School of Interdisciplinary Studies

(Western College Program)

Miami University


WCP 261                              Integrative Seminar                    Spring 2002



Room Peabody 21 and occasionally Boyd Hall Lab and Tappan Center for Computer Assisted Learning)


Meeting Time:

Monday & Wednesday 1:00 - 2:50; Friday 2:00 - 2:50


Semester Topic:






A steamboat pilot speaking to Mark Twain when Twain (Samuel Clemens) was training to be a river pilot. “When I say I’ll learn* a man the river, I mean it.” *Twain’s footnote: “Teach is not in the river vocabulary.” Life on the Mississippi (1883).



Instructors:                Burt Kaufman, Chris Wolfe, Hays Cummins

Office Hours:            Burt: M, T, Th: 10:00-12:00 and by appointment

                                    Chris: M, 3:00-5:00,W: 11:00 - 1:00

                                    Hays: M,W, F: 3:00-5:00


Office:                                    Burt:    Peabody 111

                                    Chris: Peabody 127

                                    Hays: Boyd 222


Telephone                 Burt:    529-5643

                                    Chris:  529-5670

                                    Hays:  529-1338


E-Mail:                       Burt:




Course Description


“Down through the years,” one writer has remarked, “the image of a river has frequently been used as a metaphor for life.” Rivers have, for example, been widely regarded as the sustenance of life, forever renewing the fertility of land. Rivers have also been shrouded in mystery as witness the countless efforts to find the source of the Nile River. Rivers have even assumed a spiritual and sacred countenance. The Euphrates and Tygris Rivers are both mentioned in the biblical story of Adam and Eve. For Hindu  India the Ganges River is only the most sacred of its many rivers. Finally, rivers have often been the backdrop for theater, musicals, song, dance, and literature. Perhaps the most prominent school of American art in the 19th century was the Hudson River School. And who can remember Mark Twain without thinking at the same time of the Mississippi River?

            But rivers are more than a metaphor of life or a subject for artists or the stuff of great fiction. On rivers depends much of the world’s agriculture, industry, and energy and countless numbers of jobs. One writer has portrayed the typical river as “an assembly line that conveys energy and matter to organisms along the way to be used in manufacture.”  Rivers also provide numerous recreational opportunities, including fishing, boating, swimming, and rafting. They are vital to the transportation and commerce of most nations, including the United States. Trade routes have been closely tied to rivers. Cities and ports throughout the world have grown or declined because of their dependence on rivers. The same is true of vast regions of the American Southwest dependent on the Colorado River for irrigation and drinking water. TVA and the great dams of the American northwest have provided cheap and abundant electric power to the regions in which they operate. At the same time, efforts to dam up rivers has been a cause celebre for many environmental groups.  Finally, rivers have provided natural borders between countries, states, and regions. It is probably not too much of an exaggeration to argue that more wars and legal battles have been fought over boundary rights involving rivers than most any other issue.

            To understand the true import of rivers to civilizations---ancient and modern and both as cultural subject matter and as issues of political, economic, and social policy--- it is necessary, therefore, to look at rivers to from a number of different perspectives. At the same time, policy issues cannot be separate from the scientific, ecological, and technological considerations (silt, sediment, salinity, pollution, and flood control), or the political, economic, legal, and social interests, or the overarching cultural assumptions that help shape policy and drive the decision-making process.


Interdisciplinary Nature of Course


A study of rivers lends itself nicely to the type of integrative learning that is foundational to the Western College Program and serves as the core methodology of this team-taught seminar. In a very real sense, the course is as much about interdisciplinary methodology as it is about rivers. It is intended to weave together the interdisciplinary and disciplinary knowledge from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities and to help prepare you for advanced integrative learning.

            Given the magnitude and scope of the topic we shall emphasize the rivers of the United States. We will examine the impact of rivers on American history and culture and consider how these issues should factor into policy decisions. We will look at some of the scientific principles and technological issues associated with rivers by examining these issues within the context of both the U.S.’s great rivers and some of our smaller, more local rivers. In similar fashion, we will examine major policy questions having to do with rivers, with special emphasis on flood control, irrigation, and the environmental movement. In order to provide some cross-cultural perspective we will examine the influence of the Amazon River on the people and places affected by its 4,000 mile journey through South America. Throughout the course, our emphasis will be on the interconnection of these various perspectives.


Class Format and Requirements


            This seminar will be based primarily on discussion of the assigned readings. (Always  keep in mind that while the reading assignments may seem heavy, they reflect the fact that this is a six credit hour course (or twice the equivalent of  most courses offered at Miami).  For each class, two students will be expected to lead the discussion. Depending on the topic for the class, one of the team faculty will also serve as a facilitator (being backed up, of course, by the other team members). You will be expected to come to class fully prepared to discuss the assigned readings.

            As part of the course, we will also be taking several local walks and field trips designed to raise a number of scientific and social issues involving rivers; these range from water chemistry and limnology, on the one hand, to land use and recreation, on the other. You will be expected to participate in these walks and field trips.

            The seminar is divided into four modules or components. The first looks, in holistic fashion, at issues relating to rivers, positioning them within the history of the environmental and ecological movements in the United States and important contemporary issues having to do with ecology both as science and as public policy. The second examines many of these same issues, concentrating, however, on two of the great arteries of American commerce and transportation, the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Through the lens of the Mighty Mississippi, we will also examine rivers as the stuff of American folklore and culture. In the third module, we look at the rivers of the American West, concentrating on the Colorado River. As perhaps no other American river, the Colorado has encapsulated the sometimes bitter warfare that has pitted various interest groups on the use (or non-use) of the nation’s extensive river system. Here we will also consider trout streams and the role of recreation in environmental policy and, more broadly, American life. We will examine at considerable length the most important of these conflicts. In the fourth and final module, we place what we have learned so far about the U.S. river system in a broader cross-cultural setting by examining many of these same issues as they relate to the Western Hemisphere’s longest river, the Amazon River of South America.




Writing Requirements: Term Projects


At the end of each module you will be expected to complete a writing assignment of 5-8 pages each. At the end of the first module you will submit an action plan predicated on scientific principles for an imaginary environmental organization. At the end of the second module, you will write a short paper on “rivers as a cultural theme.” You may write about rivers in fiction, song, art, the theater, etc. At the end of the third module, you will act out a hypothetical town meeting in which various constituencies, from cattle ranchers to urban consumers of water, try to arrive at a consensus over river use. For the fourth module, issues pertaining to the Amazon will be incorporated into the Rivers Symposium. The final writing assignment will serve as a take-home final exam. This will be a paper of 10-15 pages capping off semester-long research projects integrating the various themes and issues which we have covered in this course. (See below under Assignments).


Course Goals


            By the end of this course you should:




Divisional Commitments: Writing and Quantitative Reasoning


As already indicated, at the end of each module you will be expected to complete a writing assignment of 5-8 pages each. These assignments are intended to hone your writing skills even as you are asked to apply theory to practice. Here you will begin to write for interdisciplinary audiences. The semester-long research project will help you develop the quantitative reasoning skills of learning from data. In addition, we will consider the relationship between evidence and assertions in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.




Required Texts


Barich, Bill, Crazy for Rivers (1999) The Lyons Press.


Brautigan, Richard Trout Fishing in America (1970). Houghton Mifflin.


Fradkin, Philip L. A River No More: The Colorado River and the West (1984) University           

            Of California Press.


Gheerbrant, Alain The Amazon Past, Present & Future (1988) Gallimard.


Kline, Benjamin, First Along the River: A Brief History of the U.S. Environmental    

      Movement (2000) Acada Books.


Page, Margot Little Rivers: Tales of a Woman Angler (1995) Lyons & Burford



Sale, Kirkpatrick, The Green Revolution: The American Environmental Movement          

1962-1992 (1993) Hill and Wang.


Twain, Mark, Life on the Mississippi (1883) Signet Classics.


Wolfe, C.R., Cummins, R.H., & Kaufman, B.I. The Rivers Reader (2002) Oxford Copy Shop.


Academic Honesty


Please read Part V, Section 501-507 of The Miami Student Handbook on Academic Honesty since the policy articulated pertains to all work done in this course


Graded Activities:


Grading for the course will be based on a 1,000 point scale, with letter grades being assigned in the traditional fashion (e.g., 800 to 829 = B-, 830 to 869 = B, 870 to 899 = B+ etc.). The number of points for each assignment is outlined below.


Weekly posting and responding on the Blackboard Web site;            150 (15%)

Class participation grade (discussion leading = 50 pts.)                      150 (15%)

Social Movements Exercise                                                                 100 (10%)

The River as a Cultural Theme                                                            100 (10%)

Rivers Management Exercise                                                  100 (10%)

Rivers Symposium with Amazon tie-in                                               100 (10%)

Semester-Long Project Web-based Progress Reports                         100 (10%)

Take Home Final Project                                                                     200 (20%)


Absence Policy

Because this is primarily a seminar experience, active participation in all aspects of this course is essential. Absences that have not been previously excused by one of the professors will result in a lower final class participation grade. Students with a large number of unexcused absences will be dropped from the course. Attendance is mandatory for course evaluations (generally completed during the last meeting of the semester) for all Western classes.

Weekly Schedule


Note: All reading assignments must be completed by the first class meeting of the week.


Assignments and Activities


River System


Reading Assignment


Module 1) Reclaiming American Rivers: Social and Scientific Dimensions

Overview of Field Projects

Western Pond

Collins Run & Harkers Run



Reclaiming American Rivers

The History of the Environmental Movement

Book Kline First Along the River

Reader: Evaluating landscape health: integrating societal goals and biophysical processes

Flood Plain Walk;


Field Project Progress Report



Reclaiming American Rivers

The Recent History of the Environmental Movement and Habitat Assessment


Book by Sale The Green Revolution

Reader: A geomorphological framework for river characterization and habitat assessment


Field Project Progress Report



MLK Mon. No Class

Reclaiming American Rivers

Social Movements and the Science of River Conservation

Reader: Harper CH7: Social Movements; Reader Gordon CH 1 General Perspectives;

Reader Damage Control: restoring the physical integrity of America’s rivers

Field Project Progress Report



Reclaiming American Rivers

Environmental Justice  and the Science of River Conservation

Reader: Taylor Environmental Justice;  3 challenges for the science of river conservation

Exercise: Social Movements Project

Due 2/4/02

Develop a scientifically sound plan of action for an environmental organization to address environmental issues on a river system.



Module 2) Down the Ohio and the Mighty Mississippi





The Ohio River

Reader: Eckert Dark & Bloody River Prologue xvii-lxvii and CH 1


Field Project Progress Report




The Ohio and Mississippi Rivers

Reader Allen Alligator Horses; Havinghurst CH 16 Steamboat Men and CH 21 Towboat River Reader: A regional perspective of the hydrology of the 1993 Mississippi River basin floods


Field Project Progress Report



President’s Day M/T Switch. Attend Monday seminar on 2/19


The Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

Book by Twain Life on the Mississippi Introduction and first 1/2

Reader: (1)What was natural in coastal oceans?

Reader: (1)Coastal environmental impacts brought about by alterations to freshwater flow in the Gulf of Mexico

Field Project Progress Report




The Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

Book by Twain Life on the Mississippi second 1/2

Reader: (1)The natural drainage of south Florida II:Predrainage ecology

(2)Structure and function of south-east Australian estuaries


Mississippi Module Assignment

Due 3/7/02

Prepare a 5-8 page on the river as a cultural theme

Module 3) Rivers of the American West




The Colorado River

The Colorado River

Book by Fradkin A River No More

Reader Burns & Meinzen-Dick Negotiating Water Rights CH 13 & 14


3/9/02 – 3/17/02



Field Project Progress Report



Trout Streams of the West

Gender, Race, Class, and Trout!

Book by Barich Crazy for Rivers

Reader West Minorities & Toxic Fish

Reader: (1)Why should the habitat-level approach underpin holistic river survey and management?

(2)Fish as indicators for the assessment of the ecological integrity of large rivers

Field Project Progress Report



Trout Streams of the West

Gender, Race, Class, and Trout!

Book by Page Little Rivers: Tales of a Woman Angler

Reader: Can we restore the Colorado River delta?; Ecology and conservation biology of the Colorado River Delta, Mexico




Trout Streams of the West

Dam Fools

Book by Brautigan Trout Fishing in America;

Reader Scherer CH 4 On the Rights of Future Generations, CH 4 Models, Scientific method, and Environmental Ethics Reader: Sustaining living rivers; Dam Fools, Article 22, Environment 99/00

Exercise: Rivers Management Project

Due 4/4/02

Play the roles of various constituencies on a western river (eg. cattle ranchers, anglers, environmentalists, urban water consumers, etc.) as we try to achieve consensus about issues of water rights on a western trout stream


Module 4) The Amazing Amazon


Field Project Progress Report



The Amazon River

The Amazon: Past, Present & Future


Book by Gheerbrant The Amazon Past, Present & Future

Reader: The Mesozoic and Cenozoic paleodrainage of South America: a natural history


Field Project Progress Report



The Amazon River

Riparian Flooded Forests and the Dance of the Dolphins

Reader Slater Dance of the Dolphin;

Riparian flooded forests of the Orinoco and Amazon basins: a comparative review


River Symposium

Including an Amazon tie-in to your local project presentation



The Amazon River

Ecosystems, Environmental Change and Human Health in the Amazon

Reader: A review of Peruvian flood plain forests; ecosystems, inhabitants and resource use;

Environmental change and human health in the Brazilian Amazon

Take Home Final

Finals Week


Take home final exam that integrates across areas as, for example, an environmental action statement or a proposed piece of legislation involving rivers



The Rivers Reader Table of Contents


(1) Rapport, Gaudet, Karr, Baron, Bohlen, Jackson, Jones, Naiman, Norton, and Pollock, Journal of Environmental Management, (1998) 53, “Evaluating Landscape Health:  Integrating Societal Goals and Biophysical Process”


(2) Thomson, Taylor, Fryirs, and Brierley, Aquatic Conservation Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, (2001) 11, “A Geomorphological Framework for River Characterization and Habitat Assessment”


(3) Harper, Charles L., Exploring Social Change, “Chapter 7:  Social Movements”, pages 125-144


(4) Gordon, David M., Problems in Political Economy:  An Urban Perspective, 1971, “Editor’s Introduction” to Chapter 1:  “General Perspectives:  Radical, Liberal, Conservative”.


(5) Graf, William L., Annals of the Association of American Geograhers, 91(1), 2001, “Damage Control:  Restoring the Physical Integrity of America’s Rivers”


(6) Scully, Malcolm G., The Chronical of Higher Education, Sept. 2001, “Defeating a River’s Purpose”


(7) Taylor, Dorceta E., American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 43, No. 4, January 2000, “The Rise of the Environmental Justice Paradigm”


(8) Ormerod, S.J., Aquatic Conservation:  Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 9, (1999), “Three Challenges for the Science of River Conservation”


(9) Williams, Jack E., Wood, Christopher A., and Dombeck, Michael P., Watershed Restoration:  Principles and Practices, 1997, “Chapter 1, pages 1 – 13.


(10) Eckert, Allan W., “That Dark and Bloody River”, xvii – lxvii and Chapter 1


(11) Allen, Michael “Western Rivermen, 1763-1861”, Chapter 1: Alligator Horses


(12) Havighurst, Walter, River To The West:  Three Centuries of the Ohio, Chapter 16 – “Steamboat Men”, pages 195 – 209 and Chapter 21 – “Towboat River”, pages 250 – 260.

(13) Pitlick, John, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 87 (1), 1997, “A Regional Perspective of the Hydrology of the 1993 Mississippi River Basin Floods”


(14) Jackson, Jeremy B.C., PNAS, Vol. 98, “What was Natural in the Coastal Oceans?”


(15) Sklar, Fred H., Browder, Joan A., Environmental Management, Vol. 22, No. 4,  “Coastal Environmental Impacts Brought About by Alterations to Freshwater Flow in the Gulf of Mexico”


(16) Browder, Joan A., Ogden, John C., Urban Ecosystems, 3, 1999, “The Natural South Florida System II:  Predrainage Ecology”


(17) Roy, P.S., Williams, R.J., Jones, A.R., Yassini, I., Gibbs, P.J., Coates, B., West, R.J., Scanes, P.R., Hudson, J.P. and Nichol, S., Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, (2001) 53, “Structure and Function of South-east Australian Estuaries”


(18) Bruns, Bryan Randolph & Meinzen-Dick, Ruth S., Negotiating Water Rights, Chapter 13 – Acequias and Water Rights Adjudications in Northern New Mexico”, pages 337 – 351 and Chapter 14 – “Negotiating Water Rights:  Implications for Research and Action”, pages 353 – 375.


(19) West, Patrick C., “Invitation to Poison?  Detroit Minorities and Toxic Fish Consumption from the Detroit River”


(20) Harper, David and Everard, Mark, Aquatic Conservation:  Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 8, (1998), “Why Should the Habitat-Level Approach Underpin Holistic River Survey and Management?”


(21) Schiemer, F., Hydrobiologia 422/423, 2000, “Fish as Indicators for the Assessment of the Ecological Integrity of Large Rivers”


(22) Aitken, Gary., Watershed Restoration:  Principles and Practices, 1997, “Chapter 23, Restoration of Trout Waters in the West: Blackfoot River of Montana.


(23) Pitt, Jennifer, Journal of Arid Environments, (2001), 49, “Can We Restore the Colorado River Delta?”


(24) Glenn, Edward P., Zamora-Arroyo, Francisco, Nagler, Pamela L., Briggs, Mark, Shaw, William & Flessa, Karl, Journal of Arid Environments (2001) 49, “Ecology and Conservation Biology of the Colorado River Delta, Mexico”


(25) Partridge, Ernest. In D. Scherer (Ed.) Upstream/Downstream. “Chapter 2: On the Rights of Future Generations.”


(26) Shrader-Frechette, K. In D. Scherer (Ed.) Upstream/Downstream. “Chapter 4: Models, Scientific Method, and Environmental Ethics.”


(27) McGurrin, Joseph and Forsgren, Harv. In Watershed Restoration:  Principles and Practices, 1997, “Chapter 26, What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why?”


(28) Karr, James R., & Chu, Ellen W., Hydrobiologia 422/423, 2000, “Sustaining Living Rivers”


(29) DeLong, James V., Annual Editions, Environment 99/00, “Dam Fools”. pages 146 – 153.


(30) Potter, P.E., Journal of South American Earth Sciences, Vol. 10, Nos. 5-6, “The Mesozoic and Cenozoic Paleodrainage of South America”  A Natural History”


(31) Slater, Candace, Dance of the Dolphin, Chapter 4, “Stories and Beliefs about Dolphins as Supernatural Beings” pages 89 – 117.  


(32) Godoy, Judith R., Petts, Geoffrey & Salo, Jukka, Biodiversity and Conservation 8, 1999, “Riparian Flooded Forests of the Orinoco and Amazon Basins:  A Comparative Review”

(33) Kvist, Lars Peter and Nebel, Gustav, Forest Ecology and Management 150 (2001), “A Review of Peruvian Flood Plain Forests:  Ecosystems, Inhabitants and Resource Use”


(34) Confalonieri, Ulisses, Global Change & Human Health, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2000, “Environmental Change and Human Health in the Brazilian Amazon”