Biodiversity 4: Forests, Fungi and Living Shorelines

Biodiversity 4: Forests, Fungi and Living Shorelines

Summer 2021, Wednesdays, June 16th – September 1st

12 weekly classes with our staff scientist, Jim Laurie, held at 1pm and 7pm ET on Zoom.

The Excitement and Inspiration of Science for the Curious to the Serious and everyone in-between. A fully interactive online adventure with discussions, experiments and explorations for independent thinkers of any age, suitable for high school and college students, as well as inquiring minds of all levels, from beginner to PhD!

To join Jim’s class, register here!

Photo by Karl Anderson

Course Description

How did nature create the great ecosystems that have supported our many diverse human communities? How can we in turn learn from natural processes to support life and the carbon, water, and nutrient cycles that regulate our planet?

In the first part of this course, we will focus on fungi and their role in forest ecosystems. We will learn how mycorrhizal fungi and other forest life work together to share nutrients and nurture a soil microbiome. A healthy soil microbiome acts like an immune system for the forest much like our personal gut microbiomes act in our own bodies. Understanding the symbiotic relationships between organisms is crucial to carrying out effective conservation and restoration efforts.

In the second part of this course, we will turn to oceans and the creation of living shorelines. In particular, we will investigate the coastal ecosystems on our North American East Coast, including Maine, Chesapeake Bay, and the Coral Coast in the Florida Keys, using Rachel Carson’sThe Edge of the Sea, which describes these areas from her perspective in the 1950s when these systems were still largely intact. In this book, Carson focused on the life cycles of invertebrates and the kelps and algae that start the ocean food web via photosynthesis.  We will look at ways to restore coastlines even if seas rise several feet in coming decades.

As we face the reality of our planetary health, some of our most important tasks are to restore forests and wetlands to act as the powerful carbon sinks they can be, and to create living shorelines to buffer against rising seas and foster flourishing marine ecosystems. We will use our readings and discussions as a jumping off point to envision the restoration projects that can protect and regenerate living systems into the future.

We will read a chapter or two each week from books by some great writers and scientists, beginning with the three books listed below.

  1. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures –by Rupert Sheldrake (Random House – 2020)
  2. Mycorrhizal Planet: How Symbiotic Fungi Work with Roots to Support Planet Health and Build Soil Fertility– by Michael Phillips (Chelsea Green – 2017) 
  3. The Edge of the Sea – by Rachel Carson (Houghton Mifflin – 1955)

As the course develops, class members may want to share other sources or make recommendations.

Biodiversity 4: Fungi, Forests, and Living Shorelines is a 12-week course of exploration and discovery. There will be weekly classes of two hours on Zoom on Wednesdays beginning on June 16, 2021. In order to accommodate the participants’ schedules, the classes will be given twice each week, at 1 pm & 7 pm, and you may attend either session. It is open to anyone with curiosity and a desire to figure things out.

This course builds on knowledge from previous courses, but there are no prerequisites. There will be several members in this course who have participated in our previous conferences and courses and they will be there to help you explore and catch up in your learning. There is a lot of discussion and sharing among class members, and new students should feel free to ask questions and get involved. You will find that you are in the company of curious and generous people looking for ways to build a better future. Hopefully, you will make new friends as you learn about nature’s processes and decide to become a part of our team of budding planetary restorers.

To join, register here!