Eco-Corridor Courses

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.

Here are some examples of community-based learning courses that have utilized the Eco-Corridor as a place for learning.

Expand All
  • Landscape Ecology (GEOG/ENVR/BIOL 315)

    In the Spring 2019 Landscape Ecology course, Professor Stephanie Spera demonstrated how drones can be used for environmental studies. These aerial images are 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)

    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 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

  • Paradox of the Cultivated Wild (ENVR300)

    In Fall 2019, the Eco-Corridor was 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 visited the Eco-Corridor to examine the progress towards completion.

    The spring semester capstone experience for the SSIR centered on a "Westhampton Lake/Gambles Mill Eco-Corridor Project" that challenged 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 worked 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 designed an emblem for the Westhampton watershed, using the symbolism of NPS emblem as a model.

    Professors: Carrie Wu, Jan French

  • Introduction to Environmental Studies (ENVR 201)

    Students in ENVR 201 studied the Eco-Corridor through the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Framework, focusing on the evaluation of impact and recommendations for the future of the Eco-Corridor. Students also volunteered in the Eco-Corridor (monitoring, trash removal, and invasive species removal).

    Professor: Emily Boone

  • Biological Invasions (BIOL 199)

    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 Fall 2019 semester, students learned how to use spatial analysis tools to document the location of focal invasive species on campus. Students worked in groups to survey the Westhampton side of campus and surveyed the Eco-Corridor at its current stage of development.

    Professor: Carrie Wu

  • Introduction to Ecology (BIOL/ENVR 109)

    Pollinators were 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)

    This course is tailored to freshman science majors. The students explored the Pollinator Meadow for more detailed scientific endeavors. Students worked in small groups to conduct in-depth research using the Pollinator Meadow (in conjunction with other spaces on campus). Project topics included 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 also captured wild monarch butterflies on campus and then marked them with identification numbers for Monarch Watch. In addition, samples were taken as part of Monarch Health to learn more about disease prevalence.

    Professor: Jennifer Sevin

  • Coastal Bay Ecology (BIOL/ENVR 199)

    The main tie-ins to the Eco-Corridor in this class relate to water quality, watersheds, and experimental design. Students began the semester examining the watersheds that drain into the James River and Chesapeake Bay. Students used 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 learned about water quality parameters and identified 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)

    Students tested the effects of environmental variables on mammalian behaviors using camera traps with infrared triggers. The camera traps recorded 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

  • Senior Seminar and Capstone (GEOG 401/ENVR 391)

    This course is the culmination of the Environmental Studies and Geography majors. The primary objective is to further develop students’ ability to conduct interdisciplinary research through the practical application of disciplinary specific methods and theory. Students learned about the ecocorridor from campus and community members bridging the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. The goal of the course was for students to work collaboratively to synthesize diverse kinds of information about the space and related environmental challenges, culminating in individual theses conducted within the framework of a group project. Final paper topics ranged from stormwater management to an assessment of campus walkability. Papers from the Environmental Studies Senior Seminar and Geography Capstone can be found in the UR Scholarship Repository.

    Instructor: Todd Lookingbill

  • Geographic Dimensions of Global Change (GEOG/GS 210)

    Geographic Dimensions of Global Development students participated in a Distance Lab that used 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? The class also explored where the corridor connects to. This involved 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.

  • Introduction to Earth’s Systems (GEOG 250)

    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