Course Syllabus

FISH/ESRM 447: Watershed Ecology & Management


Note: Because classes can no longer be held in person, FISH/ESRM 448 has been cancelled.  FISH/ESRM 447 will move to an experimental and untested online format.  I will be updating the syllabus soon with a new course schedule and assessment plan.  For now, please keep the class meeting times listed in the UW time schedule available for online activities. 

We will have our first online class meeting on Tuesday March 31st at 10:00am.  Our permanent Zoom link for this class is:, which is also accessible via the Zoom tool to the left.

Course Description
    This course is an investigation of stream and river ecosystems from a watershed perspective.  Our emphasis will be on learning the fundamental processes affecting the structure and function of flowing aquatic ecosystems.  Multiple theoretical concepts of riverine ecosystems will be evaluated and used to underpin our examination.  Specific topics will include river/stream hydrology, geomorphology, biogeochemical cycles, food webs, and global change.   While the course will initially focus on “natural” ecosystems, we will also use case studies to explore human interactions with rivers and approaches to river management.

Gordon Holtgrieve, Assoc. Professor, Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
Office hours:  Wednesdays 10:30 - 12:30 PDT via Zoom

Teaching Assistant
Elizabeth Elmstrom, graduate student, Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
Office hours:  Tuesdays 11:30 - 13:00 PDT via Zoom

Meeting Times
    Lecture will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:00 - 11:20 PDT via Zoom.  Our permanent Zoom link for this class is:, which is also accessible via the Zoom tool to the left. 

This course is scheduled to run synchronously at your scheduled class time via Zoom. These Zoom class sessions will be recorded. The recording will capture the presenter’s audio, video and computer screen. Student audio and video will be recorded if they share their computer audio and video during the recorded session. The recordings will only be accessible to students enrolled in the course to review materials. These recordings will not be shared with or accessible to the public.

The University and Zoom have FERPA-compliant agreements in place to protect the security and privacy of UW Zoom accounts. Students who do not wish to be recorded should:

  • Change their Zoom screen name to hide any personal identifying information such as their name or UW Net ID
  • Not share their computer audio or video during their Zoom sessions.


Learning Objectives
    Students will develop a broad understanding of the ecology of streams/rivers and their catchments at local to global scales, with a particular emphasis on the Pacific Northwest.  Specifically, at the end of this course students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate through short answer and multiple choice testing a comprehensive understanding of the basic physical, chemical and biological processes that control the structure and function of healthy riverine ecosystems. Primary source of information will be in-class lecture and discussions, supplemented with additional readings.
  2. Identify, contrast, and synthesize competing scientific views of watershed ecosystem theory in writing based on reading of assigned primary literature supplemented with small group discussions.
  3. Produce a written, in-depth analysis that synthesizes, differentiates, and critiques the current state of science for a specific scientific topic within watershed ecology based on well researched and cited primary literature.
  4. Apply concepts from this course to case studies to evaluate current watershed management practices in achieving stated goals for conservation and human uses. Evaluation will be through short essay exercises.

Required Reading
    Course handouts, lectures, and the primary literature will be the dominant source of information.  There is no required textbook but students may find it useful to look at a copy of “River Ecology and Management: Lessons from the Pacific Coastal Ecoregion” 1998 edited by Naiman and Bilby. 

    You can find a set of strongly suggested readings here.  These are not required, but given the online format of the course additional references are likely needed.

Evaluation & Grading
Three (3) graded credits based on the following scheme:


Percent of final grade

Due Date

Module Assingments


Apr 20, May 4, May 25

Current “controversies” in the field literature review with short summaries. You can choose one of the two possible options.  


#1: Designed vs. Natural Flow Regimes; Due TBD

#2: Marine Derived Nutrients; Due June 3

Take Home Exam / Essay

30  Wednesday June 10

*Tentative and subject to change.  Updated Mar 27, 2020

Academic Integrity
    Plagiarism, cheating, and other misconduct are serious violations of the University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478‐120) and your personal contract as a student.  I expect that you will know and follow the university’s policies on cheating and plagiarism.  Please review the College of the Environment website on academic integrity so that you are clear on what constitutes academic misconduct.  Any suspected cases of academic misconduct will be handled according to University of Washington regulations.  For more information, see the College of the Environment Academic Misconduct Policy and the University of Washington Community Standards and Student Conduct website.  Be advised that as an instructor at the UW, I have the responsibility to notify University Conduct committees about any suspected student misconduct.

Late Assignment & Re-grade Policy
    As a matter of policy, late assignments will not be accepted unless you have received approval from the instructor (me) well in advance of the due date or the circumstances are truly beyond your control.  At a minimum, this is at least 24 hours before the due date.  I have full discretion over whether to accept a late assignment and you should assume the default to be they will not be accepted.
    If you feel an assignment has been graded inappropriately, submit to me over email within one week of the receiving the graded assignment a brief description of why you feel the grade does not accurately reflect the quality of the work along with the original graded assignment.  Note that we will likely re-grade the entire assignment, not just the part in question.  You can expect to have the re-grade results within one week of submission (or a notification that it may take longer).  If you are unsatisfied with the result of the re-grade you have the option to submit a written appeal to the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences Director.  Please review the College of Environment Grade Appeal Process website for more information.

Email & Computer Use
 All students are expected to have a working email address and you will receive email relevant to this course on a regular basis.  Students are also expected to regularly check the course Announcements for updates relevant to the course.  You are encouraged to reach out to your instructor and TA for help.  In general, you can expect emails sent to instructors between 12a and 3p will be responded to the same day.  Do not expect instructors to read or respond to emails sent after 6p until the following day nor should you expect responses over the weekend. 
 Writing assignments must be turned in via Canvas as either a Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx) or as a .pdf.  Problem sets and data analysis exercises will be turned in online as either Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, or as readable photos (if done by hand).

Disability Accommodations
     It is crucial that all students in this class have access to the full range of learning experiences.  At the University of Washington, it is the policy and practice to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.  Full participation in this course requires: 1) the ability to attend two 90 minute lectures per week with 40-60 other students; 2) participation in small group discussions on topics relevant to the course, and 3) making short presentations that synthesize small group discussions and/or results of specific analyses to the class orally. 
    If you anticipate or experience barriers to your learning or full participation in this course based on a physical, learning, or mental health disability, please immediately contact the instructor to discuss possible accommodation(s).  A more complete description of the disability policy of the College of the Environment can be found here. If you have, or think you have, a temporary or permanent disability that impacts your participation in any course, please also contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS) at:  206-543-8924 (V), 206-543-8925 (TDD),, 

Course Schedule (tentative -- we are winging it)

Week Tuesday Thursday
1 31 Mar:  Introduction & Course Logistics,  2 Apr:  Watershed Classification
2 7 Apr: Discharge & Channel Hydrology 9 Apr: Geomorphology & Sediment Dynamics
3 14 Apr: Hyporheic Zones & Disturbance 16 Apr: Damn Dams (Julian Olden)
4 21 Apr: Biogeochemical Cycles Overview 23 Apr: Nitrogen & Phosphorus Cycling 
5 28 Apr: Freshwaters in Global C Cycle 30 Apr: Ecological Stoichometry
6 5 May: Nutrient Spiraling 7 May: Ecological Theories -- RCC
7 12 May:   Ecological Theories -- SDC, FPC 14 May:  Autotrophic & Heterotrophic Productivity
8 19 May: Lower Trophic Levels / Bugs 21 May:  Upper Trophic Levels / Fish
9 26 May: Complexity within river basins for sustaining fisheries and wildlife (Daniel Schindler) 28 May: Integrated Water Resource Management
10 2 Jun: Controversies Discussion

4 Jun: TBD


Course Summary:

Date Details Due