An Assessment of Introductory Restoration Courses in the United States and Canada


J. D. Bakker, email


A considerable number of institutions offer courses in restoration ecology and its application, ecological restoration. We quantified the scope and structure of introductory restoration courses at 67 post-secondary institutions by reviewing institutional course catalogs and course syllabi. Most courses were available at Research-level institutions. More than half of the courses were offered within departments that focused on natural resource management, and were required or optional in a degree program. Most courses were taught in classroom settings during the academic year and were geared toward advanced students. Course titles suggested an emphasis on the science of restoration ecology over the practice of ecological restoration, and learning objectives focused primarily on concepts and less on skills and attitudes. Assessment was largely via conventional methods, notably exams. Many courses assigned readings from the primary literature; there was little consensus in terms of text selection. We conclude that restoration is being presented to students as an advanced undertaking and in largely theoretical terms. Although we were unable to consider other important elements such as thematic content, class size, or pedagogical method, our study provides a baseline assessment of introductory restoration courses that can be used to evaluate changes in restoration education or opportunities for restoration education in other countries. These results can inform the development of new introductory restoration courses, and raise important considerations in light of the development of a Practitioners' Certification Program by the Society for Ecological Restoration.