As an integrated component of Dr. Patrick Hurley’s “ENV-366 Ecological Change in Historical Perspective” students undertake “landscape ethnographies,” or case studies of local landscape change in southeastern Pennsylvania and the processes that create this change. Using the coupled qualitative methods of oral history interviews with local residents, air photo analysis, and diverse historical documents, student teams explore the ways in which human-environment interactions in these places have changed over the past century. These projects provide students an opportunity to explore how changing technologies, economies, attitudes, and individual and community decision-making transform these landscapes and the associated patterns of land-use and vegetation that characterize them. In doing so, the research process also foregrounds the lived experiences and perspective of individuals with knowledge of and who often participated in these dynamics. Previous case studies focused on the Quakertown Swamp area of Upper Bucks County and the Stone Hill ridgeline of Central Montgomery County, revealing the ways that the swamp in the first case and diabase boulder fields in the second as well as changing attitudes about the nature in these places profoundly shaped patterns of residential development and, more recently, the conservation of forested places in these areas. As of Spring 2019, these projects in ENV-366 now feature the use of digital storytelling tools that enable students to make the results of these works visible to the public.
A Story of Ecological Change: Behmerwald Nursery in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania
Kacie Williams, Emma Warnick, Kyle Bookman, Breanna Swartz, Amanda White, and Bill Donnelly
Between 1894 and 2017, Schwenksville and the immediate surrounding area, including Behmerwald Nursery, has slowly changed from a landscape of majority rain-fed farmland to a mixed settlement. This Story Map utilizes oral histories, archival documents and geospatial data to tell the story of these changes to the local community.
Collegeville in Transition: A Look at Landscape Change on the Ursinus College Campus and Beyond
Sarah Becker, Emily Klein, Cody Meikrantz, Alfredo Negron Paradis, Sam Parrotta, Dave Bennett, and Rebecca Jaroff
In the years since the Borough of Collegeville was first established in the late-1700s, it has undergone a transformation from predominantly rainfed agricultural land to a mixed settlement landscape of residential development with open space. These transformations of suburbanization have recreated themselves both throughout the borough and on the Ursinus College campus. This Story Map utilizes oral histories, archival documents and geospatial data to examine these changes in the local community.
Northern Star Dairy Farm: A Case Study of Ecological Change in Trappe, Pennsylvania
Madison Moses, Jacob Heimbaugh, Alexandra M. Bailey, Joey Cammarano, Fred Schuetz, and Matthew Wismer
Throughout the last 125 years, anthropogenic ecological change has occurred swiftly and dramatically on a local scale in the United States as well as similarly across the globe. Specifically in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the majority of change has been in a shift from a rain-fed agricultural landscape to one of mixed settlement, in which smaller patches of agriculture are intertwined with suburban tract-housing developments, commercial and industrial complexes, and non-agricultural open spaces, such as parks. Our study, focusing on Trappe, Pennsylvania in Montgomery County, provides a detailed and extensive example of this type of change, as well as provides insight into the social and environmental factors that led to such change. This Story Map utilizes oral histories, archival documents and geospatial data to tell the story of these changes to the local community.