Watershed Management & Environmental Restoration


—Winter Term Online Course for Dalhousie Students—


Dalhousie Students can register through Dal Online

Non-Dalhousie students can contact extended.learning@dal.ca or phone 902-893-6666 to register.

[Dalhousie students whom have previously taken this course include those in Environmental Science, International Development Studies, Landscape Architecture, Earth Sciences, Biology, Animal Science, Integrated Environmental Management, Marine Biology, Philosophy, Environment Sustainability and Society, Plant Science, Undeclared Arts, and Master of Planning. The course, which has been taught online for four years, has developed a reputation among students and distance learning professionals for being one of the best organized online courses currently taught at the university. Its reputation is such that it has even attracted enrollment from students at other universities in the region.]

Course Description: This non-quantitative course focuses on social-ecological management and restoration and has a “Humanities” designation. The course will appeal to students with interests in landscape architecture, sustainability science, regional planning, urban design, eco-literacy (i.e. environmental education), and eco-philosophy, of the environmental management of threatened, and the regenerative land use of degraded landscapes around the world. See the overview of course topics below.

Learning Outcomes: The objective of this course is to introduce students to one of the most popular and important forms of contemporary environmental management.  The course approaches this goal through the fields of social-ecological watershed management and environmental restoration, which blend science and sociology, often through the lenses of landscape architecture, ecological science, and environmental engineering. By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand the link between environmental restoration and ecotourism, and selected elements of Canadian water policy
  • Understand the principles of effective, integrative watershed management
  • Recognize how GIS analysis can aid in studying deleterious human influences on freshwater ecosystems, and the importance of stewardship and participation in successful environmental restoration
  • Understand the diversity of options available to improve social-ecological conditions through land-use planning in international settings
  • Foster an appreciation for inter-disciplinarity, in particular, the ability to study and analyze projects holistically in terms of deliverables through the co-dependent lenses of science, sociology, and landscape architecture
  • Develop and hone their critical skills in reviewing, synthesizing, and distilling information in the form of digital presentations and written assignments

Textbooks: Module 1 -- France, R.L. (Ed.) 2005. Facilitating Watershed Management: Fostering Awareness and Stewardship. Rowman & Littlefield. Module 2 -- France, R.L. (Ed.) 2008. Healing Natures, Repairing Relationships: New Perspectives on Restoring Ecological Spaces and Consciousness. Green Frigate Books. An open-access website, Integrated Watershed Management, from the University of British Columbia will serve as an additional course textbook.

Course Format and Marking: For each week, learning material is presented in several different formats. First, a set of PowerPoint presentations (PPTs) are provided that contain information distilled from many pertinent sources. These PPTs contain voice-over dialogue by the professor to guide the student through while emphasizing the most important elements therein. Next, one or several video lectures are viewed. These are our virtual guest speakers - representing some of the world’s leading practitioners and researchers – who were filmed previously at a series of conferences run at Harvard and Dalhousie Universities.

Students produce a list of short salient points that demonstrate they have viewed the online material and read the chapter in the assigned book. These are submitted a handful of times during the course. There is no final exam. In addition to the salient points, students will write a thematic essay about a topic of interest and participate in developing a professional brief addressing elements to ‘restore’ conditions for a real-world location of their choosing.

Module One: Watershed Management and Education

Watersheds have become recognized as being the most effective landscape units for ecologically sound environmental management and planning, as well as for environmental education.  Managing watersheds is often about managing people in the watersheds. This module will explore the sociology and science of watershed management and planning by reviewing the successes and limitations of illustrative case studies. Background topics include watershed atlases, water sensitive planning, water resource and watershed management, land-use systems analysis, and community-based monitoring and management by ‘citizen-scientists.’

Module Two: Environmental Restoration Design

Noted American environmentalist Aldo Leopold once remarked that we live in a damaged “world of wounds.” Today, one of the most rapidly expanding environmental fields is that of restoration. By replacing apathy with action and therefore fatalism with hope, environmental restoration may be the best means of saving environmentalism from itself. Such restoration is as much about the process as product, sociology as ecology, and artful design as empirical engineering or science. Critics, however, warn that restoration is a slippery and dangerous slope, only providing bandage fixes while creating new natures that are mere fakes of the real things lost. This module will review the theoretical and philosophical debates concerning environmental restoration and consider why it is the most intellectually challenging of all forms of contemporary environmental management. The module will also specifically examine case studies involving the return of damaged land to a ‘natural’ state for purposes of ecotourism and environmental education. Other topics include the regeneration of post-industrial urban sites and the ecocultural restorative redevelopment of devastated landscapes in the developing world.