April 20, 2009
Source: Piedmont 2003

Martin, Anthony
Environmental Studies Department


Project Summary

Probably the best metaphor I can apply to express my experience with the Piedmont Project is “cross-fertilization.” Most of the environmental concepts covered in the workshop were at least familiar to me, and many I had actually taught in some of my classes. However, the myriad of perspectives and reactions to these same concepts conveyed by colleagues from other disciplines illuminated them in a way that made them seem fresh and new. In particular, those from the humanities were the most instructive; to gain ideas and feedback from scholars in English, theater, art history, and music was a rare opportunity to learn about the interplay of environmental issues with their studies. Moreover, the inclusion of field botany as an important component of the workshop confirmed my suspicion that this facet of environmental studies provides an appropriate springboard for all people interested in environmental studies. Indeed, I felt that learning about fertilization in the literal sense initiated a fruition of more curiosity about how the world works from an environmental perspective.

As a result, I have changed my course (ENVS/NBB 190, How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not See) so that it includes the following two revisions: (1) a botanical component taught early in the semester that emphasizes native and non-native plants in the surrounding landscape and how they affect animal behavior; and (2) weekly readings from both fiction and non-fiction that feature animal behavior (with some connection to tracking, of course), but with attention paid to the ecological context described by the various authors. With regard to the former, I will have students sketching, describing, and interpreting plants in the field early in the semester, and later use this knowledge to apply when viewing places where animals live. As a supplement to the latter revision, I also plan to incorporate short video clips in class from documentary films (“The Great Dance,” which is about the San trackers of the Kalahari) and popular films (such as last year’s “Rabbit-Proof Fence”) to show how tracking is depicted in different settings and cultures. A brief review of how aboriginal art in Australia has been influenced by the recognition and study of animal tracks will be done near the beginning so that students will better appreciate the seminal influence of tracking in many nomadic indigenous cultures. In other words, while studying the interactions between plants and animals in the local landscape, we will learn how others have studied these same interactions in other landscapes. From this, the students will be able to draw their own conclusions about commonalities in the long history of tracking animals as a human experience and how these reflect human connections with their environments. The Piedmont Project was invaluable in helping me to better hear the different voices that lend to reaching such a goal, and for that I am very grateful and enthusiastic about sharing these voices with the students.

Course Syllabus attached.

Download: Martin_2003.pdf (58.7 KB)

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