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

HORT 375: Seed and Food 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 Claire Luby and Dan Cornelius.

Horticulture-Agronomy 501: Principles of Plant Breeding- 3 credits, taught every spring semester from 1993-2019. This course will next be taught by Natalia De Leon and Julie Dawson in the fall of 2020.

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, from 1993-2019

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.