NDSU Distance & Continuing Education (DCE)

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K-12 Professionals

Northern Plains Grazing Lands Ecology

EDUC 2000




Instructor: Rebecca Phillips

Grading: Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory

Tuesday, June 01, 2021 - Saturday, June 05, 2021

June 1 - 4 (online lectures 8:00 - 9:15 a.m.) & June 5 (field trip 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. - bring your own bag lunch) w/completion June 11, 2021

Instruction Mode: Internet-Synchronous (Online Class)

Available Seats: 25 of 25

Academic Level: K-12 Professional Development

NDSU Credit Fee: $50

Course Description:

Grazing land ecosystem properties, processes and services will be presented with an emphasis on how livestock grazing is used to enhance plant and avian diversity by exploring grassland habitats. Four 1¼ hr. online lectures (one lecture per day, June 1 - June 4) will prepare students for the hands-on, collaborative teaching event at a working ranch (Turtle Lake, ND) on June 5, 2021.


The primary objective is to encourage new ways of thinking about the natural world by specifically integrating land management, physical and biological sciences into the ecosystem framework. At the end of the course, each student will create a lesson plan tailored to a specific academic performance standard. The standard will be selected by the individual student to meet the needs of the curriculum.

Students will:

  1. apply plant, soil, and wildlife knowledge to interpret field observations.
  2. explain how ranchers manage grassland production to achieve a long-term vision.
  3. explain how livestock can be used as tools to modify soils, hydrology, and habitat.
  4. design a lesson plan using information and activities from the course.
  5. engage with rancher, education, and conservation representatives from Envirothon, Audubon Dakota, North Dakota Game & Fish (NDGFD), the North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition (NDGLC), and Ecological Insights.
  6. describe grassland ecosystem processes, properties, functions, and services.
  7. describe factors affecting the grassland carbon cycle and soil formation.

Topical Outline:

June 1, 2021 Online Lecture {8:00 – 9:15 a.m. Central} 

  • Class Introductions, Course Objectives, Discussion Framework, Field Activity Logistics, Academic Standards Selection.

June 2, 2021 Online Lecture {8:00 – 9:15 a.m. Central}

  • Grassland ecosystem overview: properties, processes, functions, services, and potential for Improvement through holistic thinking.

June 3, 2021 Online Lecture {8:00 – 9:15 a.m. Central}

  • Plant and avian ecology: species variation among habitats, ecophysiology, grazing response factors, and soil formation.

June 4, 2021 Online Lecture {8:00 – 9:15 a.m. Central}

  • Field activity preparation: Review habitat map and species expected at each stop, data collection methods, data entry templates, field exercises question and answer session.

June 5, 2021 Field Event – {8:30 a.m.—3:00 p.m. Central}  Meet on ND 41 between mile marker 46 & 47 about 6 miles North of Turtle Lake. A sign will be posted.

  • Students will engage with the instructor and other speakers at a working ranch owned and operated by Gene Goven. Participants at the field event will be introduced to representative of the NDGLC, Audubon Dakota, Envirothon, and NDGFD. Each representative will present unique attributes at each habitat site and assist with data collection and learning exercises. The role of grazers and the influence of grazers on specific ecosystem properties and services will be highlighted by regenerative ranchers. Students will observe and record the following:
  1. Habitat structural variation
  2. Habitat management with livestock
  3. Plant and avian diversity
  4. Soil variation

Final project: Each student will complete a lesson plan, in accordance with chosen performance standard, using the materials learned in this course for prospective classroom implementation.  Inquiry and evidence-based lesson plans will be encouraged.

Course Materials:

We will present educational materials relevant to grazed grassland ecosystems. We will focus on how grassland management alters ecosystem services (wildlife habitat, soil and water conservation, productivity) over the course of five lectures and during the hands-on field event. Scientific principles associated with geography, hydrology, soil, flora, fauna, and herbivory will be discussed with respect to variable habitats (wetland, shrub land, upland) located within the greater grassland ecosystem. Materials presented over the course of five remote lectures will be applied at the field event, where representatives from Audubon Dakota, NDGFD, the NDGLC, and Ecological Insights will lead students in hands-on learning exercises. Learning exercises will be applicable to the classroom, where complexity and detail can be modified to fit education objectives across age groups.

About The Instructor

Rebecca Phillips

Dr. Rebecca Phillips received her Ph.D., in Environmental Science & Engineering in 2000 from University of North Carolina, earned her Master's in Interdisciplinary Studies in Ecology in 1997 from Colorado State University and her Bachelor's in Biology and Physical Science in 1994 from Mississippi University for Women. For additional information, please view https://www.ecologicalinsights.org/rebeccaphillips.

**Registration Instructions:

Online registration URL will close June 9th @ 5:00 p.m.

**Register Now