Classroom-in-the-Field gives students the skills to become a conservation change-maker.

During eight weeks of traversing the urban jungle, rural areas, and surrounding wild lands of Washington State, Classroom-in-the-Field explores biodiversity conservation through four fundamental systems:

From protected wilderness to roof-tops and city parks, this theme explores the ways in which conservation enriches and supports human communities through the biodiversity supported within ecosystems and the ecosystems services provided, and how changes in human behavior can support, or destroy, biological richness.

Connecting city community gardens, organic farmers and industrial food production, this theme explores the food-shed and its implications for environmental justice, public health, the conservation of genetic diversity within foods and environmental sustainability.

From shrinking glaciers to urban sewers, this theme will expose how the protection of watersheds and aquatic habitats and the biodiversity within these systems affects and is affected by water supply and quality. These issues sit at the intersection between water-related ecosystem services, population growth, technology and restoration.

Can we adapt to rising seas, big rains and less snow? This theme brings the ultimate global conservation threat into local focus.

Year One Schedule

Mossy Tree in the North Cascades
©  Wally Wright
Week 1

Power, Privilege and Identity

What is conservation and who has permission to do it?

An examination of biodiversity conservation across cultures and environments using tools from social and conservation science to explore how people interact with their environment, and each other. We will crosscut greater Seattle looking at conservation, restoration, climate mitigation, and environmental justice, across a range of societal, cultural and economic identities. While looking outward at conservation as a discipline, we will also look inward at conservation on the personal level as a way of being and living in the world.

Mount Rainier
Dr. Janneke Hille Ris Lambers leads students back down the trail after completing a survey for the Meadow Watch program. 508DD0480
Week 2

Shifting Baselines

Built adjacent to Diablo Dam, the North Cascades Institute is tucked into the largest remaining intact wild-land in the contiguous United States – the Greater North Cascades ecosystem, including North Cascades National Park, the Stephen Mather Wilderness, and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Our explorations will take us to endangered alpine meadows, retreating glaciers, threatened forest ecosystems and a weekend under the stars. This week focuses on ecological change and adaptive management of these habitats over the temporal scale of decades to thousands of years.

© Joseph Eusebio
Week 3

Working Forests

The Pack Forest Experimental Station – 4,250 acres from new plantations to mature forest – is less than 30 minutes away from Mt. Rainier National Park – 235,000 acres of wilderness including the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, old growth forests to alpine meadows, and over 1,000 species of flora and fauna. Here we will explore old-growth and working forest ecosystems, documenting patterns and exploring explanations for abundance and diversity. At Mt. St. Helens National Park, only an hour south, we will explore disturbance, succession, and resilience at an active volcano site.

Quinalt Tall Trees
© Wally Wright
Week 4

Sense of Place and Urban Ecosystems

Returning to the urban landscape, we will consider the practice of conservation gleaned from the wild-lands, and decide whether – and how – it applies to the concrete jungle. Examining the connections among river restoration, urban agriculture, and climate adaptation and the interests of the diverse human communities across this region, we will deepen the emergent practices of urban conservation and inclusive conservation.

Duwamish River
The Duwamish River in Seattle.
Week 5

Rivers of Life

Exploring the wilds of the Olympic Peninsula, we ask how approaches to protecting habitats and ecosystem services differ for a host of stakeholders. At the Elwha River, a landmark restoration project involving removal of two dams to re-establish free-flowing Pacific salmon habitat, we will dive into issues of water management and river restoration. On the Quinault Indian Nation we will learn about their cultural and wildlife conservation efforts, and visit a forest that provides habitat for cougars, massive trees for ocean-going canoes, and incomes and livelihoods for tribal members.

© Daniel Revenel
Week 6

Conserving biodiversity in our food systems

Back to the wider Seattle foodshed, we will dig into how food systems are constructed, and how the local and global markets and policies shape land management practices ultimately impact food security and the conservation of biodiversity. We will take a “food tour” to rural working farms, food distribution and waste management centers, and key sites of urban agriculture.

UrbanGardensChrisDyaami copy
Dyaami D'Orazio and Chris Deleon (year two) analyze urban ecosystem services in a community garden in Seattle's International District. 508DD0010
Week 7

Coping with a changing climate

From urban to wildlands conservation approaches, we will explore different projects to learn about policies for public health and climate change prevention in Seattle.   At the Moses Coulee Field Station that sits in an oasis of sagebrush steppe embedded in a sea of industrial agriculture, we will explore issues of habitat fragmentation, fire dynamics and water withdrawals that have become exacerbated as the climate changes. We will reflect on impacts on local communities, including the undocumented agricultural workers, and the efforts to enhance community sustainability and ecosystem resilience.

Moses Coulee
2014 scholars
Week 8

Synthesis and Analysis

In the final week in Seattle, we will synthesize insights and experiences across the wild-urban continuum, present work to friends and family in the annual DDCSP Summit, and finalize individualized career plans for next steps in conservation leadership.

Year Two

Conservation Practice Teams

Take a project from start to finish. Conservation Practice Teams deepen skills and knowledge, build professional networks, and help realize career paths.

View Conservation Practice Teams