Course Descriptions

Without plants you are nowhere!


ES421 Trees and Shrubs of Mount Desert Island

This course introduces you to the native and ornamental shrubs and trees of Mount Desert Island. Lectures will cover basics of plant taxonomy and forest  ecology focusing on the dominant woody plant species of the region. Laboratory and field sessions will involve the identification of woody plants and an introduction to the major woody plant habitats of the island. The course is designed to teach botany and plant taxonomy for students interested in natural history/ecology, forestry, and landscape design. Evaluations are based on  class participation, weekly field/lab quizzes, a plant collection, and term project.

Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Recommended: some background in Botany, Ecology. Offered every year. Class limit: 20.  Lab fee: $40.  *ES*

Students from Trees and Shrubs 2007 posing for a photo after a collecting trip in Cherryfield, Maine

ES2016 Edible Botany

Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Why are potatoes modified stems and sweet potatoes modified roots? Did you know that the true fruits of the strawberry are the achenes (seed-like structures) embedded in the flesh of the strawberry?  Why is the fruit of the peanut a legume and not a nut? This introductory botany course of edible plants is aimed at enhancing your understanding of and appreciation for the plant world. We will cover general plant anatomy and morphology focusing on plant organs such as leaves, stems, fruits, seeds, and roots we use as food and discuss the botany of plant families dominating the world of agriculture. Evaluations are based on class participation, weekly laboratory/field quizzes, and term project.

Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisite: An appreciation for the plants we eat.  Recommended: A course in Biology. Offered every year. Class limit: 20. Lab fee: $40. *ES*

Students from Edible Botany 2010  tasting a salad made out of 40+ fruits!

ES461 Ethnobotany

From the dawn of human history, plants have played an integral role in human societies across the world.  The course is aimed at generating an appreciation for the myriad uses of plants by human societies, both past and present.  We will explore the use of plants as food and beverages, raw materials, fuel, medicine and psychoactive drugs, spices and perfumes, genetic resources, and for religious and spiritual needs.  The future ecological, economic, and social implications of our dependency on plants will also be discussed in light of current threats to plants and their native habitats, including threats to plant-human relations in traditional societies.  The important roles played by human societies in maintaining floristic and associated cultural diversity will be a primary focus of readings and discussions.  Evaluations will be based on class participation, involvement in class discussion, and a term project involving a half-hour oral presentation.

Level:  Intermediate.  Prerequisites:  Edible Botany.  Offered every year. Class limit: 20.  Lab fee $30.  *ES*

Students from Ethnobotany 2007 observing Fredda Paul, a Passamaquoddy elder and healer, perform a  ritual

ES425 Biogeography

What we currently see in nature is only a snapshot of a constantly varying assortment of plants and animals that are and have been responding to an endless sequence of biotic and abiotic change. Biogeography is the study of plants and animals in space and time and is concerned with the analysis and explanation of patterns of distribution, both local and global, that have taken place in the past and are taking place today. Biogeography is also a predictive science enabling us to predict how biota might behave in the future under a given set of circumstances. As students of biogeography we will attempt to tackle questions such as why are there so many different species of animals and plants? Why are some species so common, others so rare? Why do some species show extremely local distributions while others are cosmopolitan? Why are some parts of the world more diverse than others? How have these unique patterns of distribution come about? What are the factors involved in the evolution as well as the extinction of species? Evaluations are based on class participation, bi-weekly presentations of research papers dealing with biogeography, final paper and its presentation. Prerequisites: Ecology or Evolution.

Level:  Intermediate/Advanced.  Pre-requisites: History of Life, Ecology, or Evolution. Lab fee: $25.  Offered every other year. Class limit: 20

ES520 Plant Taxonomy

Plant taxonomy is the study of plant diversity, including identification, nomenclature and classification. While there are over 250,000 vascular plant species worldwide, the flora of Maine comprises only about 2000 of them. This course will explore plant taxonomy within the framework of the Maine flora, which represents diverse families, each with a unique natural history and morphology. Specimens of Maine plants will provide the basis for study of many families and the relationships between them. The course will cover the history of plant taxonomy and its current relevance, sources of plant variation, and, drawing examples from regional species, students will learn the terminology of taxonomy, use of dichotomous keys and distinguishing features of each family studied. Brief forays will be made into the worlds of pollination biology, physiology, evolution, and ecology as each relates to classification. Assessment will be based on class participation, lab quizzes, homework assignments and a final project.

Level: Intermediate/Advanced; Prerequisites: Trees and Shrubs of MDI. Offered every other year. Class limit: 15. Lab fee: $30

ES485 Plant Systematics

This course is aimed at those interested in exploring the taxonomy of non-woody plants of New England and learning the science of plant systematics. Lectures will cover aspects of taxonomy and topics of systematics, including botanical nomenclature, methods and principles of plant systematics, classification systems of flowering plants, recent advances in molecular systematics, plant mating systems, plant evolutionary processes, phylogenetic relationships of flowering plants, and herbarium specimen preparation and database management. Laboratories will introduce students to approximately 30 plant families of the region including species-rich families such as Asteraceae, Poaceae, and Cyperaceae. This course will meet once a week in Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 for lectures and labs. Students will be expected to commit to a week of collecting and preserving plant specimens with the instructor in the late Spring OR Summer of 2011 as well as independent work in Winter, 2012. Evaluations are based on the identification and preparation of 50 plant specimens belonging to at least 25 plant families and a 30-minute oral presentation of a final project.

Level:  Advanced.  Pre-requisites:  Trees and Shrubs of MDI or Plant Taxonomy.  Class limit: 10.  Lab fee: $30.   *ES*

The Plant Systematics Class 2011 posing for a photo after a field trip to the quarry at Hulls Cove, Maine

ES478 Evolutionary Processes in Plants

What is a species? What is the process by which species originate? Does the evolutionary process in plants differ from that of animals? What are the evolutionary consequences of being a plant? The course will address aspects of plant evolution including variation, natural selection, breeding systems, species and speciation, adaptive radiation, co-evolution, and systematics. Classic case studies of plant evolution will be used to examine the nature of the evolutionary process and introduce current hypotheses of plant evolution. The course is directed at students interested in evolutionary biology, plant ecology, and systematics.  Evaluations are based on class participation, two oral presentations and term paper.

Level:  Intermediate/Advanced.  Lab fee: $25.  Prerequisites: Plant Systematics, Biogeography, Evolution, or Ecology. Offered every other year. Class Limit:  15.  *ES*

ES534 Plants with Mettle: Lives of Metallophytes

The course deals with the biology and applied ecological aspects of a unique flora, the metallophytes. Metallophytes are plants that are tolerant of and restricted to areas that are high in heavy metals, either naturally or due to anthropogenic activities. We will discuss a wide range of topics relating to metallophytes including natural history, phytogeography, systematics, physiology, evolution, ecology, and how these plants may help us clean vast and growing areas of heavy metal contaminated sites found all over the world. You will become involved in research at two heavy metal-rich sites in Hancock County – nickel and chromium-rich Pine Hill on Deer Isle and the copper, zinc-rich Callahan Mine in Harborside, ME. Both sites offer excellent opportunities to examine the role extreme soil conditions play in generating and maintaining plant diversity as well as examine the potential for phytoremediation. The course is directed at students with interests in plants, their environment and green technologies. Evaluations are based on a mid-term exam, a group project, and a final class presentation.

Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisites: an intermediate or advanced course in botany or the consent of the instructor. Offered every other year. Class limit: 15. Lab fee: $40. *ES*

Students from Plants with Mettle 2004 posing for a photo with COA’s lichenologist/bryologist, Dr. Fred Olday (far R), on the serpentinite outcrop at Pine Hill, Little Deer Isle, Maine

ES540 Plant Communities of the Americas

Plant communities consist of distinct assemblages of plant species which interact with each other as well as with other biotic and abiotic elements of their environment. Plant communities vary both spatially and temporally and are generally distinguishable by their overall appearance based on species present, as well as their size, abundance, distribution relative to one another, and species-interactions. The study of plant communities has contributed much to ecological and evolutionary theory and provided insight for conservation in light of climate change and other stressors impacting native plants and their communities in every region of the Americas. The course introduces you to the stunning geographic patterns of plant diversity across the Americas with respect to climatic, topographic, and edaphic gradients.  We will explore major plant communities of the temperate, Mediterranean and tropical regions of the Americas, including grasslands, rock outcrops, deserts, chaparral, wetlands, boreal forests, and rainforests, focusing on key species which characterize these communities, their functional traits, and other aspects of their ecology. Readings will include topics on plant morphology and diversity, ecophysiology, population biology, community ecology, evolutionary ecology, and conservation. Evaluations are based on class participation, weekly readings and their presentation, and a final paper and its presentation.

Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Pre-requisite: Trees and Shrubs of MDI, Plant Morphology and Diversity, Plant Physiological Ecology, History of Life, Biogeography, or Ecology (at least one). Offered every other year; 2 x 1.5 hr sessions per week. Class limit: 20. Lab fee: $25. *ES*

ES5271 Biology II: Form and Function

This is the second half of a 20-week, two-term introductory course in biology, providing an overview of the discipline and prerequisite for many intermediate and advanced biology courses. The course further explores topics introduced in Biology I, with a particular emphasis on biological structures and their role in the survival and reproduction of organisms. We will explore principles of evolution, classification, anatomy and physiology, epidemiology, behavior, and basic ecology. The primary focus of the course is on vertebrate animals and vascular plants, but we will make forays into other phylogenetic lineages at intervals. Weekly field and laboratory studies introduce students to the local range of habitats and a broad array of protists, plants, and animals. Attendance at two lectures and one lab each week is required; course evaluation is based on class participation, exams, preparation of a lab notebook, and a mid-term presentation.

Level: Introductory. Prerequisites: Bio I is strongly recommended. Offered every Spring. Lab fee $40. *ES*

Team-Taught with John Anderson or Sean Todd

ES2028 Landforms and Vegetation

The course is directed at those interested in descriptive and applied research on taxonomic and ecological aspects of plants. Using field observations and experimental methods students will explore the influence of lithology (parent material), geomorphology (landforms, including topography), and land-use history on the composition and ecology of plant communities of Mount Desert Island and other settings in Maine. Lectures will cover a broad range of topics in geoecology, including plant-soil-microbe relations, plant ecology and evolution, plant ecophysiology, stressors influencing plant species and communities of the Northeast, and conservation and restoration. Students will learn the theory and practice of plant taxonomy and the nomenclature of over 150 species of vascular plants, including the morphological and ecological traits characterizing their families. As part of the evaluation, students are responsible for making a 25-specimen plant collection from one or more plant communities and providing a detailed description on the biotic and abiotic features characterizing the chosen plant-habitat association. Students will also be exposed to methods in plant ecology, including techniques in vegetation surveying and the collection of ecological data on below- and above-ground habitat features to better characterize plant-habitat associations. While students are encouraged to explore a range of habitats on and off the island, students working on plant-habitat associations in the Northeast Creek Watershed will be able to incorporate their plant-habitat data into the Watershed Database managed by COA’s GIS Laboratory. The prerequisites for this course are Biology 2 and Critical Zone I or II. Other recommended courses include Wild Life Ecology and Management and Chemistry of Waters. Evaluations are based on a 25 specimen plant collection and report (30%), weekly field quizzes on plant taxonomy and ecology (30%), final project presentation on a plant community ecology topic (30%), and class participation (10%). In addition to the 60 hours per term of direct contact time with the instructor, students are expected to spend an additional 100 hours per term on class-related assignments, course preparation, and individual meetings with the instructor and teaching assistant during weekly office hours. ES: Intermediate. Class Size: 20. Lab Fee: $60.

Senior Project Supervision (2004-2016)

FA-04 Wallace, John. Landscaping with Native and Edible Plants at Kezar Lake

SP-05 Jayasundara, Nishad. Vis Medicatrix Naturae -The Healing Power of Nature

WI-06 Harris, Tanner. Lichens of Pine Mountain

FA-06 Thrall, Andrew. Flora of Acadia

SP-07 Pope, Nate. Edaphic Effect on Species Composition on Pine Hill, ME

SP-08 Ciccotelli, Brett. Taxonomy, Phenology, & Ecology of the Flora of Vernal Pools

SP-09 Davoodian, Naveed. Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Ecology

FA-10 Negoita, Luka. The Vascular Plants of Little Duck Island, ME

FA-10 Stark, Hazel. Plants and People of New England

WI-11 Mansfield, Maggie. Diversity & Soil Tissue Relations in Plants of Callahan Mine

FA-11 Lambert, Vivian. Earthenware & Healing

FA-11 Trau, Meg. The Human Ecology of Weeds: A Museum Exhibit

WI-11 Durost, Emily. Human Ecological Garden: Space for People, Plants & Animals

WI-11 Layden, Joseph. Algonquian Ethnobotany

WI-13 Barton, JasonLichens of vernal pools of Acadia National Park, Maine

WI-13 Stern, MargaretPlants of Limestone, Rockland/Thomaston, Maine

SP-13 Jill GallInsects of Serpentine and Granite of Deer Isles, Maine

SP-13 Marketa DoubnerovaPlants of the Campus Arboretum (Arboretum of Eden)

SP-13 Sarah McCrackenMedicinal Plants of the COA Campus

SP-14 Woofenden, Ryan  Roots to Branches: Arboriculture Research and Equipment Design (co-supervision)

SP‑13 Batt, William Andrew – Revegetation Study of Callahan Mine

FA-13 Brown, Steve  Vegetation of Stave Island, Maine

Sp-14 Excoffier, Paul – Bryophytes of Vernal Pools of Acadia National Park

Sp -15 Urban, Abbe Alpine plants of Baxter State Park, Maine

Sp-16 Medeiros, Ian D.Serpentine plants and lichens of Massachusetts

Sp-16 Samuel, EllaMycoremediation of Callahan Mine Soils


Independent Study Supervision (2004-2016)

WI-05 Alayan, Kathryn The Role of Captivity in the Conservation of Animals

WI-05 Boudreau, Max F. Sustainability in Maine in Winter

WI-05 Wallace, John D. Plant Propagation

SP-06 Hallsey, Jennifer Lee Botany

SP-06 Pavicevic, Peter Heavy Metal Tolerance of Local Plant Species

SP-06 Thrall, Andrew James Plant-Soil Relations of Pine Mountain

SP-06 Tompkins, Kathleen Marie The Effects of Heavy Metal on the Gynodioecious Plant

FA-07 Blanchard, Ian Michael Evolution of Serpentine Ecology

SP-08 Carver, Jonathan P. Plants & People of Ghana

FA-10 Munger, Kelsey Patricia Bryology

WI-11 Lowe, Yasmeen M. Culture and Language of Sri Lanka

SP-11 Barton, Jason W Lichens in Vernal Pools of Acadia National Park

SP-11 Trau, Megan Practical Herbal Medicine

WI-12 Gall, Jillian Elizabeth Diversity and Metal Content of Arthropods on Deer Isle, ME

SP-12 Berezuk, Rebecca Lindsay Botanical Illustration

WI-13 Batt, William Phytoremediation

SP-13 de Guzman, Daniela Ethnobotany of Algae

WI-13 Batt, William Andrew Phytoremediation of Agricultural Systems and Mine Tailings

FA-13 McAdam, Polly Biological and Cultural History of the American Elm on Mount Desert Island, ME

WI-13 Powell, Katie Classification and Organization of the Greenhouse Plant Collection

WI-13 Galey, Miranda Serpentine Geoecology of South and Southeast Asia

SP-14 de Souza, Zuri Micro-architecture: building opensource modular gardens (co-supervision)

SP-14 Sky, Blue The Art and Science of Herbalism

FA-14 Torres, Chelsi Edible Botany II: Human Nutrition through the Botanical Lens

FA-14 Powers, Caroline General nutrition

Independent research has led to student co-authored publications in peer-reviewed journals and books and conference presentations. For a list of COA student co-authored research see here


Graduate Study Supervision (2008-2013)

1- Mike Fong, San Jose State University (2009-2011)

Thesis publication here.

2- Suzie Woolhouse, San Jose State University (2009-2012)

Thesis here. Currently manuscript under preparation.

3- Teri Barry, San Jose State University (2009-2013)

Thesis publication here.

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