Klamath Basin Field Course

ESM 480, 3 units

Summer 2022 

Off campus overnight field program
with Mason London, HSU Research Scientist, & Alison O'Dowd, HSU Professor

During this action-packed 14-day field course, students will focus on the restoration of the Klamath Basin while studying its social-ecological systems, drawing on locally relevant cultural perspectives and historic and present-day human relationships with wildlife and the environment. Students will explore course topics via backpacking to high alpine lakes, working on a variety of restoration projects in the Basin, visiting Klamath River dams, rafting a section of the mid-Klamath, snorkeling in Klamath tributaries and camping throughout the basin.

This course has distinct objectives which focus on watershed ecology, restoration and past and current events that apply to issues surrounding these topics. Students that successfully complete this course will receive 3 units of ESM 480 from Humboldt State University. This course can serve as a substitution for several courses on campus including, but not limited to, ESM 355 (Principles of Ecological Restoration), ESM 303 (Ecology and Natural History), ESM 455 (Applied Ecological Restoration), and BIOL 306 (California Natural History). Students should consult with their academic advisor to see how this course can count as a requirement for their major.

This course is an interdisciplinary synthesis of topics concerning restoration, ecology and natural history within the Klamath River Basin. Throughout the course, students will investigate topics associated with past, current and future Klamath Basin restoration projects and associated ecology and natural history. Teaching and learning will be facilitated through lectures, discussions, group activities, service projects and fieldwork.

There are three main themes that we will be using to explore topics of restoration throughout this course: Ecology/Natural History, Cultural Environmental History, and Field Survey Methods (such as monitoring amphibians, fish, benthic macroinvertebrates and plants). The Klamath River flows 253 miles from Southern Oregon to the California coast, draining a basin of more than 15,000 square miles. The Klamath River was once the third most productive salmon and steelhead river in the West, surpassed only by the Columbia and the Sacramento Rivers. With a long history of impact and over-allocated resources, the Klamath Basin faces numerous water quality and quantity challenges. Since the 1860s, the watershed and its fisheries have been subject to negotiation, with negotiations intensifying in recent history. Because of these issues, more focus and interest are directed towards the restoration of this region’s ecological and natural resources.

The Klamath River Basin is an ideal location to study restoration, ecology, and natural history because of the expansive diversity in habitat types, hydrology, geology, ecology, land ownership, and land use. There are numerous restoration projects that have previously, currently and are planned to occur within the Klamath Basin that incorporate all of these themes in one way or another. One restoration project of particular focus in this course will be the removal of four large dams on the mainstem Klamath River, which is scheduled to begin in 2022 and will be the largest dam removal project in history.

We will explore the California portion of this basin through hiking, backpacking, rafting, snorkeling and driving. We will visit Iron Gate dam and reservoir, high alpine lakes that contribute to the headwaters of the Trinity River (a tributary of the Klamath), deep clear pools of the Salmon River via snorkel and mask, and observe the banks of the Klamath River as we raft down the mid-Klamath region. Throughout our exploration of the basin we will learn about principles of restoration, ecology, and natural history as we meet with representatives from local nonprofits, government agencies, and Native American tribes.

Following this program, students should have a working knowledge of and experience in:

  • The variety of restoration projects in the Klamath Basin and how and why they are implemented.
  • The components of the rich and diverse ecosystems that comprise the Klamath River Basin, both terrestrial and aquatic.
  • Field observation skills, including methods for documenting and sharing findings, primarily focused on restoration monitoring and natural history observations.
  • Critical reading, discussion, and evaluation of primary literature in ecology and restoration.
  • Exploration of the unique natural history and geology of the Klamath Basin.
  • The significance and history of Native American Tribes in Klamath related to the dams and other impacts.
  • The array of employment opportunities related to watershed restoration and natural resource science through our meetings with different entities.
  • Basic backcountry skills, including backcountry travel and safety, field navigation, meal planning and preparation, and group management.
  • Basic ecological, management and conservation concepts as related to the Klamath River Basin.
  • Prerequisites: No prerequisite is required, but the successful completion of an introductory Environmental Science/Studies, Geography, Biology, Botany, Ecology, Recreation or related course is highly recommended.

Trip: $1,000, Meals: $160, $220/unit ($100 deposit. Fees are subject to change in 2022.) • ESM 480, 3 units  •  TBA Summer 2022

Download the draft syllabus for Klamath Basin Field Course (Subject to change. PDF file requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

Apply now

This program will be offered in summer 2022. The priority deadline for applications will be May 1, 2022. Applications will be reviewed and participants selected in early May 2022. Late applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until July 1, 2022. Please understand that space is limited and those not initially selected will be placed on a waiting list. Students accepted to the course will receive a permission number to enroll in the course. A $100 deposit will be due upon registration.

[Photo: Justin Garwood California Department of Fish and Wildlife]

Alison O'Dowd

Alison O'Dowd

Alison O’Dowd is the co-director of the HSU River Institute and a professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Management. Dr. O’Dowd’s research interests are in aquatic ecology and restoration ecology of freshwater systems. Her research explores how biological stream communities (primarily benthic macroinvertebrates) respond to disturbance within a watershed. Dr. O’Dowd has taught field courses in French Polynesia, Costa Rica, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the Cascades in Oregon.