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Individual Highlight

Writing Appalachian Ecology: Essays and Outreach

Photo of Journal cover. William Peterjohn, WVU.Journal cover. William Peterjohn, WVU.Snapshot : In the summer of 2012 and 2013, students from West Virginia University's English Department, along with their instructors, participated in an unusual course focused on exploring, experiencing, and writing about the Fernow Experimental Forest. The course, Writing Appalachian Ecology, aimed to bridge the gap between sciences and humanities. Both the students and the Forest Service scientists involved in the course learned much about communication from each other.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Adams, Mary Beth 
Research Location : West Virginia
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2013
Highlight ID : 507


Writing Appalachian Ecology is a summer college course funded by a National Science Foundation initiative that encourages communication and dialogue between scientists and the public. In the course, students read and discussed creative works as well as scientific papers in the classroom; listened to presentations by Forest Service scientists; traveled twice as a class to the Fernow Experimental Forest (plus camping overnight!); and composed their own creative nonfiction essays, blending science with personal reflections and experience. Students were encouraged to think about the long-term future of our planet: What could our world be like in 200 years� How will current environmental problems change the future� What will the effects of global climate change look like� The Forest Service scientists were encouraged to describe their research to a non-scientific audience and develop different communication modes. The students gained an appreciation of the role of research in understanding and ensuring the future of forests, and wrote essays that they shared at a public reading and were published. The scientists also gained insights on Appalachian forests by hearing their work described in the essays and from seeking novel ways to communicate science to a non-technical audience.

Additional Resources

Fernow Experimental Forest(web site)

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • , Melissa Thomas-Van Gund
  • Jim Kochenderfer (retired)
  • Tom Schule
  • Bill Peterjohn & Katie Fallon, West Virginia University