Ecology of the Desert Southwest:
A Field Course for Teachers
DESCRIPTION: This course is a classroom/field oriented course designed to introduce educators to the ecology of the desert southwest.
Emphasis for the course will be placed on the different
vegetational communities and their associated animals. Geology
and water resources will also be discussed. The course will meet
for 24 classroom lecture hours and culminate in a 13 day field
trip to the desert southwest.
CREDIT: Three semester hours of graduate credit.
INSTRUCTOR(S): Dr. Jeff Priest, Assoc. Prof. Biology, Director of the Ruth Patrick
Science Education Center/CSRA Hub.
TELEPHONE: 648-6851 (O)
CLASS LOCATION: Rm 212, Science Building, USCA
DATES: 5-days (Classroom Activities) (Not taught in 1996)
13 days (Field Trip)
TIMES: 9:00 - 3:00
TEXT: Selected Readings:
North American Terrestrial Vegetation, Barbour and Billings Roadside Geology of Utah, Halka Chronic Roadside Geology of Arizona, Halka Chronic
COURSE FEES: $1,300.00 (includes transportation, meals and lodging while in
the desert southwest)
SUGGESTED GEAR: Sleeping Bag, (Tents, when needed, will be furnished), Flashlight, Toiletries, hiking shoes, backpack, canteen, rain poncho,
binoculars, camera, bathing suit, towels, sweatshirt, medium
weight jacket that fits in backpack, hat, toilet paper
1. To make participants knowledgeable about the plant and animal communities of the desert southwest.
2. To make participants knowledgeable about adaptations unique to the flora and fauna of the desert southwest.
3. To make participants knowledgeable about the biogeography of the desert southwest.
4. To give participants confidence to teach their students about these communities.
5. To make participants aware of management practices, both human and nonhuman, in our national parks.
6. To make students knowledgeable about various plant and animal censusing techniques.
OBJECTIVES: By the end of this course participants will be able to:
1. Describe the geology of the desert southwest.
2. Describe the various desert communities.
3. Describe the forest systems of the desert southwest and relate them to the C. Hart Merriam Life Zones
4. Describe the biotic and abiotic factors that influence each community.
5. Identify selected plants and animals by sight.
6. Describe and conduct two plant and animal censusing techniques.
7. Describe physiological adaptations of flora and fauna of the desert southwest.
8. Describe water management strategies for the desert southwest.
9. Describe human management strategies for the National parks.
1. Course Participation (40%): to receive credit, participants may only miss one class, no matter if the absence is excused or not excused. A missed class will cause the final point total to be reduced. Participation will be subjectively assessed.
2. Final Exam (20%): The final exam will test the participants knowledge of topics covered in the classroom.
3. Field Notebook (20%): Participants will be required to keep a field notebook, recording observations and activities while in the desert southwest.
4. Quizzes (10%): There will be field quizzes on plant and animal identification while in the desert southwest.
5. Lesson (10%): Participants will be required to hand in and present a lesson plan on how they will use the information gained in the class with their students.
Field Notebook Criteria
It is suggested that the field notebook be a laboratory notebook with carbon copy pages. The entire notebook can be turned in and I will keep a copy of the carbon pages for my file.
The following sections are to be included in your field notebook:
1. Daily Log - in this section you should include the date, times and activities performed during that day.
2. Trail Log - in this section you should include
a. date, name of trail/location, weather conditions.
b. description of trail/location (types of communities,plants, slope
exposures, canopy types, etc.)
c. plant species list - common and scientific names
d. animal species list - common and scientific names
3. Complaint Section - in this section you are to write down all the complaints you have while on the field trip. Try to do this every day so that you don't forget something.
Day 1 - Introduction, Geology, Water Resources
Day 2 - Forests and Life Zones of the desert southwest.
Day 3 - Animal Populations/Adaptations
Day 4 - Wildflowers, Orienteering
Day 5 - Review, Final Exam
Day 1 - Arrive Las Vegas, Drive to Zion National Park
Day 2 - Zion National Park
Day 3 - Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park, Spend night at Coral Pink
Sand Dunes, night hike
Day 4 - Drive to Grand Canyon, stay at Kachina Lodge
Day 5 - Hike to bottom of Canyon, camp at Phantom Ranch camp ground
Day 6 - Hike out of Canyon, Stay at Thunderbird Lodge
Day 7 - Canyon De Chelley, camp in campground
Day 8 - Canyon De Chelley, stay in Holbrook
Day 9 - Holbrook-free day
Day 10 - Petrified Forest, Camp at Showers Point Campground, Mt. Lemmon
Day 11- Mount Lemmon, Motel 6, Tucson
Day 12 - Saguaro National Monument, Drive to Kingman,Az., Motel 6
Day 13 - Drive to Las Vegas, Aladdin Hotel and Casino
Day 14 - Return to Aiken
Notebooks, Lesson Plans Due (Meet at SEC 9-noon), second Saturday upon return