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Community-Based Learning at the Eco-Corridor

The Gambles Mill Eco-Corridor and Little Westham Creek connects UR's campus to the James River. The Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) has collaborated with the Office of Sustainability to support this initiative in several ways, including a faculty fellowship group, student involvement, and opportunities for community-based learning on campus. 

The Eco-Corridor introduces new opportunities for a "campus as living lab" approach to teaching. Faculty across the University of Richmond can use the Eco-Corridor as a place to center community-based learning courses and to connect their in-class lessons with the campus environment. 

Learn more about the Eco-Corridor master plan on the Sustainability website.

Here are some examples of community-based learning courses that have utilized the Eco-Corridor as a place for learning, and/or how UR professors plan to utilize the Eco-Corridor in upcoming lessons:

Introduction to Earth's Systems (GEOG 250), Fall 2018

The Introduction to Earth's Systems class studied water quality and geomorphology of the Little Westham Creek in the Eco-Corridor. They spent one week sampling the fish, macroinvertabrates, and related water chemistry of the stream with RES, the environmental engineers redesigning the stream, and a second week sampling the sinuosity, stream bank erosion, and other physical characteristics of the stream with a graduate student researcher from VCU. Students then drafted a report on the pre-treatment condition of the stream, which will be compared to post-treatment data collected by future classes to assess the effectiveness of the stream restoration. "Working with professionals and gathering information that will be valued in actual research and applied project work were a highlight of the exercise," said Todd. "Being able to conduct this work on our campus was a bonus; several students commented that they had never seen the creek before and were completely unaware of this part of campus."

Professor: Todd Lookingbill 

Landscape Ecology (GEOG/ENVR/BIOL 315), Spring 2019

In the Spring 2019 Landscape Ecology course, Professor Stephanie Spera demonstrated how drones can be used for environmental studies. These aerial images will also be used as pretreatment snapshots of what the corridor looked like prior to the construction activities. Later in the semester, students participated in a tour of the site mid-construction, led by Rob Andrejewski. These two excursions provided a unique opportunity to observe landscape change firsthand.

Professor: Todd Lookingbill

Environmental Economics (ECON/ENVR 230), Spring 2019

Environmental Economics, ECON/ENVR 230, is a cross-listed course that serves as an elective in the economics program and as a required course in the environmental studies program. In general, the course uses economic principles and analysis to study environmental problems and solutions. An important component of the course is environmental policy, specifically how to design regulations in the most efficient way. Students will spend time analyzing the following questions: What policy led to the creation of a nutrient loading offset program? What were the objectives and expectations of that policy? What incentives did the University of Richmond have to participate in this program? What costs are borne by the University? What benefits accrue to the University? What incentives did the City of Richmond have to participate in this program? What costs are borne by the City? What benefits accrue to the City? What alternatives exist for addressing this environmental problem? How effective have they been? How do they compare to this offset program? What other projects/programs could be of interest to the University?

Professor: Timothy Hamilton 

Introduction to Environmental Studies (ENVR 201), Fall 2019

Students in ENVR 201 will study the Eco-Corridor through the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Framework, focusing on the evaluation of impact and recommendations for the future of the Eco-Corridor. There may also be a general volunteer component to maintain the Eco-Corridor (monitoring, trash removal, and invasive species removal). 

Professor: Emily Boone

Biological Invasions (BIOL 199), Fall 2019

BIOL199 is the introductory course for the Biology major, and some sections (including Biological Invasions) are also cross-listed as fulfilling the “Environmental Life Science” requirement for the Environmental Studies major/minor. During the first few weeks of the semester, students will learn how to use spatial analysis tools to document the location of focal invasive species on campus. Students work in groups to survey the Westhampton side of campus. Student will survey the Eco-Corridor at its current stage of development.  Because this class is regularly taught in the fall, these sites can be revisited annually to document how the composition of invasive species changes across time as the corridor becomes established, following invasive species management practices (such as goats). 

Professor: Carrie Wu

Introduction to Ecology (BIOL/ENVR 109), Fall 2019

Pollinators will be used as flagship species for students learning about co-evolution, life cycles, population sizes, migration, community composition, ecological threats, ecosystem services, the Endangered Species Act and conservation. Students in this course take part in one group research project and one independent project during the semester. During the group research project, students work together to develop a research question and study design, collect and analyze data and present results in a formal lab report; some students will likely select projects related to the Pollinator Meadow for one or both of these activities.

Professor: Jennifer Sevin 

Biodiversity and Conservation Biology (BIOL 199), Fall 2019

This course is tailored to freshman science majors; it will use the Pollinator Meadow for more detailed scientific endeavors. Students may work in small groups to conduct in-depth research using the Pollinator Meadow (in conjunction with other spaces on campus). Project topics may include conducting an inventory of pollinators at UR, the relationship between flowering plant and type of pollinator, pollinator activity patterns, use of native versus non-native/invasive plant species by pollinators, phenology of pollinators and plants, and survival rate of wild monarch eggs. Students will also capture wild monarch butterflies on campus and then measure, weigh and mark them with identification numbers for Monarch Watch. In addition, samples will be taken as part of Monarch Health to learn more about disease prevalence. 

Professor: Jennifer Sevin

Coastal Bay Ecology (BIOL/ENVR 199), Fall 2019

This class is an introductory class to the biology major. The main tie-ins to the Eco-Corridor in this class relate to water quality, watersheds and experimental design. Students will begin the semester examining the watersheds that drain into the James River and Chesapeake Bay. Students will use observation, maps and google earth to consider the hydrologic cycle as it relates to UR’s campus and land use (both current and historic). Students will learn about water quality parameters and identify sites along the Eco-Corridor (depending on construction) to perform monthly testing in an effort to establish baseline data. 

Professor: Emily Boone

Introduction to Biological Thinking: Biology of Mammals (BIOL 199), Fall 2019

Students test the effects of environmental variables on mammalian behaviors using camera traps with infrared triggers. The camera traps record temperature, atmospheric pressure, moon phase, and time/date and we have typically compared on- versus off-campus locations for mammal behavior and activity. The on-campus site we usually use is the Gambles Mill Eco-corridor. This module consists of 2-4 weeks of data collection (students are involved in trap placement and retrieval) and then a week or two of data analysis and presentations.

Professor: Jory Brinkerhoff

Geographic Dimensions of Global Change (GEOG/GS 210), Fall 2019
Geographic Dimensions of Global Development will participate in a Distance Lab that uses the eco-corridor to engage with the geographic concepts of Distance, Accessibility, and Nearness. What is the distance (absolute, relative, cognitive) between campus and the river? How might this be expedited by the place-making of the eco-corridor? Also, we will spend attention on where the corridor connects to? This will involve thinking about the accessibility and nearness of the river, but also the frictions separating us from the river in terms of public and private access/property, transportation corridors, and mobilities. The possibility of Riverfront UR could increase accessibility, accentuate nearness, and overcome the friction of distance.
Paradox of the Cultivated Wild (ENVR300), Fall 2019 - Spring 2020

In Fall 2019, the Eco-Corridor will be utilized in the ENVR300: Paradox of the Cultivated Wild SSIR course to engage students with the challenges to protect—and connect with—their environment, as described in the “Dual Mandate” of the National Park Service. Periodically throughout the fall semester, students will visit the Eco-Corridor to examine the progress towards completion.  

The spring semester capstone experience for the SSIR will center on a “Westhampton Lake/Gambles Mill Eco-Corridor Project” that will challenge students to apply concepts and issues addressed at the national level during the fall semester to their own “cultivated wild” at the University of Richmond. In teams, students will work in collaboration with the University of Richmond Facilities Department and other appropriate community members to examine the state of Westhampton Lake and Eco-Corridor and develop guidelines for a sustainable and accessible “park-like environment”. As a whole class, students will design an emblem for the Westhampton watershed, using the symbolism of NPS emblem as a model. 

Professors: Carrie Wu, Jan French

Course Support

If you are a faculty member interested in receiving support for a CBL course related to the Gambles Mill Eco-Corridor or Huguenot Flatwater, please fill out the Eco-Corridor Course Support Request Form.

Teaching a class?

If you're teaching a CBL class involving the Eco-Corridor and your course is not listed on this page, please fill out this short form.