Alpine Ecology (Biol 478)

Pacific Rim Campus - Summer Session II

Course Description

Ecology of the high mountains of the Pacific Northwest, with particular attention to adaptation of plant and animal life to montane climates and altitudes, and analysis and interpretation of altitudinal zonation of biotic communities with applications to latitudinal biogeography. Also included are topics of physiological responses of organisms to reduced oxygen levels, low temperatures and high altitude radiation regimes. (4 credits) Field.

Professor: Dr. Eric Steinkamp
Meets: Tuesday & Friday

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Knowledge Gained

  • Hands-on understanding of the structure and function of a plethora of alpine ecosystems and their biological communities
  • Understanding of the geological forces that form and influence the mountains of the ring of fire
  • An understanding of organism adaptations at high elevations

Skills Developed

  • Analysis of research done in selected areas in high mountain ecosystems
  • Keeping a detailed field and reflection journal
  • Ability to capture and present information about observed animals and plants and their ecological relationships

Field Experiences

  • Hurricane Hill – Plant and animal adaptations to extreme climates and snow cover
  • Heather Lake Cirque – Understanding of glacier-carved cirques and the unique challenges to life, especially salamander and orchid life cycles
  • Mount Rainier – Effects of present glaciers on ecosystems, analysis of the fellfields and mountain goat habitat and behavior, and observation of the unique White Tailed Ptarmigan, its adaptations, and behavioral observation
  • Olympic Mountains – Obstruction Point – Investigation of marsh and windswept ridge ecosystems and inhabitants with an emphasis on understanding trophic levels through black bear and cougar scat analysis



Interested in learning more about Alpine Ecology, and Dr. Steinkamp?