Wishing I could take Dr. T’s classes


Nhh400I want to go back to college.  But this time not to some liberal arts enclave in the Midwest but to Texas Tech University’s honors program of interdisciplinary studies in the natural world – so I can to take classes from Dr. T, known to Rant readers as Susan Tomlinson.  

First I want to take her class on landscapes, “which can include anything from a truck stop to a cemetery to mountain wilderness.  They do a lot of drawing,” she writes.  Her guest post about loving an ugly landscape gave us a hint of what’s going on here – it’s not about waterfalls and sunsets.

Then there’s Dr. T’s class teaching students to read nature like a text. These kids also do a lot of drawing – of flora and fauna – and learn basic surveying skills.  From “Pentimento”:  “The students work at learning about
wildflowers and jackrabbit signs and other secrets of the prairie.  I
know from experience that many of them are also learning to love this

One class outing was to the Prairie Chicken Festival to watch lesser prairie chickens.

LPC is an uncommon, indigenous bird, seldom seen even by long-term human
residents of this region. None of the students had ever seen one, and this was
an optional trip in the middle of a busy semester. Even so, over half the class
made the weekend trip, rose well before sunrise, and froze for two hours in an
unheated van, just to watch the craziness of bird hormones at work.


The students volunteered to mark barbed wire fences so the birds
wouldn’t get caught in them, and Dr. T wrote that “I was proud of my students
that day.”

I happened to hear on “60 Minutes” this week that Texas Tech, with its 28,000 students, is craaaazy for football.  Nice to see it’s also a place for kids who are crazy for nature.

Photo:  student Matt McEwen protecting lesser prairie chickens from barbed wire.


  1. The bulk of my life was spent in Oklahoma so I know the habitat well, and I’ve led bird watching groups to visit Prairie Chicken leks to watch them dance. Now I live on the east coast and find myself constantly explaining the beauty of the plains to my neighbors and co-workers. I’m glad I’m from there. I’m glad I know it so well, but I don’t want to live there anymore. Nature is worthwhile everywhere, one place is not better than another. It is nice to see others from the ‘homeland’ open a few more eyes to the middle of the country.

  2. I’d also love to take her “Women and Nature” course. I am working on her to take a sabbatical and come to Seattle to teach some of that stuff up here! I found her through the gardening blog world and feel like she is one of the real stand-outs here. Thanks for spotlighting her interesting work again.

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