ESS 320 | AIS 320 | ENVIR 320 Changing Rivers of Puget Sound

Spring 2011

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Course description

Rivers of Puget Sound have been changing since their origins following deglaciation more than 10,000 years ago. This course examines the physical and ecological evolution of Puget Sound rivers and the changing interactions of people, rivers, and ecosystems.

Topics include: (1) The geologic origins and processes that shape Puget Sound rivers and the ecosystems they support; (2) the changing relationship between people, rivers, and resources such as salmon;  (3) the nature and extent of anthropogenic changes to rivers; (4) methods for detecting and evaluating environmental change; (5) historical context of resource management and restoration, including how Native American treaty rights influence resource management and restoration issues; and (6) the future of Puget Sound rivers, taking into account factors such as population growth, farmland preservation, river restoration, and climate change.

The class is framed by these broad questions: (1) How has the physical and ecological landscape changed through time? (2) How have humans changed and been changed by this landscape? (3) How does the history of landscape change caused by natural processes and by humans frame issues involving the use, management, and restoration of rivers and floodplains?

Twice-weekly classroom meetings include lectures and lab sessions. There are two all-day Saturday field trips to the Snohomish River and Duwamish River watersheds. These field trips are integral to the course and attendance is required. This class has no prerequisites.

Course goals

By the end of the course, students will: (1) Understand the geological and ecological dimensions of change to Puget Sound rivers. (2) Understand change through time in human interactions with rivers, including the contemporary role of American Indian tribes as co-managers of salmon and other resources. (3) Be able to apply this understanding to contemporary challenges associated with rivers in Puget Sound and elsewhere.