Description of Nature along the Coast

This is an introductory class that ties geography and ecology to settlement patterns along North America’s coast using the concept of watersheds. Because it is an interdisciplinary approach to understanding people and their residential settings we use natural history, the history of coastal conservation, and ecological design concepts to allow participants to comprehend coastal biology, practice urban reforestation, and help in the preservation of marine turtles through active community engagement. Students will learn about plants and animals native to the littoral, critique coastal settlement patterns and habitat preservation plans, and then will actively assist in the creation of a college arbor on Holt Avenue.


What must you do?

Coastal biogeography and social studies of settlements along the Atlantic and Pacific shores combine in this class to inform you about the geology, biology and economy of the Americas from an historical and ecological perspective.


Our focus is watersheds and the influences of what Darwin called the organic and inorganic features of existence as seen in the places, species and settlements of people along our coasts.


There are three means of determining how we know what lives along the shore, what we have done to the coastal ecosystems and how we may yet coexist with the fragile shoreline where nearly half of the world’s people now live within 100 miles of the ocean or inland seas.


First, we read and you take a test on the coast’s biological communities that we will want to protect. We read about the history of our tidal seas and you write and rewrite an essay about ecological ethics. Third, we will work on an urban ecology project – reforestation and afforestation of a parcel owned by the college to determine how well you can ecologically design a fitting together of land and forest. You present a defense of the design and your ideas in writing at the end of the term. A verbal summary of the approaches and importance of the plan


What must you do?


 20%     attendance

 20%     exam & practical – Carson       Feb 2d week

 20%     essay    on Coastal Conservation --      Siry        Early March (rewritten)

 20%     essay on plans (Sanibel and Staten Island compared)  Early April

 20%     essay on urban re-forestry project & presentation -- Van der Ryn – late April



You must write, you must read, and you must rewrite in order to do really well in this course.


College education consists in part of a discourse among the writers of the past with you. Without there ideas, we cannot ably confront the exigencies of the present.


For that reason all writing in my classes requires a statement as to the explicit sources from which you took your inspiration, ideas, or quotations. Note the sources for your writing even if a slight influence by others helped you to conceptualize your thoughts on the page.


Formal essays must always have a list of all the authors and titles of the books and periodicals you have read, notes, and all sources listed with explicit page numbers.


You are to print all written work, with numbered pages, and turned in on the date the assignment is due. So, please plan ahead and start writing one to two weeks before the assignment is due. Take those drafts to TJs, or to me.


Take notes on your readings and refer to those in class, discussions of material during class time should draw from the examples in the assigned readings for that day. Vocabulary is a significant key to your success in the class. Consult my web page, as there are several vocabulary entries—from basic terms to obscure words—on the site.


Failure to do the above, suggested activities could lead to your failing the course.



Readings for Nature along the Coast and restoring natural areas

Rachel Carson, The Edge of the Sea

Joseph Siry, Marshes of the Ocean Shore

Sim Van der Ryn, Ecological Design


Selections (e-reserve, bold password is coast) or Olin Reserve:

              Henry Williamson, Tales of Moorland and Estuary

                                   Gary Kline, The Coastal Envrionment.

Pilkey & Dixon, The Corps and the Shore.

                                   Pilkey, et. al. Living with the California Coast

                                   John E. Hoffmeister, Land from the Sea.

                                   Gilbert Voss, Seashore Life of Florida and the Caribbean

Cutter, Johnson, Finch, & Berry, “The US Hurricane Coast

                                   Mangroves of the tropical Shore (hand out)


Calendar Spring 2008


16 What coast are you on? (maps and web site: Siry Course overview)

18 Defining the coasts as Edge of the seas,  Williamson, pp. v-19, 131-133.

23 Rachel Carson and the sea, Gary Kline, pp. 1-31. (handout, reserve or E-reserve)

24 Global Warming Teach-In, Crummer Auditorium: 12:30-1:45.

25 What climate chaos does to the shoreline: Cape Sable Fl. And , 100 years ago.

28 Geology of the rising Pacific shoreweb search: Mendocino Ecological Staircase

30 tides; their causes and their consequences, Siry web site: tides




Overview of Carson's, Edge of the Sea  

                 1 Geology of the sinking Atlantic Shore, Carson. pp. vii-27.

                 4 Rocky habitats, Carson. pp. 27-123.

                 6 tide levels Siry Web Site and NOAA:

                 8              visit to Chelonian Institute and Ecological Design ideas

                 11 Sand beaches: characteristics and critters. Carson, pp. 125-189.

     13 Defining patterns of change: vegetation & succession, Siry, pp. 55-58. McHarg reserve.

                 15 Creatures of the coast, Voss (reserve) & Carson, pp. 248-270.

                 18 Coral reefs, Carson pp. 190-247, & handout on “Corals, Darwin and cnidaria.” Siry Web

                 20 Coral, mangroves & grass beds as nurseries for fisheries: Mangroves of the tropic seashores

                 22 site visit for a college arbor: Ecological Design, Van der Ryn, pp. ix-xi

                 25 Why restore habitats? reasons by Carson, Siry web and Van der Ryn, pp. 3-32

                 27 Sanibel Island Plan ( e-reserve )

                 29 (Leap Year celebration) college arbor site: Bring your own lunch.



Complete guide to the Siry book

Overview of landscape renewal.


                 3 Sand and revegetation: Siry pp. 55-58, 106-109.

                 5 What is a plan to restore vegetation? McHarg on Web & reserve.

                 7              Making Beaches turtle safe – outing—(optional beach trip).

                 10-14 Spring Break – “No classes for you!”


Short guide to the conservation and design parts of course.

                 17 Estuaries, Siry, pp. 3-17.

                 19 Rivers and river mouths, Siry, pp. 18-33.

                 21 bays and sounds, Siry web. And Marshes of the Ocean Shore, pp. 188-191.

                 24  rivalry, Siry web. & Cutter, Johnson, Finch, & Berry, The US Hurricane Coast

     26 site visit to college arbor and principles of Ecological Design, web site

     28 site plan work on college arbor, Van der Ryn, pp. 33-47.

     31 Naturalists and the seashore, Siry, pp. 34-61.



Complete guide to the Siry book

Short guide to the conservation and design parts of course.



Overview of Coastal Conservation


                 2  Character of coastal communities, fisheries. Siry, pp. 35-36, 98-101, 169-174.

                 4  Site work on college arbor, Van der Ryn, pp. 51-81.

                 7  Artists and the seashore, Siry web. – You go to Cornell Fine Art Museum before class.

                 9  Oceanography and commerce, The Corps and the Shore, pp. xi-53. (e-reserve)

                 11  site plan for college arbor as Ecological Design (E. D.), Van der Ryn, pp. 82-102.

                 14 Staten Island Plan and Olmsted, E-Reserve (Ian McHarg)

                 16 Commerce and the Public Trust, Siry, pp. 62-82.

                 18 site plan work on college arbor , Van der Ryn, pp. 103-159.

                 21 Ecology and Oceanography, Siry, pp. 83-111.

                 23 Marine biology and the shore, Siry, pp. 112-133.

                 25  Shaler & planning areas with principles of Eco. Design. Siry, 105-108. Van Ryn, 160-172.

                 28  Clements, Tansely, & Leopold: what is plant (dune) succession? Siry, pp. 134-136.

                 30  Presenting (post) your Ecological Design plans for the college arbor, Van der Ryn, all.


Complete guide to the Siry book


May      5  is the Final Exam, Monday, 2-4 PM in classroom. You present a rehearsed five-minute presentation about what you have learned about      protecting coastal wildlife and habitat.


Final Exams are comprehensive, which means you must refer to all the readings that were assigned so that I can judge how familiar you are with their content. The essay's abstract or summary is presented (not read) in a rehearsed five-minute verbal presentation during the final exam period, including every author's opinions on preserving natural features along the coasts. Consult the California Coastal Conservation Plan for a comprehensive, statewide approach to protecting natural areas.


All written work is formal, in that references with page numbers and citations based on a bibliography must be clear and consistent. You must attribute ideas and not just quotations to their respective authors. Few of us are original thinkers, so cite your influences in all written work as a matter of scholarly habit.

You are to print all written work, with numbered pages, and turned in on the date the assignment is due. So, please plan ahead and start writing one to two weeks before the assignment is due. Since all writing is redrafting, I encourage you to write drafts and discuss them with me well before the due date. Any and all collaborative work must be proposed in writing and pre-approved by me.



My Intentions in this course are for you to: Read all the books carefully, take notes and think critically so you may synthesize several authors around themes in order to express your ideas more clearly in a variety of writing formats. Take notes on your readings and refer to those in class. Discussions of material during class time should draw from the examples in the assigned readings for that day. Vocabulary is a significant key to your success in the class. Consult my web page, as there are several vocabulary entries—from basic terms to obscure words—on that site.


Practice your writing so that you critically think and reflect on all of the texts' contents. Write down our discussion’s focus during class and integrate concepts by informal writing. Bring those notes to meetings with me. Writing formally requires you to rewrite your papers.


Write frequently in a variety of forms such as notes, e-mail, free writing, letters or essays to convey complex ideas in a simple, clear and direct fashion. Use the Internet to communicate with others.


Rewrite formal papers for class, by using the writing center at different stages in the composition process from invention and development to early draft and final production of essays, papers, talks, or summaries.


Verbally present aloud to the class your questions drawn from notes on the texts, at least, every two weeks and to practice informal writing every week from the perspective of oral interpretation of crucial sections of the texts explaining vocabulary or significant concepts about which you have questions.


Grades: in order to receive an:

                 Average grade in the course you must complete and comprehend the contrasts in each of the above author's perspectives in response papers short essays & a comprehensive final paper. An oral presentation based on the paper and the above texts is the final exam.

C is 70 to 79 percent.

                 Above average grade, students will tie the lectures & discussions to the texts in writing.

B is 80 to 89 percent

                 Excellent score, exceptional students will participate in text-based discussions and do additional research from the reserve readings and independent inquiry.

                      A is from 90 to 96 percent

Late assignments are severely penalized, but going to TJs, the writing center, & Olin Library is rewarded.


It is my desire for you to excel in this class. To improve your verbal presentations I am asking you to have an interview with me, so schedule an appointment in my office in January.  You excel in that interview and the class by reading carefully and asking serious questions about the texts, the evidence they present and the conclusions drawn about how ecological systems are made up of living and non-living functional parts that cooperate in providing food, shelter, nurseries, and resource gathering (ranges) areas for both terrestrial and marine plants, Monera, Protoctista, fungi, plants and animals.