Fall Semester Courses

Horticulture 370: World Vegetable Crops – 3 credits, taught every fall semester

Jim Nienhuis roasting peppers in Horticulture 370

World vegetable crops focuses on the diversity of plants that people consider vegetables throughout the world, and on the major families in which these plants are found. The course includes two weekly lecture sessions and one weekly laboratory session. We explore biological diversity in association with cultural, ethnic, geographic, and culinary diversity in examining vegetable species. The course is a collaborative effort between Jim Nienhuis and Irwin Goldman. They have taught this course together for 21 years.

Hort 370 Syllabus Fall, 2014

Hort370 Syllabus Fall, 2015

Vegetable plant families


Horticulture 350: Plants and Human Wellbeing- 2 credits, taught every fall semester

Plants provide not only the foundation of food, clothing, and shelter essential for human existence, but also some of the key raw materials for transcendence and abstraction through music, art, and spirituality. Since antiquity, we have co-evolved with plants and their derivative products, with each exerting a domesticating force on the other. It is, for example, impossible to think of our modern life without its plant-based accompaniments in the form of cotton, sugar, bread, coffee, and wood. Yet they are so ubiquitous we may forget they all derive from plants discovered, domesticated, bred, and farmed for millennia in a never-ending pursuit to improve our wellbeing.

This course explores major points of intersection between plants and human wellbeing from a horticultural point of view. Each week, we  highlight a plant or group of plants that represent a primary commodity or resource through which humans have pursued their own aims. We  examine this plant with hands-on demonstrations and produce extracts and preparations to more deeply explore its effects and impacts in human society. This course is open to all students, and has no prerequisites.

PHWB Syllabus 2015


Biocore 381: Evolutionary Biology Module in Ecology, Evolution, and Genetics- 3 credits, taught every fall semester

Biocore 381 begins with an introduction by Dr. Howell who will discuss the “Big Picture” interplay between Ecology, Evolution, and Genetics. Dr. Howell will then introduce the science of ecology. She will first consider the distribution and environmental adaptations of organisms, paying particular attention to the natural systems of Wisconsin. She will continue with a discussion of populations, communities, the flow of energy through ecosystems, some of the ways humans have changed ecosystems, and nutrient cycles.   Dr. Simon will then focus on transmission genetics. He will discuss Mendel’s laws, mitosis and meiosis, the structural and functional organization of chromosomes, genetic recombination and linkage. I then use this as a basis for explaining population genetics and speciation. These lectures will provide a foundation for understanding the mechanisms that make evolution work. We will explore the effects of selection and drift and discuss how to develop phylogenetic explanations of biological data.


Spring Semester Courses

Horticulture-Agronomy 501: Principles of Plant Breeding- 3 credits, taught every spring semester

Principles of plant breeding is a comprehensive course covering the major concepts behind plant breeding theory and process. The course is taught at the upper undergraduate – beginning graduate student level. The format is three lectures per week, and includes problem sets, exams, and a position paper on a plant breeding related topic. The course includes historical perspectives, plant reproductive biology, transmission genetics, population and quantitative genetics, breeding methods and theory, polyploidy, and a range of other topics. The course is a collaborative effort with Jim Nienhuis.

Horticulture-Agronomy 502: Techniques of Plant Breeding – 1 credit, taught alternate spring semesters, next offered in spring, 2017

Techniques of plant breeding is a one credit seminar offered in alternate years. The course may be a suitable companion to Horticulture-Agronomy 501 and covers many of the subjects in that course in more detail in a two hour laboratory – discussion section that meets on Wednesdays. At least half of the sessions are devoted to specific crop breeding programs and the presentation / discussion is led by a breeder of that crop.