Alpine Ecology

biol 478 - Pacific Rim - Summer Session II


Ecology of the high mountains of the Pacific Northwest, with particular attention to adaptation of plant and animal life to montane climates and altitudes, and analysis and interpretation of altitudinal zonation of biotic communities with applications to latitudinal biogeography. Also included are topics of physiological responses of organisms to reduced oxygen levels, low temperatures and high altitude radiation regimes. (4 credits) 


Professor: Dr. Eric Steinkamp

Meets: Tuesday & Friday


knowledge gained

Hands-on understanding of the structure and function of a plethora of alpine ecosystems and their biological communities

Understanding of the geological forces that form and influence the mountains of the ring of fire

An understanding of organism adaptations at high elevations


skills developed

Analysis of research done in selected areas in high mountain ecosystems

Keeping a detailed field and reflection journal

Ability to capture and present information about observed animals and plants and their ecological relationships


field experiences

Hurricane Hill – Plant and animal adaptations to extreme climates and snow cover

Heather Lake Cirque – Understanding of glacier-carved cirques and the unique challenges to life, especially salamander and orchid life cycles

Mount Rainier – Effects of present glaciers on ecosystems, analysis of the fellfields and mountain goat habitat and behavior, and observation of the unique White Tailed Ptarmigan, its adaptations, and behavioral observation

Olympic Mountains – Obstruction Point – Investigation of marsh and windswept ridge ecosystems and inhabitants with an emphasis on understanding trophic levels through black bear and cougar scat analysis