Deserts, Plants, and People
Environments commonly known as “deserts” occupy nearly one-third of the earth’s land surface and are home to about a billion people. We will first discuss the geographical features of deserts, answering seemingly simple questions: What is a desert, and why do they occur where they do? Humans are particularly maladapted to life in deserts, but many organisms exhibit remarkable adaptations to aridity. We will investigate examples of these within plants from different deserts. Here the key questions will be: How do these plants grow and develop in these environments? Deserts are also associated with significant events in human history and many issues in contemporary international relations. Throughout the course we will consider humans and their influences on desert environments. We will also explore challenging questions here such as how societies perceive and steward deserts, and how are these actions connected?
Steve Smith is Associate Professor in the Schools of Renewable Natural Resources and the Environment, and Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona. He teaches undergraduate courses in biology and botany. His research interests reflect both his training in plant improvement and his fascination with plant adaptation in natural communities.