Sierra Nevada Wilderness
Natural History of the Sierra Nevada
Summer Session II
Est. lab fee: $1,000
Led by David Gilligan, Professor of Natural History
A wilderness expedition into the heart of the tallest mountains in the Lower 48.
Explore John Muir's famed Range of Light, a land of glacially sculpted and fluted granite, gushing waterfalls, sapphire lakes, gleaming snowfields and alpine meadows strewn with profusions of wildflowers. The program consists of five weeks of wilderness backpacking in the heart of the Sierra Nevada backcountry, integrating in-depth study of natural history with the planning and practice of mountain expedition skills. We will travel in the spirit of the great explorers and naturalists, studying wild nature through sustained immersion into it.
The program consists of two inter-related courses, designed to serve students with interests ranging from Conservation Ecology and Natural History to Outdoor Education and Leadership, as well as Circumpolar Studies and a variety of Self-Designed possibilities.
This course is a field-based exploration of the natural history and ecology of the Sierra Nevada, with an emphasis on vegetations and flora of montane forest and alpine biomes, as well as elements of mountain geography including weather and climate and the geologic and glacial history of the region. Students build on foundational principles of ecology and botany through development and practice of observation, identification, and interpretation skills and the keeping of a refined naturalist field journal. Topics include identification and classification skills for flora and fauna (including regular sessions with botanical keys, as well as extensive use of other types of field guides), natural community composition and structure, biogeographic concepts, mountain weather and climate, and mountain geomorphology.