You are here

CHID 498 B: Special Colloquia

Meeting Time: 
F 1:00pm - 3:50pm
MAR 268
Joint Sections: 
SMEA 550 D
Cleo Woelfle-Erskine Headshot
Cleo Woelfle-Erskine

Syllabus Description:

Critical and Imaginative Restoration Ecologies

SMEA 550D / CHID 498C, Autumn 2018. Thursdays, 10:30a-1:20p, South Campus Center, Room 308

Course taught by: Rob Anderson, Department of Geography. Email: Office Hours: Mondays, 11:30a-1pm, Smith Hall 426. Sign up at

Course co-developed by: Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs Email: Office Hours: Tuesdays 11:30am-1pm, Marine Affairs Building 233. Sign up at



What does it mean to restore nature, and what are practitioners and policy makers doing when they set out to improve degraded ecosystems? Ecological restoration is state and federal policy, tribal strategy for upholding treaty rights, grassroots effort, green jobs initiative, profitable private enterprise, and more. Restoration critics note that it can enable ecosystem destruction and gentrification, as well as reiterate settler ideas of perfecting and controlling natural processes. Ecological restoration can also be a speculative, hopeful action for the continuance of life in the face of anthropogenic damage, and a gesture of inter-species solidarity. To this end, restoration needs to be critically challenged—and re-imagined, in all its relations and perspectives.

This class is for current and future practitioners of ecological restoration, philosophers of the Anthropocene, and interdisciplinary thinkers and writers of all stripes. In addition to the usual suspects, we will read anthropology, geomorphology, political ecology, speculative fiction, and community activists’ critical perspectives on ecological restoration. We’ll work with proven imaginative and experimental practices to foster ecological restoration that is real, not just greenwashing—and propose future modes of earth belonging and earth repair.



Hard copy of the course reader, available at Professional Copy N Print, University and 42nd.

Bound notebook (recommended with unlined pages so that you can also draw)

Pen and pencil



Thursday, October 18th - SOCC 308 is not available, class will be held at a different location TBD

Thursday, November 22th - NO CLASS - Thanksgiving

Monday, December 10th, 10:30a-1:30p - Final project presentations

Full schedule (including assigned reading) is available here



  1. Readings: Completion of all readings before class meetings.
  2. Reading responses – Students will write weekly responses to the assigned readings in the form of “hundreds.” Hundreds are a tool for bringing focus and precision to a writing practice; they are precisely 100 words long and tightly focused around one idea or question. You should post your response to the class Canvas site in advance of each class meeting in time to give everyone a chance to read one another’s posts and inspire our collaborative thinking for class discussion.
  3. Seminar participation: Contribution of substantive and thoughtful questions and comments in seminar discussion. The work of seminar is shared inquiry into unfamiliar territory. While each class session contains its own discussion, we also sustain our collective conversation across the whole quarter. Attentive reading, clear thought, inspired listening, and generosity of spirit are the lifeblood of the seminar. In part, this means all participants shape the conversation, through response to the guiding questions, but also, crucially, by asking probing questions of other speakers, by incorporating and extending others’ thoughts in your response, by turning to the text for example—and most often by listening carefully as others speak.

4 and 5: Students will choose a local* case of ecological restoration as a site to focus and apply key concepts from course readings and discussions. Your case study may be a site located in saltwater or freshwater, on land, or along an interface. (If appropriate, it may be a site at which you are already working, or have connections with land managers, scientists, or planners working there). Over the course of the quarter, you will be asked to consider this site through various lenses, including examining its impact on politics, economics, local communities, treaty rights, gentrification, environmental justice, and more. *“local” means nearby enough that you can visit it several (minimum 4, the more the better) times over the course of the quarter.

This case will be explored through 2 assignments:

  1. Critical restoration field journal: here, you will engage in a practice of reflective writing and observation. You will make at least 4 visits to your site to make observations, as well as writing critical reflections at least twice a week (not necessarily on site). Weekly field prompts will be provided for inspiration, but your creative approaches will also be highly encouraged. Field journals are a standard for field scientists like geologists, botanists, and wildlife biologists—as lab journals have been for laboratory scientists. But similar journals make up a crucial practice for poets, creative writers, artists, and travelers as well. You might find inspiration from any of these traditions.
  2. Case study major project: Drawing on your observations and reflections, you will develop a final report, reflection, proposal, or other resource to improve the effect (ecological and/or social) of the work of restoration at your case study. This work should be both critical and imaginative, posing critical challenges to current practices and approaches as well as offering imaginative, affirmative possibilities for creating better environmental futures. This project may take a variety of forms: a conventional academic paper, a more practically-oriented written report, a creative/artistic work with critical abstract, or another form proposed by the student. Your work will be presented to the class (and, if possible, to members of the restoration community at your project site) in a final project showcase at the end of the quarter.

6. Speculative interlude reading: Over the course of the first six weeks of the quarter, each student will read a creative work, such as an SF (science fiction/speculative fiction) novel, that envisions future ecologies and/or practices of earth repair. Each student will give a five-minute presentation to the class relating their speculative reading to themes developed in other readings and seminar.

Additional assignments required for graduate credit (SMEA 550):

7. Seminar/discussion facilitator: each graduate student will take the role of leading class discussion during one week’s meeting (approx. 30-45 minutes, dates to be determined in first week of class). Your facilitation of the class meeting may take various forms, such as: a mini-lecture on a topic related to your own case study or drawing from previous experience in restoration; leading a discussion on one of the key habitats of interest (potentially in collaboration with a guest speaker); reading one of the supplemental readings (or another reading of your choice, relevant to the course content) for the week and presenting a mini-lecture; or facilitating other forms of critical and/or creative engagement with the texts. Please consult with me (via email and/or in office hours) well in advance of your facilitation date to discuss your ideas.

Sign up for seminar facilitation here:

  1. Literature review: Into the final project, each graduate student will incorporate a brief literature review, in the format typical of a scientific paper, on a topic related to your case study: either the problem as posed by practitioners, or another problem you identify as bearing on the case. For SMEA students using the course to meet the science requirement, this literature review must be from the natural science literature.



Case study major project: 30%

Field Journal: 20%

Participation: 20%.

Reading responses (100s) and other written assignments: 20%

Speculative interlude: 10%

We expect graduate student writing, seminar contributions, and final projects to reflect their advanced level of study, and will grade accordingly.

As described above, participation entails thoughtful, consistent, lively engagement with course activities and materials, with writing work, and with one another. (For graduate students, it also includes discussion facilitation.) Please talk, listen, and collaborate with openness and respect. Unless you are physically present for activities and conversation, we will have no evidence of your participation in these crucial parts of the class. If you aren’t sure how to participate strongly and visibly, meet with me in office hours to talk about it.

Late work: It is important to maintain equal opportunity for all students to demonstrate their understanding and engagement with the course material within an amount of time that is standardized across the class. It is also an important academic and professional skill to be able to meet a deadline. For these reasons, late work will not be accepted outside of circumstances such as a documented personal illness or family emergency. Contact me well in advance of the due date if you anticipate being unable to complete an assignment on time.



Your classmates and instructors expect that you will help maintain a productive environment for their learning. We ask all class members to hold space for engaged conversation and focused writing, and to cultivate attention and deliberate presence. Please treat one another with professionalism and respect, both in person and in use of online discussions (i.e., on Canvas page).

One method we will employ to this end is keeping the classroom “longhand”—using notebooks and handwritten notes, and avoiding the use of laptops and other electronic devices. (Unless you need these devices, of course—meet with us if you do, and we will work out an accommodation).



We welcome the opportunity to work with all students to ensure equal access to the course. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you experience barriers to access due to a temporary health condition or permanent disability (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), and require accommodations, please contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS) at, in person at 011 Mary Gates Hall, or at 206-543-8924. DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s), and DRS. If you have already established accommodations with DRS, please communicate your approved accommodations to me as soon as possible so we can discuss your needs in this course.

Dear SMEA Faculty,


As you prepare your syllabi for the fall, please ensure you include the following (unchanged) statement on religious accommodation as requested by the Office of the Provost:

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (


We require that you know and uphold the university’s high standards for student conduct and academic honesty. Take the time to read them:

What is Academic Misconduct?

UW Student Conduct Code

As described in these documents, the consequences of potential violations can be serious. Do not plagiarize! Do not present others’ words or ideas as your own. Do not assist anyone else in doing this. Suspected violations will be referred to the appropriate offices of the university. Anytime you are unsure of your practices, talk to us, or to a writing studio tutor, librarian, or other knowledgeable authority.

Catalog Description: 
Each colloquium examines a different subject or problem from a comparative framework.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
September 17, 2019 - 9:01pm