Ecology, systematics and identification of trees, shrubs, and vines are studied in weekly field trips to diverse Michigan ecosystems — including upland, wetlands, and floodplain forests. Lectures focus on glacial landscape history, biogeography, and ecology of Michigan forests.
- to be able to identify a large subset of the plant species and understand their genealogical relationships,
- to understand the ecological interactions and physiological constraints that determine species composition at particular sites, and
- to place the forests of a particular region into biogeographic context, knowing the geological history of the landscape and the geographic origins of its major plant lineages.
The students travel to some of the most noteworthy forests in the Ann Arbor area and learn 15-20 woody plant species at each site, which represent distinct post-glacial landscapes. The lectures focus on the evolution of these landscapes and the ecological tradeoffs that allow species to persist in certain habitats. The students struggle to learn to identify 160 species, but they feel a sense of accomplishment by the end of the course.
The lectures cover additional topics of phylogeny, biogeographic history, glacial history and impacts on plant distributions and landscapes.