Past Courses

Evolution of Plant Diversity

How does biodiversity survive and change over time? How do scientists study the tree of life, and what can the tree of life tell us about the trees in our own backyard? Biodiversity is one of the hottest topics in science today. Medical researchers use Tree of Life research methods to study the evolution and spread of viruses. Scientists trace the migration of humans using the very methods they use to study the evolution of humans and other primates. In the plant world, biodiversity science underpins our efforts to conserve and catalog the world’s plant species. This course will include lectures, labs, and field studies that introduce students to the broad and exciting field of plant biodiversity science.

Invasion Biology

This course offers an in-depth study of past and present invasive insect pests, plant pathogens, and weed species affecting natural areas including wetlands and forests, and managed landscapes including nurseries and greenhouses. Students will study pest, pathogen, and weed biology including host interactions and epidemiology in order to gain a broader understanding of invasive species biology and management strategies. Case studies will be used to describe the ecological and economic impact of invasive species in North America.

Landscape Botany

Ever walked down the street and wondered what plants were growing around you? Learn to identify the native and non-native herbaceous plant species that are suitable for gardens and landscapes of northern Illinois. Study the principles of plant classification and gain first-hand experience in techniques of plant identification, collection, and preservation while exploring the diverse plantings of The Morton Arboretum grounds. Gain knowledge of the ecology, growing conditions, maintenance requirements, and landscape uses of each species, and make your own dried plant collection using herbarium techniques. Discuss issues involving the impact of landscape plants on our environment and our lives. Attend a Saturday field trip to local businesses that develop and propagate landscape plants.

Introduction to Soil Science

This course serves as an introduction to soil science. The course will have three sections on the principles of soil science: soil physics, soil biology, and soil chemistry. The interactions between organisms, environments, and soil will be discussed lecture and laboratory sessions. Students will be introduced to soil science and will have the opportunity to conduct a science experiment and review a scientific paper related to this topic. Students will also get hands-on experience during a field day exercise.

Plant Genetics

Plant geneticists are making headlines every day for advancements in agriculture, cell and molecular biology, and global ecology. This course will deal with the genetics of higher plants, with an emphasis on explanation at the genetic and molecular level. Students will explore the genetic basis of plant biology, including genetic systems that are unique to plants and learn about the technologies used in studying the genetics of plants. Topics include Mendelian and Non-Mendelian genetics, gene structure and function, plant breeding systems, population genetics, and evolution. Upon completion of the course, students should be ready to access the relevant scientific literature and engage in informed discussions about topics of current interest, such as the use of genetically modified organisms in crop improvement.

Plant Community Ecology

An understanding of plant community ecology is central to sound decisions in natural resource management. This course will develop an understanding of the ways in which plants interact with each other and with other organisms through the processes of competition, herbivory and disease. Through hypothesis-driven field studies, we will explore how theories in community ecology are developed and tested. These studies will utilize standard ecological methods for data collection and analysis to answer questions about plant community composition and distribution. Through classroom and field study, students will develop the theoretical background and skills in its application to understand and interpret the ecology of different types of communities, including aquatic systems, found in the Upper Midwest . Students will take field trips in Illinois , Indiana , southwest Michigan and southern Wisconsin to collect quantitative data on the different plant populations and communities in this region, and on the ecophysiological, population and community processes of the dominant plants. The course assumes that the students have an understanding of basic ecological concepts and terminology.

Woody Plants of the Western Great Lakes Region

An introduction to the identification of the woody flora of the western Great Lakes region. Class includes both native and naturalized plants, as well as important woody landscape plants, and covers basic taxonomic principles. In the laboratory, examine fresh-cut and herbarium specimens. In Arboretum collections and natural areas, examine plants and practice field identification. On daylong field trips to regional natural areas, learn habitat preferences of the plants studied.

Plant Ecology

Plant Ecology studies adaptations of plants to various environments, properties of plant populations and plant communities, and the ways these function in various ecosystems. This course will emphasize terrestrial flowering plant ecology. Lectures, discussions, and fieldwork will explore the ways plants are influenced by and in turn influence both the abiotic and biotic components of their environments.