Fernow Experimental Forest


Program name:

Writing Appalachian Ecology: Long-Term Reflections on Environmental Biology

Brief description of program/project development and components:

Writing Appalachian Ecology is a creative writing course at West Virginia University that encourages students 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? How will our relationships with the natural world change? In this class students have the opportunity to address questions like these in the creative nonfiction essays they write.

The course takes place in the classroom at West Virginia University as well as in the Fernow Experimental Forest near Parsons, WV. The federal government has owned the forest since 1915, and in the mid-1930s watershed and forest research projects were initiated; these long-term projects provide excellent opportunities for reflection on “ecological change” and “our relationship with the natural world.” We travel twice as a class to Fernow, where we hear from several researchers who work on the forest. Students also read, discuss, and respond to the work of classic and contemporary writers as they prepare their own personal reflections based on their experiences and the research underway at Fernow.

Relationship with core science, education, cultural programs at the site:

This course will expose generations of students in the humanities – along with their friends and families – to the long-term research taking place at the Fernow Experimental Forest, and the value of this research to society.

System for sharing and archiving outcomes:

Student essays, along with photographs taken during their field trips, will be used to create a self-published book.  Copies of the book will be distributed to all participants, funding agencies, and will be available for purchase on Amazon.com.

One copy of the book will be achieved in the library at West Virginia University and excerpts from the essays will be posted on the Fernow LTREB web site.

A public reading by the students of their essays will be sponsored each fall by the English Department at West Virginia University.

When possible the instructors will share our experiences at national meetings such as those sponsored by The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment.

Future goals:

We hope collaborative efforts between the sciences and the humanities at West Virginia University will grow to include the visual arts, music, textile arts, and dance.  We’d like to create an integrated series of courses for undergraduates that lasts an entire semester and to incorporate the community of life-long learners in West Virginia.

Contact person(s):

Bill Peterjohn (bpj@wvu.edu) and Katie Fallon (Katie.Fallon@mail.wvu.edu)




This effort is supported by a grant from NSF’s Long-Term Research in Environmental Biology program and a WVU Innovative Summer Courses Grant.