Course code:



MA - Intermediate/Advanced

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • ES - Environmental Science

Lab fee:


Typically offered:


Over 90% of today’s terrestrial flora are seed plants and provide the majority of the ecological energy across the world. Today the majority of the human population is dependent on the energy and nutrients stored in the seed of a remarkably few crops that arose through the breeding and saving of seeds. Today this critical interdependence is rich with questions and at are at the center of the food security and food sovereignty debates. Some questions of this human-plant co-evolutionary story to be addressed in this course are: How is crop breeding done in different parts of the world? What are the techniques for breeding, seed saving, and storage? What traits are selected for in traditional and modern breeding? What role do seed banks and libraries play in our common future? What are the current laws governing seed quality and ownership? How do these laws and treaties structure corporate consolidation, community initiatives, and possible mechanisms for developing crops in the face of global climate change? What is the “free the seed movement” and why might it be important? The second major debate to be explored will be the ethical and ecological implications of the “assisted migration” of wild plants as a means of conservation and adaptation to global climate change and the replacement of horticultural materials with wild plants as means for expanding native habitat corridors. We will contextualize these two major themes with an in-depth look into the biology of seeds as well as the ecological and evolutionary significance of seeds. In preparation for required attendance at the Organic Seed Alliance Conference, laboratory exercises will cover seed dormancy and germination, and build skills in hand pollination and trait selection. Evaluation will be based on class participation, leadership in seminar discussions, quizzes, a group report on the Organic Seed Alliance Conference, and the development of a final project based on one or both of themes in the course.


Strong understanding of botany (at least two botany courses); one course with an introduction to some kind of policy strongly recommended;  permission of instructor.

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