Sustainability - Restoration Program


Restoration of Natural Systems

Students enrolled in the RNS Certificate Program are required to successfully complete a total of eight courses (six core courses and two electives). Students enrolled in the RNS Diploma Program are required to successfully complete a total of twelve courses (six core courses and six electives). Typically, three to four courses are offered per term. Most courses may be taken in any order; however, it is recommended to take ER 311 early in the program, and students must successfully complete ER 312A prior to enrolling in ER 312B.

Course Registration

You must be accepted into your program of study prior to course registration (see the How to Apply page for details). To register for courses, please call the Continuing Studies Registration Desk at (250) 472-4747. Note that they will ask for a credit card number for course fee payment.

Core Courses

The core courses are designed to give students a solid background in the principles and concepts relating to ecological restoration, as well as an opportunity to learn practical field techniques and apply knowledge to a restoration project. Each of these courses is required for program completion.

Core courses are typically offered every 1 to 1.5 years on a rotational basis. Please refer to the Five Year Course Plan to see how core courses are typically scheduled.

ER 311: Principles and Concepts of Ecological Restoration

This course introduces the field and issues involved in ecological restoration. It examines the physical and biological characteristics of ecosystems and their significant processes, and the need to maintain and restore them. The emphasis is on examples from British Columbia but the approach is applicable to issues around the globe. It examines natural and human-caused changes at ecosystem to species levels; discusses ecosystems and biodiversity; considers the philosophy and ethics of restoration and introduces legal and policy frameworks. The course introduces process and techniques of assessing the ecosystems and developing recommendations through field visits. The course focuses on developing learners’ abilities to combine and analyze factual scientific analysis of ecosystems in the context of human values and needs.

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ER 312A: Field Study in Ecological Restoration I

An introduction to basic field techniques for describing ecosystems, emphasizing terrestrial systems. Introduction to approaches for assessing and restoring sites. Individual and group field activities. Field surveys, observation and background study on specific ecosystem types.

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ER 312B: Field Study in Ecological Restoration II

An advanced field study course involving ecosystem mapping and detailed site evaluation (prescription). May involve participation in a restoration project. With permission, the practicum can be undertaken at locations outside the province or internationally.

Prerequisite is ER312A or permission of the instructor.

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ER 313: Biodiversity and Conservation Biology

This course will give you an understanding of biodiversity and the role of conservation biology as the scientific discipline whose aim is to reduce impacts of human activities on the loss of biological diversity. The history and subject matter of conservation biology, including a discussion of the scientific approach to understanding the world. What biodiversity is, where it is found, and how it arises. Values of biodiversity, including economic, ethical, and ecological perspectives. Important basic principles of ecology and how these principles are used to design conservation projects and to understand population biology processes and patterns, especially for small and endangered populations. The status of biodiversity and the impacts of current threats, such as habitat destruction, introduction of exotic species, spread of disease, and over exploitation. Possible human interventions for stemming the loss of biodiversity, including creating and maintaining protected areas, restoration and species recovery strategies, and laws, policies, and programs.The distance course is print-based, although you should have access to the Internet to complete one assignment and so that you can participate in e-mail discussion.

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ER 314: Ethical, Legal, and Policy Aspects of Environment Restoration

Environmental restoration is a value-laden activity. It takes place within a societal framework of ethics, laws, and politics. Ethical values influence which actions are considered appropriate by society, laws determine what is legally required or permissible, and policies govern how things are done. What is ecologically desirable is not always socially acceptable. This course explores the relationship between environmental values and the regulatory and policy framework which currently exists. It deal with thorny questions such as:

  • recovery of endangered species
  • the role of First Nations
  • the responsibility of different levels of government for environmental protection and restoration
  • the right of the state over the right of the individual in environmental matters

These are significant issues that underlie the entire practice of environmental restoration and play a critical role in the field.

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ER 390: Selected Project

The final project brings together the knowledge and skills you have acquired through the program and applies them to a real restoration situation.

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ER 400: Final Seminar

ER400 consists of the ER390 presentation and a portfolio that is a compilation of the major projects from ER311, 312A, 312B plus one elective to be determined in consultation with the RNS Program’s Academic Administrator. The ER390 presentation is usually made to one of the partners or organizations the student worked with in doing their project. Other possibilities include a meeting of a volunteer group or to a regular meeting of a non-governmental organization active in the area.

Elective Courses

Elective courses allow students to learn about more specialized aspects of the restoration field based on their specific interests.

Certificate students must take two of the following elective courses and Diploma students must take six of the following elective courses. Certificate students may transfer in up to one elective from another institution, while Diploma students may transfer in up to four electives from other institutions. Note that transfer courses must be at the 3rd or 4th year undergraduate level and must be approved in advance by the Academic Administrator Val Schaefer:

RNS Certificate (non-credit) students can also take one ER course as an online elective option if they obtain prior permission from the Academic Administrator.

Elective courses are typically offered every 2 to 3 years on a rotational basis. Please refer to the Five Year Course Plan to see how electives are typically scheduled.

ER 325: Ecosystems of British Columbia, Canada and the World

A survey of the major ecozones of Canada and the world, their characteristics, and their current status.

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ER 326: Traditional Systems of Land and Resource Management

The role of traditional ecological knowledge in the understanding and documentation of the biodiversity of natural systems and their restoration. Examination of how restoration strategies can benefit from the close relationship of Indigenous Peoples to their local environments, and from their knowledge of plants and animals, their habitats and ecological interrelationships, as well as from traditional land resource management strategies.

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ER 327: Ecorestoration Strategies: Case Studies

Examination of specific sites illustrating restoration problems and solutions. Examples include mine reclamation projects, highway and rail right-of-way stabilization, and urban ravine and stream rehabilitation. Some areas that have been considered in previous courses include:

  • mine reclamation: East Kootenay open pit coal operations
  • native plants in landscaping
  • wildflower enhancement in Victoria
  • broom invasion in Victoria
  • backyard oak habitat protection (Garry Oak Meadow Society – Victoria)
  • Wisconsin Arboretum grassland project
  • Saskatchewan short-grass and mid-grass prairie
  • urban ecology/urban ravines in Victoria and Vancouver
  • riparian zones, urban stream rehabilitation (Colquitz)
  • estuaries (Cowichan/Hardy Bay)
  • wetlands (Boundary Bay)
  • forest harvesting and silvicultural prescriptions

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ER 328: Forest Restoration and Sustainable Forestry

An introduction to the basic values of forests and issues confronting their sustainable use.

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ER 329: Mining Reclamation

Impact of mines and mining practices on natural systems and landscapes and restoration techniques.

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ER 331: Urban Restoration and Sustainable Agricultural Systems

Urban restoration topics will include green space and greenways; maintenance and restoration of native species; protection and restoration of urban streams and wetlands, including management of stormwater, and parks for nature versus recreation. Urban agriculture will cover permaculture, composting and organic gardening.

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ER 332: Selection and Propagation of Native Plants for Ecological Restoration

This course will introduce you to the principles of native plant selection and propagation within the context of meeting ecological restoration goals, but will be of value to anyone wanting to know more about working with indigenous plants. Topics include native plant propagation techniques; the role of artificial propagation in ecosystem rehabilitation and restoration; criteria for species selection; scientific and ethical principles for the collection of propagation materials; site stabilization; site preparation; out-planting; and bioengineering.

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ER 334: Soil Conservation and Restoration

Physical, chemical and biological characteristics of soils and their relationship to restoration. General soil fertility; importance of soil flora and fauna, mycorrhizae. Comparison of characteristics of undisturbed and disturbed soils. Types of soil disturbance in agriculture, forestry, mining and urban environments; soil restoration strategies; planning pre- and post-disturbance. (Background in physical geography such as GEOG 213 or equivalent strongly recommended). Topics covered include:

  • an overview of the soils of BC
  • soil as a living system, physical and biological processes
  • describing sites and soils in the field
  • soil-forming processes
  • restoration of soil productivity
  • soil loss – weathering, leaching, and erosion
  • compaction and physical modification of soils
  • relationships to agricultural, horticultural, and forestry practices

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ER 335A: Restoration of Freshwater Aquatic Systems

Theory and case studies of disturbances, mitigation, and restoration; character and processes of aquatic systems; types of natural aquatic systems; types of disturbance and their impact; restoration strategies and implementation for watersheds, riparian zones, streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

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ER 335B: Restoration of Marine Aquatic Systems

Types, characteristics and processes of natural marine aquatic systems and case studies of disturbances and restoration.

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ER 336: Education, Communication, and Dispute Resolution in Restoration of Natural Systems

The social dimension of environmental restoration.

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ER 338: Special Topics in Environmental Restoration

Topics for this course will vary each time it is offered.

ER 352: Non-Timber Forest Management and Sustainable Use by Major Forest Zones in BC

An introduction to biogeoclimatic (BEC) zones and natural disturbance regimes in BC in relation to the occurrence of important NTFP species and the ecosystems that sustain them; the impacts of current land use and resource extraction practices on NTFP occurrence and productivity; and the influence of disturbance classes, BEC zones and current ecological condition on the selection of appropriate NTFP management practices.

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ER 411: Advanced Principles and Concepts of Ecological Restoration

An advanced investigation into the meaning, limits, and significance of ecological restoration, including: how restoration is defined and why clear definitions are important; the role of historical knowledge in restoration; the changing character of restoration in a technological culture; ethical issues in restoration practice; participation and political process; cultural inclusion and the significance of restoration as a cultural mode; the international scope of restoration; and the paradox of design.

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Custom Courses

We can also design custom courses to meet the training needs of different organizations and groups. Custom courses can be delivered at any time of year and at a location of your choice. Please contact us to learn more about this option.


Offered in partnership with the School of Environmental Studies and supported by the Faculty of Social Sciences

School of Environmental Studies