Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Lions and Tigers and Bears ... or not: The Role of Predators in Human and Natural Ecology

Instructor: Diane Melroy

Predators structure the natural world. They are also powerful symbols that human beings have used since the beginning of culture. What will happen to the natural world, and to human imagination and symbolism, if predators no longer exist? In this course we will examine the role of predators in the natural and human worlds. Our study will be based on ecological principles but the course is not designed for science majors, anyone can understand the arguments involved. Expect to come away with a greater appreciation for these sometimes magnificent and sometimes humble animals, and their profound influences on the natural and human worlds.

This class will be discussion based. Every week students will have readings which we will then discuss in class. I will develop discussion questions and also ask students to bring in questions to share with the class.

Assessment Criteria

Assessment will be based on class participation, in-class and out-of-class writing assignments, and a project. In their projects, each student will choose a predator to study and will research the animal and a specific place it lives. They will include the role of the animal in its environment and the interaction the animal has with people in the region, both historically and in the present day. They will submit a paper on their project and give one or more class presentations on it as well.


The following books will be assigned:

  • Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind, by Quammen, David. WW Norton & Co, 2004. ISBN 978-0393326093
  • Why Big, Fierce Animals are Rare: An Ecologist's Perspective, by Colinvaux, Paul A. Princeton University Press, 1979. ISBN 978-0691023649
  • Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators, by Stolzenburg, William. Bloomsbury USA, 2009. ISBN 978-1596916241

There will also be some introductory readings on evolution so students have a clear understanding of the relationship between organisms and their environments.

Last Update: June 6, 2012