Ecologies, Techniques, Technologies III: Introduction to Ecology

Fall term, four units, required for both MLA 1 and MLA AP students taking the third LA core-studio.

Module 1a: An Introduction to Woody Plants as a Design Medium (Chris Matthews)
Recognizing that plants are one of the essential mediums of landscape architecture, this module seeks to introduce the student to the relationships between plants and people (horticulture); and the relationships between plants and the environment (ecology). The class focuses on the following topics and objectives: Concepts, and practices necessary for using woody plants as a design medium; an introduction to the spatial, visual, functional, temporal, and sensorial qualities of woody plants in the landscape; an introduction to the horticultural requirements of woody plants particularly as it relates to the urban environment; techniques and practices for using woody plants in the designed landscape.

Module 1b: Ecological Principles (Erle Ellis)
The fundamentals of ecological science are introduced as a foundation for investigating, understanding, and shaping landscape structure, function and change. Through a combination of lectures, discussions and readings, the core principles of ecological science are introduced and integrated, from Earth systems to ecosystems, energetics and the biogeochemical cycles, species, populations and communities, evolution and biodiversity, the global patterning of the biomes and biosphere, and their relationships with the ecological structure, functioning and dynamics of landscapes. These are then integrated to explore ecologically-based landscape management, engineering, design and stewardship. Readings are used both as background for lectures and to challenge students to develop the skills and confidence needed to work with and derive useful knowledge from ecological scientific materials. Exercises evaluate students’ ability to apply ecological principles in landscape contexts.

Module 2: Ecological Principles and Practices (Peter Del Tredici)
The second half of ETT3 will cover two basic topics: soils and urban ecology. The first half of module 2 will cover the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of soils in both natural and built environments. Specific topics will include the structure and development of soils, plant nutrition, nutrient cycling, soil testing, and basic soil biology. Special focus will be placed on the remediation of compaction, drainage and contamination issues typically found in the urban environment as well as on the use of manufactured soils in a variety of contemporary design situations, including rooftop landscapes and landfills. The second half of the module will cover the basic ecological processes of succession following disturbance and the development of forests and grasslands over time. Special focus will be placed on the analyzing both the biotic and abiotic aspects of cities in relation to the forces of climate change, globalization and urbanization. The concept of \”novel ecosystems\” will be used as a model for developing an understanding of how nature operated in an urban context.

Pedagogic Goals. The overarching goal of this course is to help students develop a solid understanding of the basic principles of ecology and their relevance to the practice of landscape architecture. Emphasis will be placed on the observation, analysis and application of these principles across different spatial scales and habitat gradients from rural to urban.