I plan to analyze the interdependence of Willamette Valley ecology and iconography with the intent of developing community resources to promote a deeper understanding of the natural history and cultural history of Willamette University’s campus. Using natural icons of Willamette University as case studies (e.g. beaver in the official seal), I will craft learning modules and develop instructive exercises to promote intersections of natural history and ecology of easily recognizable plants, animals, and natural features of campus that lend themselves to direct observation. I am still refining the natural icons I will closely analyze but am certain to evaluate the Mill Race, the Quad, Oregon white oak trees, the Sequoia Star Trees, American beavers, tree squirrels, bald eagles, and migratory birds as they are among our more heavily loaded natural icons. I will also use my ecological knowledge to create a comprehensive and engaging species list and map of all the conspicuous flora and fauna of campus. In my experience interrelated patterns of natural history and human culture on and near our campus starts with knowing what and where things are.
My project should combine well with others who are doing research in semiotics or the study of signs with special attention to considering the connections between icons, symbols, emblems, logos, and other forms of image representation. I am also interested in collaborators with historical interest in the assumptions and implications of seeking and achieving idealized relationships with nature. Finally I welcome collaborators with an interest in decoding some of the colonialism, classism, racism, and sexism that is embedded in the scientific and common names of the flora and fauna that inhabit campus.