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.

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Course Registration

You must be accepted into your program of study prior to course registration (see the How to Apply page for details) or have permission of the program office prior to course registration. 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

TThe 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 each offered once per year. 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 you to the practice of ecological restoration, starting by examining the physical and biological characteristics of ecosystems and the need to maintain and restore them. You will examine natural and human-caused changes at ecosystem to species levels while considering the philosophy and ethics of restoration within legal and policy frameworks. The course also introduces the process and techniques of assessing ecosystems and developing recommendations. In addition, you will develop your ability to combine and analyze factual scientific analysis of ecosystems in the context of human values and needs. The emphasis is on examples from British Columbia but the approach is applicable to issues around the globe.

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ER 312A: Field Study in Ecological Restoration I

This course is the first of two classes in field methods offered by the Restoration of Natural Systems program, and as such, it is meant to introduce you to a range of basic techniques for field study. As this is a course on field techniques, we will spend a lot of time out-of-doors, both on campus and at several field locations in the Victoria area. The purpose of this course is to teach you some basic methodologies commonly used in the field of ecological restoration, especially for terrestrial ecosystems.

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ER 312B: Field Study in Ecological Restoration II

This is an advanced field study course involving ecosystem mapping and detailed site evaluation (prescription). The first two mornings will be spent in the classroom, but the course will largely be taught in the field at sites on Royal Roads/DND lands. The course involves identifying standard plant species cover, creating physical site descriptions, recognizing natural boundaries on air photos and on the ground, identifying features related to slope stability and recognizing critical clues to ecological processes that either limit or are critical to the functioning of an ecosystem (e.g. wildlife trees). An important focus is to observe and recognize successional patterns as clues to restoration strategies.

Prerequisite is ER312A or permission of the instructor.

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ER 313: Biodiversity and Conservation Biology

This course provides 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. We will explore the following topics:

  • 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; and
  • 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.

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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 considers the philosophy and ethics of restoration and introduces the legal and policy frameworks within which environmental restoration takes place, and which play a critical role in dealing with the practical issues of carrying out a restoration project.

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ER 390: Environmental Restoration Project

This course involves a real restoration project in any field or aspect of restoration. The project is usually done in partnership with a community group, government department, or industry partner. You may develop your own project, preferably one that is part of a large and active restoration program, or you may contact the RNS Program Office for suggestions. The project you choose must be a practical application in the restoration field and must be one in which you participate.

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ER 400: Seminar in Environmental Restoration

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

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

This course is a survey of world ecosystems, with special reference to British Columbia and Canada. Each ecosystem is discussed with respect to their distribution, composition, structure and function. The conservation status of these ecosystems is reviewed with focus on how are they utilized by humans, what problems these uses have created and the major restoration issues arising from these impacts. Ecosystem classification systems in Canada and British Columbia are also discussed in the course.

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ER 326: Traditional Systems of Land and Resource Management

This course examines the systems of land and resource management traditionallypracticed by Indigenous peoples and other long‐resident peoples in different parts of the world,nand the effects of these systems within the environment. Specifically, it explores the role of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), also called local knowledge, in documenting and understanding the complexity of ecosystems and considers the contributions of TEK and traditional land management to ecosystem maintenance and restoration. The course will also address the question of how traditional land and resource management strategies can be incorporated into resource management programs, including ecological restoration.

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ER 327: Ecorestoration Strategies: Case Studies

The course will examine a selection of ecological restoration projects that will present a range of specific sites. Projects will be reviewed critically using a variety of criteria including societal values, funding, ecosystem structure/function, project size and technical difficulty, and evaluation of success through monitoring.

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ER 328: Forest Restoration and Sustainable Forestry

International organizations, governments, and citizen organizations are very concerned about the state of global forests, particularly their loss and degradation. The importance of forests in the global carbon cycle and in particular in mitigating and adapting to climate change is now widely recognized. This course aims to present and explore the issues, principles and concepts of forest restoration. It considers elements of sustainable forestry from the perspectives of all the values and services of forest ecosystems. Students will be exposed to specific forest restoration strategies and techniques in the classroom and in the field.

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ER 329: Mining Reclamation

Through lectures and on-site visits, this course examines mine reclamation and considers the impacts of mines and mining practices on natural systems and landscapes. Concepts are presented using domestic and international case studies representing a variety of mine types.

The following topics related to mine reclamation are covered in the course:

  • Legislation, policies and regulations
  • Environmental impact assessment, socioeconomic impact assessment and strategic impact assessment
  • Land-use planning for agriculture, forestry, wildlife, fisheries, recreation, urban and industrial activities
  • Characterization of mine wastes (physical and chemical properties)
  • Site preparation and revegetation
  • Contaminant remediation, ecological risk assessment and ecotoxicology
  • Site decommissioning, closure and environmental management systems
  • Reclamation ecology (individual, population, community and landscape)
  • Reclamation performance and/or compliance monitoring

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ER 331: Urban Restoration and Sustainable Agricultural Systems

Urban areas and agricultural lands are highly modified landscapes. In this course, we examine how an ecological perspective can be applied to restoring urban areas and approaches to agriculture that promote sustainability and support biodiversity. The course covers two related topics, starting with urban restoration, then moving to urban agriculture and sustainable agricultural systems. Urban restoration topics 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 addresses permaculture, composting and organic gardening. Sustainable agriculture is approached from an agroecological perspective, and includes topics such as nutrient cycling and waste management, soil conservation, integrated pest management, agroforestry, and holistic resource management.

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

The course introduces students to the principles of native plant selection and propagation to meet site-specific ecosystem restoration objectives. The course focuses on low-technology propagation techniques and examines the role of artificial propagation in ecosystem restoration, rehabilitation and reclamation while considering the criteria for species selection and both ethical and scientific principles for the collection of propagation materials. Plant propagation methods by seed, vegetative methods, and salvage of plant materials will be demonstrated through a combination of class notes, selected readings and video presentations. The course concludes with a discussion of the techniques of site stabilization, site preparation, out-planting, seeding and bioengineering (technique of using live plant materials to form all or part of an engineered structure to stabilize a problem site).

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ER 334: Soil Conservation and Restoration

This course covers the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of soils and their relationship to restoration. Topics covered include general soil fertility, importance of soil flora and fauna, characteristics of undisturbed and disturbed soils, types of soil disturbance in agriculture, forestry, mining and urban environments, soil restoration strategies and pre- and post-disturbance planning practices.

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ER 335A: Restoration of Freshwater Aquatic Systems

This course provides students with a holistic view and appreciation for the ecology of aquatic ecosystems and a watershed approach to developing restoration plans. Topics covered include the following: 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; and restoration strategies and implementation for watersheds, riparian zones, streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands. The course encourages students to consider restoration goals from a whole watershed perspective.

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ER 335B: Restoration of Marine Aquatic Systems

This course provides students with an understanding of marine coastal systems and their restoration potential from an ecological perspective, with particular emphasis on the British Columbia/Washington coasts. Lectures focus on broader scale marine ecosystem impacts and restoration issues will be supplemented by hands-on field exercises and research activities focusing on local issues.

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

This course focuses on the role of communication and education in the restoration of natural systems, emphasizing the importance of clear communication: principles and techniques of effective communication, survey of communication and educational methods, social and cultural frameworks of the message defining issues, techniques of dialogue, recognizing and resolving conflict, organizing data and message.

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ER 338: Special Topics in Environmental Restoration

Topics for this course will vary each time it is offered. Past course topics include native plant propagation, environmental policy and fire ecology.

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

Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are an often-overlooked resource in British Columbia despite their importance to Aboriginal Peoples and an increasing realization that some products, such as edible mushrooms and floral greenery, support multi-million dollar industries. The general neglect of these resources means that there is an inadequate regulatory environment, little research into sustainable levels of use, and inadequate statistics on either the level or distribution of harvest. The intent of this course is to provide an overview of NTFP ecology and use in British Columbia. It presents an ecologically-based approach to managing NTFPs for an array of economic and cultural purposes - product harvesting, tourism, spiritual and ceremonial, horticultural and ecosystem restoration.

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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