When John M. Coulter first came to University of Chicago in 1894, there was only one other member of the Department of Botany teaching staff, assistant Henry Clarke. Field study was not a common feature of courses until Coulter was able to hire additional faculty and recruit a number of graduate students as teaching assistants. From the late 1890s through the early 1930s a number of Department of Botany courses consistently included field study as a part of class work. Usually offered during the Spring and Summer Quarters (rarely in the Winter Quarter), field work focused on distinct ecological regions in the Chicago area, the Great Lakes region, and an array of diverse locations across the United States. The content, names, and numbering of these courses changed somewhat through the years; the three taught most frequently by Henry Chandler Cowles were Elementary Ecology (Botany 3, Botany 203), Field Ecology (Botany 36, Botany 336) and Physiographic Ecology (Botany 34, Botany 234, Botany 334).
Descriptions of the Department of Botany courses and field trips presented here are extracted from the published information that appeared in the University of Chicago Annual Register, the University of Chicago Official Publications [Announcements], issues of the Botanical Gazette, and the Department of Botany Newsletter during the period 1898 to 1934.
The University of Chicago operated on an academic calendar of four ten-week quarters separated by examinations, convocations (graduation ceremonies), and interims. The academic year opened each mid-June with the beginning of Summer Quarter and closed the following year in early June with the end of Spring Quarter. Summer Quarter was divided equally into a first and second term.
Botany 3: Plant Ecology
[Taught by Professors Coulter and Cowles, Summer and Spring 1898-99, and by Professor Cowles, Spring 1900. The course was offered from 1900-01 to 1929-30 after which the course was discontinued.]
Botany 24: Field Botany
This course is designed to supplement the local work in ecology at the University. A definite area is selected and a careful study is made of its vegetation, and of the influence of its particular environment upon plant life. As much attention as possible will be paid to the more purely geographical and geological features in their relation to the vegetation. The full time of the student will be required while the class is in the field; the remainder of the term may be devoted to the preparation of a report embodying the results of the field work. It is aimed to complete the field work before the opening of schools in order to accommodate teachers
2nd term Summer Quarter 98
Dr. Henry Cowles, in charge of plant ecology at the University of Chicago, has had a field class of twelve at work for six weeks on North Manitou Island, Lake Michigan
Botany 24: Field Ecology
2nd term Summer Quarter 99
Professor not specified
In the Summer of 1899 the field work will probably be conducted in the mountain region of West Virginia.
Dr. Henry Cowles of the University of Chicago has spent several weeks with a party of advanced students at Marquette, Michigan, prosecuting ecological studies on the adjacent flora.
Botany 3: Elementary Ecology
This course treats of plants in relation to their environment. The chief topics studied are the structure and development of the various plant organs in relation to their functions....There is field work in the greenhouses, parks, and vacant grounds near the University.
Botany 28: Field Ecology
2nd term Summer Quarter
Mr. S. M. Coulter
In the summer of 1900 the work of this class will be in northern Michigan. It is expected that this course will be offered in Florida in the winter of 1901 by Dr. Cowles
Dr. H. C. Cowles conducted a class in field study of ecology through the Tennessee Mountains during June. He has been appointed to take charge of the botanical work at the Biological Laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor, [New York] during the summer.