ENV 286: TOPICS: SIERRA NEVADA NATURAL HISTORY
FRESNO PACIFIC UNIVERSITY
Dr. Michael Kunz, Instructor
“This was my ‘method of study’: I drifted about from rock to rock, from
stream to stream, from grove to grove. Where night found me, there I camped.
When I discovered a new plant, I sat down beside it for a minute or a day, to
make its acquaintance and try to hear what it had to say. When I came to
moraines, or ice-scratches upon the rocks, I traced them, learning what I could
from the glaciers that made them. I asked the boulders I met whence they came
and whither they were going…”
John Muir, in John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John
Natural History of the Sierra Nevada is an experiential course serving as a
science general education or environmental studies/science elective.
Our primary objective is to learn to identify the physical and biological
features of the Sierra Nevada, and to interpret the natural history of these
features. Like John Muir, the first great naturalist of the Sierra
Nevada, we will do so by careful observation, journaling, and use of natural
Our primary learning modality will be experiential and intensive study while
backpacking in the Sierra Nevada wilderness. This is supplemented by base-camp
meetings and excursions that book-end the wilderness backpacking. Orientation
and preparatory activities will be provided before leaving for base-camp.
Submission of summative assignments (reflection paper, a natural history paper
and a research poster) will be after return from base camp.