Natural History and Ecology

Developing interpretive and research-based naturalists

Students Studying Ocean Map

Natural History and Ecology is an approach to learning how nature works, how organisms and their biotic and abiotic environments interrelate.  Grounded in evolutionary principles, the field involves studying individuals and populations and how they are assembled into communities and ecosystems.  Some students within this emphasis area will become naturalists who observe and interpret particular organisms and landscapes.  Others may become field ecologists who build upon natural history by using the scientific method for examining questions generated by ecological theory.  Ecological understanding informs and guides applied fields such as agroecology and conservation biology. 

Natural History and Ecology

Required Courses

(16-course minimum, 8 UD minimum) (LD = Lower Division; UD = Upper Division)

Four Distribution Courses and Natural History and Ecology of the Southwest (8 credits)

Biological Sciences (select at least three courses)

Place-based course (select at least one course; this is in addition to Natural History and Ecology of the Southwest, which is, by its nature, place-based)

Analytical Methods and/or Education and Interpretation (select at least three courses in either)

Applied Ecology courses (select at least two courses)

Senior Project (UD)

Recommended Distribution Courses

Biological Sciences (select at least three courses)

  • Alpine Ecology (UD)
  • Animal Behavior (UD)
  • Animal Biology (LD)
  • Behavior and Conservation of Mammals (UD)
  • Biological Principles (LD)
  • Botany (LD)
  • Coastal Ecology of the Gulf of California (LD/UD)
  • Ecology of Human Evolution (UD)
  • Ecology of Southwest Birds (UD)
  • Field Ornithology, Introduction to (LD)
  • Human Ecology, Intro to (LD)
  • Insect Ecology (LD)
  • Marine Biology I, II (12) (LD/UD)
  • Organic Evolution (UD)
  • Ornithology, Introduction to (LD)
  • Soil Science, Introduction to (LD)
  • Special Topics in ENV: Predators and Prey: Ecology and Management in the Colorado Rockies (UD)
  • Systematics of Seed Plants (UD)
  • Tropical Biology: The Natural History of Costa Rica (UD)
  • Wetland Ecology and Management (UD)

Place-based Courses (select at least one course)

  • Agroecosystems of the Arid Southwest (UD)
  • Coastal Ecology of the Gulf of California (UD)
  • Colorado Plateau: Nature, Culture, and Conservation (LD)
  • Environmental Perspectives and Whitewater Rafting (LD/UD)
  • Explorations of Norway: Nature and Culture (LD/UD)
  • Special Topics in ENV: Predators and Prey: Ecology and Management in the Colorado Rockies  (UD)
  • Summer Studies in Alaska: Contemporary Issues (UD)
  • Summer Studies in Alaska: Natural History (LD)
  • Summer Studies in Alaska: Sense of Place (UD)
  • Sea Kayaking and Marine Landscapes (LD)
  • Wilderness Explorations and Landscape Studies (3 courses) (LD/UD)

Education and Interpretation (select at least three courses or three from Analytical Methods)

  • Conservation in America (LD)
  • Ecopsychology, Introduction to (LD)
  • Environmental Ethics (UD)
  • Environmental Education: Methods (UD)
  • Environmental Education: Theory (LD)
  • Form and Pattern in Nature (LD)
  • History and Philosophy of Science (LD)
  • Interpreting Nature through Art and Photography (LD/UD)
  • Nature and Psyche (UD)
  • Nature's Voice: Reading and Writing about Natural History (UD)
  • Philosophies of Interpretive Naturalists (UD)

Analytical Methods (select at least three courses or three from Education and Interpretation)

  • Environmental Problem Solving: Spatial Solutions (UD) 
  • Ethnographic Field Methods (UD)
  • Field Biology Studies: Colorado Plateau (UD)
  • Field Methods in Geology (UD)
  • Field Methods for Plant Ecology (UD)
  • Geographic Information Science (LD)
  • Geographic Information Science, Advanced (UD)
  • Geology, Field Methods in (UD)
  • Marine Biology III (6) (LD/UD)
  • Statistics for Research (UD)
  • Summer Studies in Agroecology: Field Methods for Agroecology (UD)

Applied Ecology (select at least two courses)

  • Conservation Biology (UD)
  • New Economics of Strong Sustainability (LD/UD)
  • Energy and the Environment (LD)
  • Environmental Law (UD)
  • Environmental Politics (UD)
  • Environmental Problem Solving (LD)
  • Ethnobotany (UD)
  • Global Development Issues and Energy Economics (UD)
  • Issues of Global Food Production (LD)
  • Land Stewards (LD)
  • Marine Conservation: Global and Regional Perspectives I, II, III (12 credits) (UD)
  • Park and Wilderness Management (UD)
  • Plants and Humans (LD)
  • Plant Propagation Methods (UD)
  • Restoration Ecology (LD)
  • Special Topics in ENV: Predators and Prey: Ecology and Management in the Colorado Rockies (LD/UD)
  • Summer Studies in Agroecology (UD)
  • Water in the West (LD)
  • Wetland Ecology and Management (UD)
  • Wildlife Management: Applied Conservation Biology (UD)

Recommended Distribution Courses

  • Life Science: Biological Principles (LD)
  • Personal Values: Environmental Ethics and/or Philosophies of the Interpretive Naturalists (UD)
  • Earth and Physical Science: Earth Science, Introduction to (LD)
  • Social Systems: Any from the general Environmental Studies and Sustainability (ESS) list

Sample Sequence of Courses for Natural History and Ecology Emphasis

Year 1: Natural History and Ecology of the Southwest, Biological Principles, Botany, Earth Science

Year 2: Form and Pattern in Nature, Environmental Ethics, Restoration Ecology, Park and Wilderness Management

Year 3: Statistics for Research, Conservation Biology, Wetland Ecology and Management, Environmental Politics

Year 4: Coastal Ecology, Organic Evolution, Senior Project


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