California Ecosystems

Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco, Department of Environmental Science and Masters of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM) Program

Developed and taught this upper division undergraduate course during the fall semester, which includes visiting a diversity ecosystems on field trips. This course explores the diversity of ecosystems found throughout California through hands on study of plant ecology on weekly field trips and labs. Main concepts and current research in plant ecology throughout California’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are introduced including: availability of water, nutrients and light for plants; interactions between neighboring plants and animals; and the frequency of disturbances such as a fire.

This course highlights human impacts to California’s ecosystems, their management, and current state of restoration through a series of 15 field trips throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Also, current plant ecology research topics will be examined throughout the semester, including: biodiversity, exotic species invasions, restoration, vegetation mapping, wetland delineations, and climate change. Three lectures and one field trip (or lab) each week. Also, course includes semester long study of one ecosystem in small student groups. Fall 2011, Fall 2012, and Fall 2013.

Developed and aught this class as a graduate level course in the MSEM program consisting of four all-day Saturday field classes. The primary goal of this course is to provide students with an understanding and appreciation of the diversity of ecosystems in California, with consideration of both natural biotic and abiotic processes that shape these ecosystems, impacts from anthropogenic stresses, policy related to their management and conservation, and restoration of these ecosystems. We took class field trips to ecosystems throughout California each class to explore ecosystems first hand and sample them to better understand their structure, functioning, and key abiotic and biotic processes. Ecosystems visited and studied included: marine, estuarine, chaparral, grasslands, temperate forest, riparian, redwoods, tidal salt marsh, and oak woodlands. Fall 2013 and 2014.

Wetland Delineation I

Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco, MSEM Program

Developed and taught this graduate level field course consisting of four all-day Saturday classes. Basic Wetland Delineation is a 40-hour training course that focuses on procedures used to delineate wetland boundaries using the 1987 Corps Wetland Delineation Manual (Technical Report Y-87-1) and the Regional Supplement: Arid West Region (2008). The main objective of this course is to provide participants with a comprehensive and hands-on introduction to delineation of jurisdictional wetlands in California. Course included field demonstrations of proper procedures to identify hydrophytic vegetation, hydric soils, and wetland hydrology indicators. This course consists of 50% lecture and 50% field excursions and laboratory exercises (plant and soil labs), emphasizing a hands-on approach. Students conducted a group wetland delineation either at Rush Ranch National Estuarine Research Reserve or the Presidio of San Francisco as their final project for the class. Fall 2013, Spring 2014, and Spring 2015.

Wetland Delineation II

Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco, MSEM Program

Teaching at China CampDeveloped and taught this graduate level field course in the MSEM program consisting of four all-day Saturday classes. The main objective of this course is for students to practice implementing the delineation procedures described in the Arid West and Western Mountains, Valleys and Coast Supplemental Delineation Manuals. Students practice documentation of field indicators of vegetation, soil, and hydrology in the field and learn how to do so using Comprehensive Wetland Delineation techniques for complicated or very large projects. Upon completion of the course students are able to determine plant species composition and percent cover using basic as well as transect sampling techniques; analyze soil and hydrology characteristics used in wetland delineations using field techniques; and develop a wetland hydrology monitoring program for difficult wetland situations. Students learn how to prepare a wetland delineation report and use procedures for collecting and presenting the data requested by the Army Corps. Also, students learn how to delineate waters of the U.S. in the Arid West. Various types of GPSs are used to delineate wetland boundaries and collect data points. This course will consist of approximately 25% lecture and 75% field exercises, emphasizing a hands-on approach practicing and honing wetland delineation skills. At the end of the both Wetland Delineation I and II courses, students can work with a team to confidently delineate a variety of types of straightforward wetlands using the routine on-site method and be able to identify difficult wetland situations in the Arid West. Fall 2014.

Ecology and Human Impacts

Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco, Department of Environmental Science

Teach the lecture and/or lab sections of this undergraduate ecology course. This course introduces the discipline of ecology and the application of ecological principles in environmental science. The purpose of this course is to provide an overview of basic ecology, ecological management issues, and ecosystem policy with special consideration of local issues in the San Francisco Bay Area and California. Emphasis is placed on a holistic approach to ecology, using field experiences, laboratory exercises, and class discussions to reinforce scientific principles. Hands-on experiences focus on implementation of the scientific method to reinforce classroom learning. Each lab section designed, planted, and monitored their own native plant establishment experiment on campus throughout the semester. Course syllabus available upon request. Spring 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Understanding Our Environment

Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco, Department of Environmental Science

The principle goal of this core course is to provide students with an understanding of and appreciation for many broad aspects of environmental science, with emphasis on environmental impacts from anthropogenic activities. This course focuses on learning the scientific theories and natural cycles that describe the world around us and then understanding how those cycles can and have been impacted by human activities. Emphasis is placed on a holistic approach to environmental science using laboratory exercises, field experiences, short essays, and class discussions to reinforce scientific principles. Course syllabus available upon request. Fall 2010, Fall 2011 (2 labs only), Spring 2012.

Field Botany

Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco, MSEM Program

Will teach this graduate level field course in the MSEM program consisting of four all-day Saturday classes in Spring 2015 for the first time. This field based botany course aims to familiarize you with the diversity of California’s flora and become more comfortable with keying plants so you can conduct wetland delineations, rare plant surveys, and other botanical surveys. The primary objectives of this course are to teach students how to identify the 25 of the most common plant families in California and how to use a dichotomous key. By learning to recognize characteristics of the San Francisco Bay Area’s plant families, students will be able to distinguish between families in order to become comfortable using taxonomic plants keys and further identify plants to genus and species. We will practice keying plants in the field using the new updated version of the book Plants of the San Francisco Bay Region: Mendocino to Monterey (Linda H. Beidleman and Eugene N. Kozloff, May 2014). We will learn how to use The Jepson Manual eBook on an iPad in the field (, the online version of the Jepson Interchange (, and for keying and identifying plants. This class will be 75% field and 25% classroom. Field sites will be located around the Bay Area within 1.5 hours of the USF campus. They will include but are not limited to the following: San Francisco Botanical Gardens, Tilden Regional Parks Botanical Garden, GGNRA, and State Park sites. Spring 2015

Proposed Class – Field Botany in Tropical Ecosystems of Cambodia

This two-week summer field course will explore ecosystems from roots to reefs – beginning in Cambodia’s rainforests of the Elephant Mountains, moving to the mangrove forests along the coast, and ending at coral reefs along islands off of Sihanoukville. Through hands on activities, students will learn identification of dominant plants of each ecosystem, about their unique adaptations to the climate and local conditions, identify critical ecosystem services and impacts, and management and restoration strategies. MSEM students will start the course in San Francisco visiting the San Francisco Botanical Gardens and the California Academy of Sciences. Students will learn the basics of how to collect and identify plants from professional botanists and curators.

I am excited to work with the local university, NGO, local government and our friends of the Prey Nup mangrove Conservation Project to develop this highly practical and educational field course.

The draft course outline we are considering is under development but the first draft is located here.

Days 1-2: The field adventure will start in the capital city of Phnom Penh, where USF and RUPP students will meet a course orientation and tour of the University.

Days 3-5: The group will then travel to Bokor National Park in the Elephant Mountains to learn about rainforest vegetation and management strategies in National Parks. They will spend 3 days hiking around Bokor practicing plant collection and identification of plant families in the field.

Days 6-7: Next we will travel to Thmor Rung Nature Preserve for 2 days to learn how an ecolodge and ecotourism can be used to protect rainforest ecosystems that are under threat of deforestation. One of the first steps in establishing the Shinta Mani Wild resort here was to conduct a plant inventory of the various vegetation types, including rainforest, riverine forest and secondary forest.  Students will learn how to conduct botanical inventories, about impacts to rainforests and rivers in Cambodia, about reforestation approaches, and camping skills like cooking over a campfire.

Days 8-10: The group will spend three days at Otres Beach near Sihanoukville at a private ecolodge on the river.  Here students will learn about mangrove ecosystems, impacts and threats to these ecosystems, and how the history and politics of Cambodia have influenced their protection. Also, students will have free time to take a boat trip to the islands and snorkel, visit local markets or just relax on the beach.

Days 11-13: We will explore Prey Nup Mangroves, one of the oldest and most diverse mangrove forests in Southeast Asia.  This area has been protected by the politics of the region and most recently by the Prey Nup Mangrove Conservation Project.  Students will explore mangroves by local wooden boat along the Kompong Smatj river and estuary and through small tidal channels deep into the mangrove forests by kayak. PNM rangers will lead these trips, discussing biodiversity of species, local threats to mangrove, and the connection with local people. Along the way, we will collect the more than 30 mangrove plant species. Students will practice identifying these species in the field, and learn how locals use these plants (ethnobotany). Students will have the option to go on birding and ethnobotany field trips with local experts. We will camp in hammocks in bamboo bungalos for two nights.

Day 14: Travel back to Phnom Penh.

Day 14 – 16 (optional): Students can opt to take a boat to Koh Rong island to dive and/or snorkel around the coral reefs and better understand the importance of the connection from cultural, rainforest, and mangrove roots to coral reefs.