Suzanne R. Morse

Suzanne R. Morse
Elizabeth Battles Newlin Chair of Botany
207-801-5724 |

suzanne morseSuzanne received a B.A. in Botany from the University of California, Berkeley in 1980 and a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of California, Berkeley in 1988. From 1988 to 1991, she was a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Organismal and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. She also was a visiting scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health from 1996-1998, and at the University of California, Berkeley in 2001.

Suzanne joined the COA faculty in 1991, where she teaches a variety of courses in biology, botany, science and society, and agroecology. She also regularly teaches in the Yucatan program and in the human ecology core curriculum. Students that have worked with Suzanne at COA have done a wide range of projects, including a radio program on seed saving, an analysis of the impact of the current national organic standards, photographic essays, and research on genetic imprinting in plants.

Suzanne's research includes plant physiological ecology and evolution, mechanisms of drought tolerance in plants, weed seed banks, effects of changing carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature on plant population dynamics, and the role of dietary fiber in the expression of type II diabetes. She is currently researching the role of the moon in traditional agriculture. In addition to presenting papers at national conferences, she also has given invited papers on the ethical implications of the Human Genome Project, environmental justice, and the development of sustainable agriculture curricula, At COA, Suzanne is an active member in Academic Affairs and the International Studies, and was acting Academic Dean in 1992.

Suzanne's other interests include Buddhism, gardening, modern dance, Tai Chi, writing, painting, and bicycling.

B.A. University of California, Berkeley, 1980
Ph.D. Botany, University of California, Berkeley, 1988

Suzanne holds the Elizabeth Battles Newlin Chair in Botany
Established in 1997, through the generosity of the family of Elizabeth Battles Newlin, a longtime summer resident on Mt. Desert, as a tribute to her love for growing things and in celebration of the college�s 25th Anniversary. The Newlin Chair was the College�s first endowed professorship.

Courses Taught


The global demand for food and fiber will continue to increase well into the next century.  How will this food and fiber be produced?  Will production be at the cost of soil loss, water contamination, pesticide poisoning, and increasing rural poverty?  In this course, we examine the fundamental principles and practices of conventional and sustainable agriculture with a primary focus on crops.  By examining farm case studies and current research on conventional and alternative agriculture we develop a set of economic, social, and ecological criteria for a critique of current agricultural practices in the United States and that will serve as the foundation for the development and analysis of new farming systems.  Evaluations are based on two exams, class presentations, participation in a conference on potato production, and a final paper.  

Level: Intermediate.  Prerequisites:  Signature of the instructor and one of the following:  Biology I, Plant Biology, Ecology, or Economics.  Class limit: 13.  Lab fee: $40.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES2020Art and Science of Fermented Foods

This course will take an in depth look at the art and science of fermented and cultured foods.  The first half of the class will focus on the microbiology of fermentation with a specific focus on products derived from milk and soybeans.  Each week there will be a laboratory portion in which students will explore how the basic fermentation processes and products change with different milk and soy qualities.  These small-scale experiences and experiments will be complemented with field trips to commercial enterprises in Maine and Massachusetts.  In the second half of the term students will explore the differences in flat, yeast, and sourdough breads.  Final projects will focus on a food way of choice and will culminate in presentations that explore the historical and cultural context in which these different cultured foods were developed and how these microbial-mediated processes enhance preservation, nutritional and economic value, and taste.  Evaluations will be based on class participation, short quizzes, a lab report, journal, and a final project.

Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor. Class limit: 12. Lab Fee: $75 (to cover use of the community kitchen, one two-day field trip to Massachusetts, to visit commercial soy product companies and supplies.)  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES1010Biology I

This is the first half of a 20-week, two-term introductory course in biology, providing an overview of the discipline and prerequisite for many intermediate and advanced biology courses.  The course provides an integrative view of the attributes of plants and animals, including cell biology, physiology, reproduction, genetics and evolution, growth and differentiation, anatomy, behavior, and environmental interactions.  Weekly laboratory sessions or field trips augment material covered in lecture and discussion.  Attendance at three lectures and one lab each week is required; course evaluation is based on quality of class participation, exams, problem sets, preparation of a lab notebook, and a written term paper. 

Level: Introductory.  Prerequisites: College-level algebra (by course, assessment,) or signature of instructors, chemistry helpful.  Lab fee: $25.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES3042Composting: Waste Management to Resource Creation

Composting is an art at the heart of gardening and farming and can quickly produce humus that is of the highest quality.  Anyone and everyone can produce great humus.  In this course we will examine what is compost and why it is important, the basic biology of a compost pile and differences in biology based on different composting approaches, and the current challenges with contamination and scaling up from small to large projects. How compost is produced depends on human aims and to be successful needs to take into account social, economic and ecological concerns. The laboratory exercises and projects will take these perspectives into consideration as we compare and develop institutional approaches to composting, from small-scale vermicompost to more commercial level production.  Readings will include a historical perspective on composting, basic microbiological processes, scientific literature, and papers on compost success stories.  Students will be evaluated on participation, quizzes, field exercises, and a final project presentation to the COA community.  

Level:  Intermediate.  Prerequisites: Permission of instructor and oOne of the following courses:  biology, chemistry, theory and practice of organic gardening, soils.  Class limit: 12.  Lab fee: $50  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

ES1014Gardens and Greenhouses:Theory/Practice of Organic Gardening

This class offers a good foundation of knowledge for a gardener to begin the process of organic gardening, as well as an understanding of what defines organic gardening.  The information presented focuses on soil fertility and stewardship, the ecology of garden plants, soil and insects, and practical management of the above.  The garden is presented as a system of dynamic interactions.  Emphasis is given to vegetable crops and soil fertility.  Laboratories include soil analysis, tree pruning, seedling establishment, weed and insect identification, garden design, covercropping, composting, and reclamation of comfrey infested area.  Evaluations are based on participation in class and lab, written class work, exam, and final individual garden design.

Level:  Introductory.  Pre-requisite: Signature of Instructor. Class limit: 15.  Lab fee: $25.  Meets the following degree requirements: ES

HS4041Global Politics of Food

This reading intensive course is tied to participation in the 2014 Camden Conference on "The Global Politics of Food and Water," 21-23 February 2014. This course will serve as a preparation for participation at the conference and will finish with a reflection on topics of the students' choosing.   Prior to delving into the suggested Camden reading list, we will explore the historical framing of the idea of development in terms of food and population, and conceptions of the development needs for the African continent.  The importance of agroecology will also be used in the critical analysis of proposed problems and solutions.  The goals of the class are: 1) to prepare students to attend and play an active role in the kinds of policy analysis, discussions and debates typified by this conference and 2) to develop skills for doing individual and group research projects in one of the topics being presented in the conference.  Attendance at the Conference is a requirement of the class.

Evaluation will be based on class discussion, leadership in discussions on one or two books from the Camden Conference reading list, the development and running of an evening discussion in collaboration with students from UMO and Unity College, and a final synthetic paper on a topic of interest.

Level: intermediate-advanced.  Prerequisites: Permission of instructor.  Class limit: 12.  Lab fee: $100.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

ES515Our Daily Bread: Following Grains Through The Food System

The aim of the course is to use wheat, oats and rye as a lens to explore how a wide range of factors including history, changing land use patterns, crop development, human nutrition, food processing, sensory evaluation, and socio-economic factors shape how grains are grown, harvested and ultimately transformed into our daily bread. This field-based course seeks to provide students with deep insights into the past and current production of grains in the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. Extensive readings will complement the summer fieldwork at farms, mills, bakeries and research sites in Europe, and will provide students with the agronomic background necessary for a historical view of grain production and the possibility of localized grain within the current global economy. Students will lead discussions, interview farmers, write short synthetic essays, and undertake a research project designed together with the class. By the end of the course students should be able to: Evaluate the importance of wheat and other temperate grains to the feeding of human populations in past, present and future contexts; Review current and traditional methods of evaluation of food quality and grain processing (bread production in particular) and relate these to modern nutritional problems; Describe the growth cycle of wheat in general terms and relate the production cycle to current issues of sustainability including greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration, energy requirements, and soil conservation; and Compare and contrast the socio-economic importance of wheat to Maine, Germany and the UK. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisites: Formal application, Signature of the instructor, Introductory German highly desirable, any of the following courses: Theory and Practice of Organic Gardening, Chemistry of Cooking, The Contemporary Culture of Maine Organic Farmers, Agroecology. *ES*


Soils are one of the most important natural resources that affect the sustainability of agricultural, recreational, forest, and disturbed soil (mining, urban) systems. This course seeks to introduce students to basics of soils science and contemporary issues in soils science and management. The primary themes running through this course are how soil properties influence and are influenced by human activities. Classes will cover the basic physical, chemical and biological properties of soils and the processes which create, maintain and transform them. Evaluation of students will be based on quizzes, problem sets and a final presentation.

Level: Intermediate.  Prerequisites: At least one college level chemistry and one college level biology class.  Class limit: 12.  Lab fee: $50  Meets the following degree requirements: ES