This non-academic credit course consists of seven online modules delivered through Purdue University’s Blackboard learning system. The curriculum is cross-referenced to the Indiana Department of Education Teaching Standards.
After you are accepted into the program, you will be given a user ID and password to access course modules. Each module links to instructional materials: videos, PowerPoint presentations, readings, and other materials. Some modules require you to make a short visit to a woodland or park. Following each visit you will complete an activity summary. You submit these summaries and other assignments electronically using the Assignment Manager, a feature of Blackboard Learning System. Through Blackboard, you also can:
- meet other students in the course by joining optional two-way video discussion periods.
- get help from Purdue forestry student tutors.
- visit with course instructors during regularly scheduled online office hours. (They also offer online meetings by appointment.)
- take quizzes associated with each module that let you test yourself. You can retake quizzes as needed, with no penalties.
Course Module Topics
Geomorphology, Climate, and Forest Cover Type—Module 1
The types of forests found at any given location are determined by many factors, but the primary factors are soil and climate. Soils’ characteristics are determined by geologic history, the actions of wind and water, and the nature of parent materials. Climate, though generally stable, has varied considerably over the ages. You will learn how glaciers impact soil characteristics. When you finish this module, you’ll come away with an understanding of climate and geological forces, and their influence on global biomes and the major forest cover types in Indiana.
Forest Biology—Module 2
In Forest Biology, you’ll learn about the complexity of the forest ecosystem by applying the basic concepts of genetics and plant biology to trees. You’ll focus on tree physiology, including photosynthesis, water and nutrient uptake, formation of wood, reproduction, and dispersal. You will learn about cellulosic plant material, especially the woody plant material that is increasingly in demand, and learn how cellulose forms and how it decomposes. You also will review how researchers are using genetics to reestablish the chestnut.
Forest Ecology—Module 3
Forests are complex ecosystems composed of plant and animal communities and their physical environments. Ecosystems change through time as a result of a process called succession. Forest managers must understand this and other processes to achieve owners’ and society’s goals, yet handle forests in a sustainable manner. In this module, you’ll examine interactions of forest organisms with their biotic and abiotic environments, including effects of other organisms (herbivores, competition, and disease) as well as physical disturbances (harvests, fires, and hurricanes) on dynamics of tree populations and forest communities. You’ll learn the ecological differences between intensively managed monocultures and old growth forest.
Forest Benefits—Module 4
Forests are a major source of market and non-market benefits. For years, Indiana citizens have benefitted economically from timber converted to value-added products and from forested sites for outdoor recreation activities. Recently, forests are being recognized for the environmental services they provide, including carbon sequestration, air quality in urban areas, and watershed protection. Through case studies, computer models, and animation, you’ll study the range of ecosystems services that forests provide. You’ll also learn about uses of timber; value-added processing; the gathering and use of non-timber forest products; other human uses and benefits such as recreation, wildlife viewing, and hunting; and the importance of street trees and blocks of forestland within urban area.
Forest Management—Module 5
A landowner’s objectives for managing a forest are influenced by the forest type and the ownership type. In this module, you’ll learn management strategies that can help owners use their land and achieve their objectives, while also maintaining forest health and sustainability. You’ll study the concepts of urban tree care and the manipulation of forest conditions through silviculture. Additional topics include reforestation, afforestation, Best Management Practices (BMPs), and wildlife habitat manipulation. You’ll also learn how owners use of forest certification to demonstrate that their forest management is sustainable.
Forest Policy—Module 6
Most forestland in Indiana is owned by private individuals—and policy for that land is established by the General Assembly and implemented by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Most public forestland in Indiana is managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Hoosier National Forest—and policy for that land is established by the U.S. Congress. For both private and public forestlands, the typical, overarching goal is to maintain healthy forests, maximize the benefits from the forests, and assure a proper balance of land use. For private lands, the challenge is to create an incentive for private owners to manage their lands in a way that is consistent with the broad policy objectives. You’ll study policy tools in the context of institutional structures at different governmental levels, but focus primarily on private land forest policy.
Scientific Method—Module 7
Despite more than 300 years of scientific research, our understanding of forest ecosystems is rudimentary because of their complexity. If we are going to sustain forest ecosystems in the face of increased use, we must understand them. To gain that increased understanding, we need more scientific research. In this module, you will prepare to develop a proposal for and carry out your individual research project. You’ll review the scientific method used to formulate a question (hypothesis), design a study to test the hypothesis, collect necessary data, summarize the data, and interpret the data in light of the hypothesis. You’ll also describe your project’s implications for forest science.
Mini-Research Project and Presentation
After you successfully complete the seven online modules (required passing grade of 70% on any quizzes and submission of all the module projects and activities), you will be paired with a practicing natural resources professional that has a forestry background. In partnership, you, the professional, and your teacher will design and undertake a mini-research project much like a science fair project. The topic must be directed at a natural resources issue, project, or science.
Purdue University’s Forestry and Natural Resources Department holds a research symposium in the spring of each year. To be considered for an L-PFFP scholarship, you must present the results of your mini-research project at the annual symposium. Assistance in designing your research poster is available from the L-PFFP instructor.
L-PFFP presenters will meet as a group on campus—your chance to meet in person the other students, the instructor, and the tutors.
Academic Credit for the Course
At the present time, the seven-module, online course does not carry Purdue University credit. Purdue University is currently working on making the L-PFFP curriculum a Purdue academic course, but that is not approved as of this date.
The curriculum is referenced to the Indiana Department of Education Standards, and we encourage teachers to use this curriculum as part of their program.
Registration and Further Information
To register for the L-PFFP, your high school science teacher or your agricultural education Instructor must complete the registration form to recommend you to the program. Once Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources receives your application, you will be given instructions on access to the online course and other administrative details. Only registered students can access the course.