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FOR 204, Forest Ecosystem Decision-Making (Fall, 2 credits)

This course is foundational to our forestry students’ academic careers as it introduces context, principles, tools and measurement of natural resource management planning and actions. It is here that the forestry students of NREM begin to develop a sense of the resource challenges and opportunities that they will face as resource professionals. They are exposed to methods and tools of decision-making in various contexts (e.g., public, private, and urban forests) as well as the quantification of ecosystem processes, services, and goods produced/mediated by forests.  The students often work in teams and learn critical social skills such as teamwork and managing group dynamics. The course culminates in a semester long project where student teams develop and present comprehensive management plans regarding a local property that the students have analyzed throughout the semester. The key tools that are introduced to students in this class include GIS and assorted data layers (current and historical orthophotos, digital elevation & LiDAR, soils), a forest inventory calculator and growth simulation model called IA Timber Inventory Growth & Economic Review, and a watershed level land use planning model called PE/WI (People, Ecosystem, watershed Integration).

FOR 204 students heading to field site.
FOR 204 students heading to field site.

FOR 206, Forestry Field Camp (Fall, 4 credits)

This is a three-week field camp designed to provide forestry and natural resource students with an immersive experiential learning opportunity that addresses current and past topics and issues relevant to forest land management and forestry as a science.  I teach this course on a rotational basis with colleagues in the forestry and animal ecology programs in NREM. 

Forestry field camp. Students hiking at Lolo National Forest, Western Montana.
Forestry field camp. Students hiking at Lolo National Forest, Western Montana.

AGRON 240X. Cannabis: Potential and Constraints for a New Crop. (Co-teach with Matt O'Neal). (Spring, 2 credits)

History, biology, agronomy, and economics of hemp production as it is allowed to be grown in Iowa.

Students working on cannabis enterprise budgets.
Students working on cannabis enterprise budgets.

NREM 305: Spatial Analysis for Conservation Planners (3 credits offered spring, co-taught with Emily Zimmerman and Tom Isenhart)

Course description: Course focuses on applied spatial conservation planning in agricultural landscapes. Students will have the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning of tools used to guide conservation planning and evaluate best management practice placement, costs, and environmental outcomes. This course will be particularly useful for students interested in employment with the USDA NRCS and other environmental management entities. The tool of particular interest is the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework and the ACPF Financial and Nutrient Reduction Tool (ACPF FiNRT).

FOR 451, Natural Resource Economics (Spring, 4 credits)

FOR 451 involves broad analytical perspectives on natural resource management suitable for NREMs forestry, wildlife ecology and fisheries students. The first half of the course focuses on enterprise level financial analysis of land-use opportunities and trade-offs; the second half of the semester covers more broadly the economic social-welfare implications of aggregated, landscape level land-use and the role policy plays in correcting market failures and incentivizing socially valuable land-use. In 451 (and all my other classes) I integrate a number of computer-based models that are currently being used to analyze the bio-physical, financial and/or economic implications of land use decisions

For 451
FOR 451 students using the PEWI model to design economically valuable watersheds.

FOR 454, Senior Forestry Practicum (Co-teach with Dick Schultz; Spring, 3 credits)

This cap-stone/service course for undergraduate forestry students is a critical component of NREMs’ impactful resource curriculum. Our capstone process involves the coupling of student teams with a private landowner or public agency into a client/consultant working relationship. Student responsibilities lie in developing and communicating comprehensive land management plans. The capstone opportunity facilitates student integration of a body of relatively fragmented resource management knowledge into a unified whole within the context of a real-world situation. Student-centered benefits of a capstone opportunity are well documented in forestry education and can include: opportunity to directly apply knowledge from other courses; advanced preparation for professional jobs; less on-the-job training is require post-graduation; experience active problem-solving, decision-making, critical thinking, and critical and oft neglected human relations dynamics. Based on student feedback (informal and formal) this course is often a highlight of our forestry majors’ academic requirements.

SusAg 509, Agroecosystem Analysis (Co-taught with Matt Liebman; Fall, 4 credits)

This is an experiential, interdisciplinary examination of Midwestern agricultural and food systems, emphasizing both field visits and classroom activities. Focus on understanding multiple elements, perspectives (agronomic, economic, ecological, social, etc.), and scales of operation. SusAg 509 is one of the core courses in the Graduate Program for Sustainable Agriculture (

NREM 570, Advanced Decision Making and Resource Allocation (Spring, 3 credits)

The primary goal of this course is to help graduate students of all disciplines expand their understanding of theoretical concepts related to the value and valuation of natural resources and the application of this valuation in decision making. Concurrent to theoretical aspects students also study recent trends in applied research to examine the effectiveness of various economic tools in solving resource-related problems. By the end of the semester, graduate students (many with very limited backgrounds in economics proper) will have: a) a better understanding of the social complexities of natural resource value and valuation; b) knowledge and skills in performing economic analysis on multiple scales; c) a better understanding of the economic aspects of their dissertation research topic; and d) basic understanding of the limitations and caveats associated with economic theory. This is a key course in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University in that it provides a legitimate yet broadly accessible graduate level introduction to resource economics for students with varied backgrounds and interests. This is also a course that students majoring in economics can utilize to apply their advanced understanding of financial/economic concepts, methodology and interpretation in unique contexts as well as in multi-disciplinary setting.