Free Online Environmental Education Courses at University of Wisconsin in 2015

Tree-MOOC-postBeginning in 2015, the University of Wisconsin will offer six free, non-credit Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) on “a shared theme of sustainability and the environment,” says a UW-Madison News article, adding to more than forty existing online courses in the school’s Continuing Studies program, some offering professional certifications or CEUs (Continuing Education Units).

Detailed descriptions seem to be not available yet, but the article lists the new courses as (ones of special interest to Sylvabiota highlighted in green):

  • Understanding Aldo Leopold’s Legacy, taught by Timothy Van Deelen, associate professor in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, Janet Silbernagel, professional programs director and professor of landscape architecture and environmental studies, and Paul Robbins, professor and director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
  • Changing Weather and Climate in the Great Lakes Region, taught by Steven Ackerman, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, and Margaret Mooney, senior outreach specialist for the Space Science and Engineering Center.
  • Energy and the Earth, taught by Alan Carroll, professor of geoscience.
  • Forests and Humans, taught by Tom Gower, professor, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology.
  • Virtual Shakespeare, taught by Jesse Stommel, assistant professor, Department of Liberal Studies and the Arts, Sarah Marty, faculty associate, Department of Liberal Studies and the Arts, and R L Widmann, associate professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder.
  • Climate Change and Public Health, taught by Jonathan Patz, professor and director of the Global Health Institute.

For more information about Aldo Leopold, one of Sylvabiota’s heroes, the Aldo Leopold page at is a good place to start.

Copyright © 2014 Sylvabiota™

The Wilderness Act is 50 years old and getting stronger all the time!

In our comprehensive celebration of the Wilderness Act 50th Anniversary, we must begin with this stunning video from the National Park Service, America’s Wilderness.  It uses astounding video of our U.S. wilderness area, natural sounds, and beautiful music to present the definition of wilderness established in the National Wilderness Preservation System Act of 1964 (PDF).

16 U.S. C. 1131-1136 Section 2(c) DEFINITION OF WILDERNESS.  A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value. – Wilderness Act, Public Law 88-577 (16 U.S. C. 1131-1136). September 3, 1964

Listen to a recording ( of President Lyndon Johnson’s speech given upon his signing the Act into law.  It’s not just political.  It’s instructive about historic conservation movements all around the country since Teddy Roosevelt.

We have a profound fundamental need for areas of wilderness… within which we stand without our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment. – Howard Zahniser, activist and principal author of the Wilderness Act

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Forest Immersion for Human Health

You come out of the woods better than you went in.  That’s a good reason to leave forests better than you found them.  The science is clear:

Being in the forest is good for your health.

“Spending time in forests makes us healthier,” says the article, Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health published by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC).

The article includes a huge list of scientific study and research documents on the topic of human health benefits from forest and other outdoor activities.

From the article:


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Rare type of New England cinquefoil wildflower rescued from brink of extinction

In their blog, Conserving the Nature of the Northeast, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Northeast) announced “the first plant recovered under the Endangered Species Act.”

Article excerpt, link, photos and more …

cinquefoil-robbins-USFWS picture

Robbins Cinquefoil (Potentilla robbinsiana). Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service (public domain)

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Naturalists after your heart, mind and belly

Forests inspire caring.  They are their own inspiration for our universal inner naturalist.  Still, education is a must when it comes to learning to leave our forests better than we found them.  The education comes in many forms, but the most powerful one is immersion in forest experiences.  Simple presence.  The deeper and longer we invest time in the forest, the more we naturally understand and appreciate the joys of leaving it better than we found it.  It’s built into our DNA to be that way.

It doesn’t have to be about altruism or nobly saving the planet.  You can leave forests better than you found them just for the fun and joy of doing it, because it’s the natural thing to do, once you let the forest inspire you.

Some special people are great catalysts for our education and inspiration.  Like who?

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Help from Eckhart Tolle and Sitka National Historic Park

When you walk through a forest that has not been tamed and interfered with by man, you will see not only abundant life around you, but you will also encounter fallen trees and decaying trunks, rotting leaves and decomposing matter at every step.  Wherever you look, you will find death as well as life.

Upon closer scrutiny, however, you will discover that the decomposing tree trunk and rotting leaves not only give birth to new life, but are full of life themselves.  Microorganisms are at work.  Molecules are rearranging themselves.  So death isn’t to be found anywhere.  There is only the metamorphosis of life forms.  What can you learn from this?

Death is not the opposite of life.  Life has no opposite.  The opposite of death is birth.  Life is eternal.

~ Eckhart Tolle from Stillness Speaks


Explore Sitka National Historic Park (U.S. National Park Service) – “On an island amid towering spruce and hemlock, Sitka National Historical Park preserves the site of a battle between invading Russian traders and indigenous Kiks.ádi Tlingit; park visitors are awed by Tlingit and Haida totem poles standing along the park’s scenic coastal trail; and the restored Russian Bishop’s House speaks of Russia’s little known colonial legacy in North America.”

Please suggest a web link relating to
“leaving forests better than we found them”
that you enjoyed recently
… or one you CREATED recently!

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