ESCI 397H

Ulta H2O Quality

Introduction to Mountain Research

Spring Quarter

How do you ask ‘researchable’ scientific questions? This course will introduce students to mountain research – how to design a project and safely carry out data collection in rugged environments.  Students will observe the world around them, ask questions, and learn how to answer those questions.  Topics include expedition planning, mountain safety, research project planning and logistics, and the course provides experience with numerous field data collection techniques. Students will learn how to link research questions, methodologies, and field data collection. We will begin each project with a study of the relevant scientific literature. We will learn safety techniques before we move into the field. Students will help collect numerous types of environmental data in the North Cascades.  The overall goal is for students to understand theory based data collection and research design in mountain environments.

Student Learning Objectives:

By the end of this course, you will be able to 1) create your own environmental research project 2) understand what sources of data are available and what types of data you can gather 3) carry out data collection for snow sampling, water quality, ground reference data, 4) organize and analyze the data collected 5) write a research proposal for research funding 6) demonstrate competence while safely moving in rugged environments

Text: None – readings from the primary literature.

Course Structure:

Mountain research is an inherently interdisciplinary subject and we will learn a broad range of skills.  The overall goal of this course is for students to learn how to develop research projects that can carried out in mountains or other remote areas. Students are expected to develop an actual research proposal that could be submitted to an outside agency as the final project for the course.  This will take time and you should begin thinking about it immediately.  As we progress, we will work together and you will learn how to refine your research question into something succinct and compelling.  Your fellow students will help you during this process.

Student credit hours: this course takes place both in the classroom and outside in the real world.  In addition to classroom lectures, we will have four full day  (8am – 5pm) fieldtrips where instruction continues and we practice the skills and techniques we learn. We will frequently have guest lecturers on our fieldtrips – e.g. Dr. Ruth Sofield may show us water quality monitoring and Dr. Eric DeChaine will demonstrate plant preservation techniques so that specimens that we collect can be housed at WWU’s Herbarium.

The course is divided in several sections.  In the first section, you will learn some survival skills for field research – how do you get a research permit, how do you fund your research, how do you travel safely in a foreign country, how do you move safely in remote locations?

The next section of the course will be focused on actually data collection.  You will help collect data in the North Cascades as part of long-term data collection projects.  You will have the opportunity to see a variety of data techniques and will learn how to plan your collection framework using a random stratified and other techniques.

The final component will be to combine what you have learned in the field with lectures on research methods to create a research proposal focused on mountain environments.  Classroom time will be spent discussing readings and collaboratively working on proposals.  We will also critique sample proposals from several fields.

Rough Class Schedule:

Field Research Logistics - Expedition Planning, Safety, Research Permits, Health

Proposal basics - Research Question, Literature, Research Tasks, Collaborators

Field Data - Water Quality, Tree rings, Snow Particulate Sampling, Satellite Ground Reference Data, CO2 monitoring, Spectroradiometer data

Disseminating research findings