Lesson 1: Why Mountains Matter
In this introductory lesson, students learn why mountain environments are relevant to people all around the globe. We’ll also define just what a “mountain” is in order to show why it is necessary to think about mountains from various perspectives.
TechTip: Your feet are your vehicle
Lesson 2: Origins
We discuss why mountains are located where they are. How did they get there? We’ll explore the physical origins of mountains, theories of mountain building, and how our changing ideas about mountains and their genesis have shaped our engagement with them.
TechTip: Dress for success
Lesson 3: Climate
Mountains influence climate and weather at both global and local scales. We will examine how elevation affects atmospheric processes, and discuss an ecological manifestation of mountain climate: the alpine tree line.
TechTip: What goes in your pack?
Lesson 4: Bodies at Altitude
What are the effects of high-altitude environments on humans? This lesson explores some of the physiological responses that allow humans to visit higher altitudes, as well as the unique genetic adaptations that permit long-time exposure to the world’s high places.
TechTip: Stay found – preparation
Lesson 5: Water Towers
This lesson focuses on mountain hydrology. We will discuss the ways that water moves through the mountain landscape, how water shapes and changes mountain landscapes, and we'll introduce some hazards associated with water, such as glacial lake outburst floods.
TechTip: Stay found – in the field
Lesson 6: Glaciers
This lesson focuses exclusively on glaciers, their physical composition and processes, how they form and move, and how they modify the landscape. We’ll also examine how our changing understandings of glaciers have shaped the ways people have engaged with mountain landscapes over the past few centuries.
TechTip: Stay safe – from falling
Lesson 7: Imagination
In this lesson, we examine some of the ways people have imagined mountains throughout time, and try to place those ideas and attitudes in their respective cultural contexts. Appreciating the diversity of views – their reception in oral traditions, art, literature, architecture, and other cultural forms – gives us some context for the more dominant ways we think about and celebrate mountains today.
TechTip: Stay safe – winter challenges
Lesson 8: Hazards
Mountain hazards are the focus of this lesson, specifically snow avalanches, landslides, and volcanoes. We will examine the physical processes that lead to instability in mountain landscapes and consider how risks associated with hazards can be managed.
TechTip: Stay safe – avalanche safety (know before you go)
Lesson 9: Mountain Biodiversity and Adaptations of Plants
In this lesson, we discuss the ecological and evolutionary processes that account for the remarkable biodiversity of species living in mountain environments. Then, we explore some of the unique adaptations that plants have for coping with extreme conditions, including cold, intense solar radiation, and short growing seasons.
TechTip: Go farther – camping
Lesson 10: Animal Adaptations
Animals living in mountains have evolved morphological, behavioural, and physiological adaptations to survive under extreme conditions. In this lesson, we will focus on how several species deal with the cold and conclude with a peek at the adaptations of fish living in mountain lakes.
TechTip: Go farther – cooking
Lesson 11: Use and Preservation
How are mountains used? How are they preserved? In this lesson, we examine the often conflicting demands of using mountains, and preserving and managing the integrity of mountain environments, cultures and economies.
TechTip: Go softly – mountain ethics
Lesson 12: Future Mountains
Finally, we look forward and consider some possible future scenarios for mountains. How is our changing climate affecting these places? What are the indicators of change? What lessons can we learn from the past and present to inform decisions for tomorrow?
No background is required. All are welcome!
In addition to course notes, and a full course glossary, each of the 12 lessons includes additional recommended readings and resources to further your learning.
This class consists of twelve 60-minute lessons, each with a series interactive lecture videos, a set of course notes and course glossary, and recommended readings and additional resources. Each lesson also includes a short summative quiz to test your understanding.
Students taking the course for credit at the University of Alberta will be required to take a midterm and final exam, as well.