Fall Semester Courses

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

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 was a collaborative effort between Jim Nienhuis and Irwin Goldman through 2020. In 2021, Irwin teamed up with Yi Wang, and together they are co-teaching this course.

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.

Horticulture 351: Freshman Interest Group (FIG) for Plants and Human Wellbeing- 1 credits, taught every fall semester

This is a 1-credit FIG course for freshman students that serves as a companion to Horticulture 350.

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

Biocore 381 begins with an introduction by Evelyn Howell who will discuss the “Big Picture” interplay between Ecology, Evolution, and Genetics. Evelyn 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.   Danny Parrell 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

HORT 380: Indigenous Foodways: Food and Seed Sovereignty in Indigenous Communities

People have practiced agriculture in about as many ways as there are places around the world since our crops and animals were first domesticated. The saving and replanting of seed began transforming local landscapes approximately 10,000 years ago. More recently, as our food and seed systems become more privatized and global in scope, genetic resources from indigenous communities have been transferred into the general public and private spheres. Today, indigenous communities are calling for the right to sovereignty over their seed, food and agricultural systems. This means the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods and the right to define one’s own food and agriculture systems and to control the mechanisms and policies that govern food distribution. In this course, we will explore how agricultural practices and policies have shaped food and seed sovereignty in the US. Through guest lectures and readings, we will learn about specific case studies that examine how indigenous communities, and Native American communities within the US in particular, are re-claiming their agricultural traditions to improve public health, economic opportunity, and food and seed sovereignty. This course is taught collaboratively with Dan Cornelius.