The field of watershed science, and specifically the study of streams, is inherently multidisciplinary, involving a broad array of physical, biological and social sciences. Traditional hierarchical undergraduate and graduate education programs that train students in the fields that support watershed science typically emphasize in-depth study within a specific discipline. This focused education is vital to producing professionals with useful technical and analytical skills. However, most students who pursue careers in watershed and stream analysis rarely work solely within their discipline. Rather, their work is inevitably integrated with other professionals addressing related issues with different skill sets. The ability to work closely and collaboratively with professionals from different backgrounds is fundamental to success in the field of watershed science.
The Ecogeomorphology course fills a unique niche in the UC Davis curriculum. Taught by Professors Jeff Mount and Peter Moyle, the course brings together advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students from an array of backgrounds to work as collaborative, multidisciplinary teams on critical river and stream management questions. Each year, the Ecogeomorphology course examines an issue that impacts the management of river and stream ecosystems. During class, the students discuss this issue in detail, review published literature, and prepare individual reports for publication on the web. Following the period of classroom study, the students conduct a two-week field study of a selected watershed. These field studies involve collection of original information on aquatic and riparian ecology, hydrology and fluvial geomorphology. Students work in teams, sharing their unique expertise with other team member. Through collaboration the student becomes teacher, much as they will in their professional lives. With field studies in Alaska, northern California, British Columbia and the Grand Canyon, students also participate in a capstone course that they will never forget.