Sierra College Department of Biological Sciences

Bio. Sci. 16P - Death Valley and Desert Ecosystems: Course Detail

(2 unit - approx. 54 hrs. min.)

Catalog Description: Examines the ecosystems of Death Valley National Monument and nearby desert study sites. Extreme differences of elevation from high mountains to below sea level (valley floor) provide a rich variety of physical environments, desert plants, and animals to study. Fieldwork will emphasize identification of animals (insects, reptiles, birds & mammals) and plants (unique desert families); their special physical and behavioral adaptations to the harsh, desert climate and habitats; and man's affects upon the fragile desert ecosystems.

(typical class outline might include:)

Specific Topics:

Desert flowering plant families: characteristics and examples; Desert reptile adaptations (physiology, behavior, anatomy); Desert Communities - stability, fragility, diversity; Man's history and affects upon the desert environments (Death Valley area specifically; Plant adaptations to severe salt and water stress.

General Concepts and Topics to be emphasized:

Classification & Taxonomy; Homeostatic responses of Organisms; Cell Theory - cell organization, strategies; Water - use and loss by biol. systems; Xeric, Mesic, Hydro - plant adaptations; Food chains and webs (trophic levels); Production of terrestrial ecosystems; Temperature relationships (production); Evapotranspiration and water balance; Climate patterns, regional; Weathering, (chemical, biomechanical); Geological processes - deserts; Field & Wilting Capacity; Rain shadow effect (causes of deserts); Desert environments, communities; Distribution of Organisms - pattern of growth; Competition in animal populations; Competition in plant populations, allelopathy; Carrying Capacity of the Environment; Endangered and rare species, status & care; Environmental resources - Mining (use/abuse); Monuments, Parks and Wilderness system

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