Arizona Community Foundation) for the Prescott CreekWatch Network. $11,000.  2001-2002.

•  Funding obtained (in collaboration with Prescott Creeks Preservation Association) from the J.A. McDougal Fund for the Environment of the Yavapai County Community Foundation (an affiliate of the Arizona Community Foundation) for the Prescott CreekWatch Network. $5,000.  2000-2001.

•  Funding obtained (in collaboration with Prescott College) from the United States Forest Service for wilderness management research, and consulting to the Prescott National Forest. $20,000. 1991-1992.

•  1st Place, The P-town Peel Out Bike Race. Prescott Alternative Transportation. Bike Month. 2000.

Instruction at Prescott College

Instruction at Prescott College

Adventure Education

An Adventure Education graduate may be found guiding clients safely up a vertical rock face, forecasting avalanche... Read More

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Environmental Studies

The Environmental Studies and Sustainability Program centers on education in natural systems and processes of the Earth,... Read More

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Bachelor of Science

The Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Studies is for students seeking rigorous multi­disciplinary exploration... Read More

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Conservation Biology

Conservation Biology is an interdisciplinary field that has developed rapidly to respond to a global crisis confronting... Read More

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Conservation Science

Many of our students focus their efforts on field-based efforts to protect our planets’ remaining bio-geographical and... Read More

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Environmental Education MA

Many of our students are traditional and non-traditional educators who wish to help others develop a place-based... Read More

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Environmental Studies

Students who enroll in the Environmental Studies Track master knowledge and skills in biological and earth sciences,... Read More

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Natural History & Ecology

Natural History and Ecology is an approach to learning how nature works, how organisms and their biotic and abiotic... Read More

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Social Ecology

Social Ecology focuses on the ways in which institutional and societal structures manifest and perpetuate social... Read More

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Sustainability Education

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Sustainable Community Development

Sustainable Community Development students engage in studies and experiential learning aimed at mastering knowledge and... Read More

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