Palo Duro Canyon: an Interdisciplinary Exploration of Nature and Place
Biol399 or Eng399
Dr. Alex Hunt – American Literature, English Department (Email Dr. Hunt)
Dr. Ray Matlack – Wildlife Biologist, Department of Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Email Dr. Matlack)
The course will consist of three parts: 1) an in-depth study of nature writing through readings, discussion, and lecture, 2) an ecological exploration of Palo Duro Canyon through lectures, readings, and field trips, and 3) a capstone project that will draw on what the students have learned about nature writing and Palo Duro Canyon.
In general terms, we will study various genres of nature writing (including narratives of exploration, wilderness preservation, natural science, scientific literature, and agricultural life) through both classic American examples and local classics. As students become familiar with these genres, students will also develop an understanding of the ecology, history, and literature of Palo Duro Canyon. We will provide the students with a thorough knowledge of the ecology, wildlife, and landmarks of the Canyon through lectures, readings, and perhaps most importantly, time spent in the Canyon on various field trips. Our background in American Studies and ecology will be supplemented by guest lectures from faculty in the disciplines of history, anthropology, and geology. We also hope to have representatives of local farming and ranching operations in to tell us about their perspective of Palo Duro and the Panhandle. By the end of the term, students will write essays about their personal experience and knowledge of Palo Duro Canyon, drawing upon shorter essays written throughout the term.
We will occasionally meet outside of normal class hours for field trips. For example, we plan to have a night hike to explore the Canyon when many species are most active (and humans are least active) and may have optional field trips that allow us more time to explore. Students should be prepared for hiking in rugged country and for the possibility of being outdoors in inclement weather.