Spring 2024

Keystone Kin

Listed in: Colloquia, as COLQ-328


Lisa Brooks (Section 01)


How might we understand ecosystems as kinship networks in which we are embedded? Both
eastern coyotes and beavers have been described as “keystone species.” What happens when we
think about them in relationship, not as separate species but as keystone kin? In this research
seminar, we will pay close attention to eastern coyotes, usually described as newcomers, and to
beavers, who were “exterminated” from New England then returned. We will track coyotes in
wetlands created by beavers, from the Wildlife Sanctuary to Quabbin Reservoir. We will watch
how beavers transform waterways. We will map the migration trails that coyotes took as they
traveled east, through railroad beds, reservoirs and beaver ponds. We will read Ben Goldfarb’s
Eager and Dan Flores’s Coyote America, authors who suggest that if we want to learn about
adaptation to climate change, it “might be wise” to “keep our eye on” beavers and coyotes.

This course is part of a tutorial series that engages Amherst students in substantive research with faculty in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. Seminar participants will work on collaborative projects, with the opportunity to continue this work as paid interns during the summer.

Open to sophomores and juniors. Limited to 6 students. Spring Semester. Professor Brooks.

How to handle overenrollment: If the course is over enrolled, students will be asked to provide a short statement about their interest in taking the course.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Outdoor education, including close attention to landscape. Field trips will involve moderate hiking in cold weather, snow, forested uplands and wetlands. Emphasis on immersive learning and kinesthetic learning, collaborative research, close reading and visual analysis, data collection and analysis, digital mapping and storytelling.

COLQ 328 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 8:30 AM - 11:20 AM CHAP 205