Earth’s land and water ecosystems depend on climate, the flows of energy and matter, changes in populations of plants and animals, and the influences of humans. Interactions among all these features are complex, and this course provides the basic framework and tools to build a foundation for understanding issues and opportunities. Topics include natural resources, populations, pollution, species invasions and extinctions, climate change, scaling from local to global levels, and the role of humans in ecosystems.
Field WorkCountry: Hawaii, United States
Date: January 12, 2017
The Hawaiian Islands developed so far from continents that the arrival of a few colonizing individuals of a relative few species shaped unique native ecosystems. These ecosystems were arrayed across gradients in precipitation (on wet windward and dry leeward sides of islands), in temperature (from hot coastlines to cool and even cold mountains), and in geology (as soils developed on volcanic parent materials of varying ages). The colonization of the Islands by a few people, with their few species of domestic plants and animals, changed the native ecosystems forever. The concept of “Ahupua`a” viewed ecosystems in terms of wedges, descending from peaks on the mountains down valleys to the ocean. Change became even more rapid and pervasive as the connections with continents all but disappeared with modern travel. The field course will explore aspects of Hawaiian biogeography (including gradients in elevation); Polynesian agriculture and culture; and current issues in the 20th Century.
1. Understand how physical aspects of the environment shaped Hawaiian ecosystems.
2. Learn the core aspects of how and why the Island ecosystems changed with Polynesian settlement, and how these changes supported the Polynesians.
3. Appreciate more recent (and rapid) changes that resulted from rapid development in the 19th and 20th Centuries.