Biodiversity Conservation in Urban Regions
Mecklenburg County's Nature Preserves
George Hess @ NC State
Jan Thompson @ Iowa State
Troy Bowman @ Alabama A&M
Spring 2018
Buzzard Rock, Latta Plantation Nature Preserve - Image by G Hess
Class canceled for lack of enrollment - sorry.
We'll try again Spring 2019.


During this Spring 2018 collaborative graduate course (also open to undergraduate seniors), we will explore concepts and practices from conservation biology, landscape architecture, landscape ecology, recreation resource management, and urban planning that frame conservation in urban regions.

We will do this in the context of Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), NC's, system of nature preserves and natural areas.   Mecklenburg's decades-old nature preserve system has been built around a mission of conserving biodiversity, both for its intrinsic value and to benefit people.   It includes some 7,600 acres of preserves, a Center for Biodiversity Studies that boasts an herbarium of some 45,000 specimens and three Nature Centers.

You will work with faculty & students from three universities (NC State, Iowa State, and Alabama A&M) to collaboratively develop course projects, such as conference presentations, web-based materials, and working papers -- have a look at the Story Map we created for Boulder.   We are seeking an interdisciplinary team of students to join us — conservation biologists, ecologists, economists, planners, landscape architects, recreation specialists, & sociologists, to name a few.   We'd like to have 6 students at NC State, 6 at Iowa State, and 3 at Alabama A&M.

The course includes an extended field trip (03.07-03.13) to Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, NC) to study their system of nature preserve and natural areas.   We will meet with key players in the conception, creation, and ongoing management of Mecklenburg County's nature preserve system.   We'll get to visit conserved habitat and learn how they meet the challenges of conservation in an urban region, which include an overabundance of deer, invasive plants, and balancing conservation and human use.
Charlotte, NC, skyline from Little Sugar Creek Greenway - Image by G Hess
Course Basics

  • Weekly video conference meetings throughout the semester
       - NCState   |   NR 595-003   |   Fridays 10:00 - 12:00 Eastern   |   3 credits, graded
       - Iowa State   |   NREM 596B Sec 2   |   Fridays 9:00 - 11:00 Central   |   3 credits, graded
       - Alabama A&M   |   See Troy   |   Fridays 9:00 - 11:00 Central   |   3 credits, graded

  • Course travel to Charlotte, NC, scheduled for Wed 03.07 - Tue 03.13.

  • To secure lodging, minimize costs, and proceed with planning, we need your commitment by Fri 11.17.
            - At NCState this commitment is by registration and a $150 deposit.   No refunds after 11.17, if we have enough students to conduct the course.   If we don't have enough people by 11.17, we will return your funds and cancel the course.
            - At Iowa State this commitment is by registration.
            - At Alabama A&M this commitment is by deposit - see Troy - details being worked out.

  • We've not established specific prerequisites for the course, because there are so many ways in which people might contribute.   If you're interested, please contact us and we'll talk through your interests, learning desires, and potential contributions.

  • We'll do extensive reading of primary material and examination of Mecklenburg County's nature preserve system and develop a plan of inquiry for our trip before traveling to Charlotte. nbsp; On our return, we will reflect on and write about what we've learned.   Our objective is to develop one part of a compilation of urban conservation success stories that delves deeply into the reasons for success.

  • Instructor consent is required to register for this course — please contact George (NC State), Jan (Iowa State), or Troy (Alabama A&M) to discuss your participation.
  • Endangered Schweinitz's Sunflower, Gar Creek Nature Preserve - Image by G Hess
    Preliminary Travel Outline

  • Wed 03.07 - Meet at lodging by 18:00 local time.
  • Thu 03.08 - Fri 03.10 - Conservation site visits including discussions with key players from Mecklenburg County and partner organizations.
  • Sat 03.10 & Sun 03.11 - Working morning, free afternoon.
  • Class dinner Friday or Saturday evening.
  • Mon 03.12 - Conservation site visits.
  • Tues 03.13 - Discussion, synthesis, departure.

    Travel Notes

  • Travel from NC State to Charlotte will be by van; Iowa State students are responsible for arranging and paying for travel to and from Charlotte; Alabama A&M students will have a van available.
  • Lodging is covered by course fees and subsidies.   We will share hotel rooms or rent a house or two.
  • Students are responsible for the cost of most meals.
  • You may arrive in Charlotte before or leave after the scheduled class activities.   NC State's spring break starts 03.05; Iowa State's starts 03.12.
  • We will arrange lodging for the nights of 03.07-03.12.   If you want to stay any additional nights you must arrange that yourself.
  • We will have vans for transport during the course activities.
  • After subsidies from the Universities, we anticipate your total course-related travel cost, including deposit and course fees, to be around $300 for NCState & Alabama State or $800 for Iowa State (because of air fare).   We're working to reduce costs as much as possible.
  • Prairie restoration at Cowan's Ford Nature Preserve - Image by G Hess
    About Your Course Leaders

    Jan Thompson @ Iowa State University's Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management has collaborated with peer faculty members, graduate and undergraduate students, and community participants to enhance and inform management of natural resources.   She is interested in understanding relationships among peoples' perspectives, decision-making, and actions as they influence land use, conservation, and functional ecology in urban and urbanizing areas.

    George Hess @ NC State University's Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources has devoted his academic career to conserving open spaces in urbanizing areas.   He is a founding member of the WakeNature Preserves Partnership, which is devoted to supporting stewardship of high quality natural areas in Wake County, NC.   Although most of his work is in Wake County, George has studied and written about the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan for Pima County, AZ, which students in this course studied in 2015.

    Troy Bowman @ Alabama A&M University's Department of Biological & Environmental Sciences has spent the majority of his academic career exploring the uses and values of best management practices in urban and agricultural areas and their benefits for both nature and human society.   With this class series, he is most interested in increasing the capacity of students and public officials to make better decisions about the use and conservation of urban natural resources by examining what has worked well in cities across the US.
    Reedy Creek Nature Center for Environmental Education - Image by G Hess