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2018 Desert Studies Institute Workshops

alt="collage of desert images"Desert Studies Institute (DSI) was established in 1997 as a cooperative program between the Department of Anthropology at Boise State University and Celebration Park, which is operated by Canyon County Parks, Recreation and Waterways.  Each year, the Desert Studies Institute provides a broad range of academic offerings of interest and value to students, teaching professionals, Idaho’s citizens and visitors.

The mission of the Institute is to provide educational programs and scholarly presentations concerning the prehistory, history, ecology and politics of Idaho’s desert environments and deserts worldwide.  The programs are presented to enrich the understanding and appreciation of complex desert ecosystems in Idaho and to promote their perpetual preservation as educational resources for the future.


The faculty of the Desert Studies Institute is selected on the basis of their expertise in areas relating to the objectives of the DSI.  Faculty from Boise State University and the region form the core of the instructional faculty.  The institute regularly arranges for the participation of distinguished scholars from other institutions.


All workshops are one credit each, unless otherwise indicated, and are available for undergraduate or graduate credit, plus a small workshop fee.  All workshops are listed under anthropology; most are cross-listed with other disciplines.  For detailed information, or for registration information call 426-1709 (Boise State Summer Program/Extended Studies).

Brief Description of our upcoming Summer 2018 Workshops:

Japanese-American Camp in the Idaho Desert
June 5-6, 2018 Russell Tremayne
In 1942, the United States government built the Minidoka War Relocation Center in the Idaho desert northeast of Twin Falls, Idaho.  The camp incarcerated over 13,000 Japanese aliens and American citizens of Japanese ancestry removed from their homes on the West Coast and imprisoned there during World War II.  This workshop focuses on the interaction of the “community” with their environment.  The workshop includes a field trip to visit the Minidoka National Historic Site which was designated in 2001.
Cross-listed with Anthropology and History.  1 credit

Great Basin Birds of Prey
June 6-9, 2018  Marc Bechard
This workshop focuses on the types of birds of prey found in North America, their identification, and breeding biology with emphasis on the Snake River Plain of southern Idaho.  Included are field trips to the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area and the World’s Center for Birds of Prey.
Cross-listed with Anthropology, Biology, and Environmental Studies.      2 credits

Ethnobotany:  Introduction to Edible, Medicinal, and Useful Plants
June 11-12, 2018  Raymond Vizgirdas
This workshop focuses primarily on plants used by Native Americans as food, medicine, clothing, and building materials.  Classroom and field activities will emphasize plant identification, ecology and ethnobotany.  This workshop will bring together aspects of our region’s natural and cultural history.  Field trip.
Cross-listed with Anthropology, Biology, and Environmental Studies.       1 credit

Introduction to Idaho’s Native Pollinators
June 18-19, 2018  Raymond Vizgirdas
This workshop is an introduction to the concepts and issues surrounding pollination ecology.  Some 80% of the earth’s flowering plants rely on animal pollinators, primarily insects, to ensure reproduction.  Beyond the direct economic value, insect pollination is essential for maintaining the structure and function of a wide range of natural communities including sagebrush steppe and montane forests.  Alarmingly, managed and wild insect pollinators have suffered declines in recent years prompting calls for proactive strategies to help bolster their populations.  Field trip.
Cross-listed with Anthropology, Biology, and Environmental Studies.       1 credit

Death of an Ecosystem
June 22-23, 2018  Eric Yensen
This workshop will focus on important ecological interactions in northern Great Basin ecosystems.  Learn about the ecological roles of ground squirrels, badgers, raptors, coyotes, grasshoppers, sagebrush, and many others; how they interact to form a functional ecosystem; and how human activities are causing the collapse of this ecosystem.  The workshop includes a field trip to the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.
Cross-listed with Anthropology, Biology, Environmental Studies, and Geosciences.  1 credit

Culinary Traditions of Chinese in the 19th Century American West: Archaeology, History, and Culture
June 25-26, 2018  Pei-Lin Yu
The workshop will explore the ways that the rich culinary traditions of China, particularly the southern regions, influenced the lives of Chinese migrants to Idaho and neighboring regions and became adapted to the unique challenges of life here in the late 1800’s.  The archaeological record, historical documents, and traditional cultural knowledge will be featured.
Cross-listed with Anthropology and History.  1 credit

Desert Ecology
June 27-28, 2018  Laura Barbour and Nikki Schwend
In this workshop guest speakers and specialists in desert ecology provide a broad overview of natural and human ecology through short lectures and demonstrations.  The workshop will meet at Celebration Archaeological Park near Melba, Idaho.  Included are field trips to Leslie Gulch, Halverson Bar and a fossil locality.
Cross-listed with Anthropology, Biology, Geosciences, and Environmental Studies.  1 credit

Fish & Invertebrates of the Snake & Boise Rivers
July 24-25, 2018  Terry Maret
Students will learn about the aquatic species in the Snake and Boise Rivers and their habitat needs.  Day one will be in the classroom covering ecological principals of the rivers along with an overview of fish and aquatic invertebrates that live in the region.  We then head to the field with various sampling gear to collect and identify aquatic invertebrates from local waters.  Day two will focus on collecting and identifying native and nonnative fish species.  There will also be an opportunity to investigate various aquatic habitat and water quality measures to assess river health.  If you like to fish, this class may even help you catch more fish!  Students should bring waders if they have them.
Cross-listed with Anthropology, Biology, and Environmental Studies.       1 credit