California has been my home since I took my first breath, my sense of self created between rolling oak hillsides and riparian corridors. However, my knowledge of the ecological communities I visited on weekends and holidays was sparse at best until last semester when I took Integrative Biology 157, “California Ecosystems.”
This field course uses California parks and nature areas as its syllabus, and the professor, Paul Fine, acts as the class’ guide, guiding us to diverse landscapes throughout the California Floristic Province to learn about the formation and function of vegetative communities in the state. We spent Fridays traveling to relatively local locations, comparing the woody trees and shrubs present to those at other locations in the larger Bay Area, while four weekends were reserved for long trips to the different examples of California’s diverse topography.
In this class, my education transformed from a mostly passive analysis of dense course readings and a regurgitation of facts, formulas and Latin names to an active, community-based investigation of how different ecosystems’ parts function together to form the memorable landscapes of our state. The ability to literally immerse myself in my learning was transformative, and the opportunity to share this experience with 23 other like-minded students and instructors was invaluable.
IB 157 has been the single most important class I have taken at UC Berkeley. Not only did it further my passion for studying ecosystems, but it also gave me an understanding of my home state that will last for a lifetime. No words can fully capture the experience of this class, but hopefully, these pictures from our weekend trips will give a glimpse into the experience of being able to grow alongside one’s area of study.