Berkeley Geography 171 Syllabus

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Geography 171. Natural History in the 21st Century

Lecturer: Scott Loarie (loarie at stanford dot edu)
Semester: Spring, 2013
Location: 145 McCone Hall
Time: TuTh 11-12:30


Welcome to 'Natural History in the 21st Century' - a new class in the Geography department at UC Berkeley. Natural history is characterized by individual, direct observation of the natural world often made by 'non-scientists'. In this course, we will explore the ongoing partnership between natural historians and the scientific community and the important role that new technologies play in facilitating these interactions.

This course will rely heavily on, a social network for naturalists, to enable the class to record and share observations. The course material will be broadly organized into three scientific fields that historically have relied heavily on the contributions of natural history: Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation Biology. As we cover each topic, we will explore examples of how natural history continues to contribute to each of these disciplines.

The structure of this class will be a combination of lectures and applied activities iNaturalist. Lectures are meant meant to give a broad overview of the environmental sciences and their relationships to natural history. All activities outside of lecture including homework assignments and a final project will take place on the Berkeley Geography 171 project which will recording and sharing natural history observations with classmates and the broader iNaturalist community. It is my hope that by the end of this class you'll have a strong applied understanding of environmental sciences and the important role that natural history and citizen science are playing in moving these fields forward.

Office Hours

Tuesdays 10:00 in 561 McCone Hall or by appointment.


All course activity outside of lecture will take place on the Berkeley Geography 171 project page on

Grading Criteria

Weekly assignments will be given that relate to lecture material. These will include short readings and activities on iNaturalist such as recording observations, recording field journals, and interacting with other naturalists. In addition to these weekly activities there will be one final project focused on any of four topics covered in the course: 1) curating the tree of life, 2) managing an ecology project, 3) analyzing natural history data, or 4) contributing to conservation assessments. As explained in the class, each of these projects can be done using the iNaturalist platform. These projects will be demoed to the class during the final two weeks of the course along with an accompanying paper describing the project. The course will be graded based on performance in the weekly assignments and the final project. There will be no midterm.




Introduction to Natural History in the 21st Century

Week 1: Course overview

January 22: Course overview followed by iNaturalist demo by site co-founder Ken-ichi Ueda
January 24: History of Natural History

Week 2: Natural History & Citizen Science 2.0 & Climate

January 29: Citizen Science, iPhones & the Power of the Crowd
January 31: Climate & Mediterranean California

Overview of Climate, Geology, Species & Ecosystems

Week 3: Climate and Geology for the Natural Historian & Species

February 5: Geology & the San Andreas Fault
February 7: Linnaeus & the tree of Life

Week 4: Species and Ecosystems

February 12: Ecoregions - global overview with emphasis on California
February 14: Ecological Niches & Phenology

Natural History & Ecology

Week 5: Major Ecological Concepts Week 1

February 19: Biogeography and Mammals
February 21: Ecosystems and Ecology

Week 6: Major Ecological Concepts Week 2

February 26: Life history and behavior
February 28: Vertebrates

Week 7: Ecological Interactions

March 5: Intertidal Natural History
March 7: Cal Academy Fieldtrip to Pillar Point

Natural History & Evolution

Week 8: Systematics vs taxonomy

March 12: Natural History of Plants
March 14: Natural History of Microorganisms! (Guest lecture by Dr. Will Ludington)

Week 9: Wrapping up Part I

March 19: Thinking about Final Projects
March 21: Class housekeeping - end of Part I

Week 10: Spring Break

Week 11: Conservation overview

April 2: Humans and the biosphere
April 4: Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology Field Trip (with Michelle Koo)

Conservation & Natural History

Weeks 12: Conservation threats

April 9: Spine of the Continent (Guest lecture by Mary Ellen Hannibal)
April 11: humans and the biosphere part II - climate

Week 13: Conservation interventions

April 16: Climate, Forestry, & Conservation (Guest lecture by Dr. Jordan Golinkoff, Conservation Fund)
April 18: Protected Areas & Restoration Ecology

Week 14: Education & Outreach

April 23: Environmental education
April 25: Community organizing and grass roots environmental action

Environmental Education and Action

Week 15:Final Project Presentations Week 1

April 30: Final project presentations and discussion
May 2: Final project presentations and discussion

Final Project Presentations

Week 16: Final Project Presentations Week 2

TBD: Final project presentations and discussion (we will find a time during Dead Week)

Week 17: Berkeley Finals Week

No Class


  • Readings by Feb. 14th: Chapters 1 - 4.
  • Readings by Feb. 21st: Chapters 5 - 8. (Sierra Nevada, Mountaintops, Coast Ranges)
  • Readings by Feb. 28th: Chapters 9 - 12. (Especially Coastal Waters section)

A Natural History of California by Allan A. Schoenherr

Revised on January 21, 2014 16:30 by loarie loarie