“Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.’

–Wendell Berry

Class Description

This course is an exploration of the patterns of fish diversity, the ecological and evolutionary processes that give rise to that diversity, and the resilience and sustainability that result. The topics that we will cover are intended to act as foundational principles that fisheries resource professionals will use throughout their careers. Together we will examine the complexity of what constitutes a ‘fishery’ and better understand the factors that have led some fisheries to collapse and others to persist. In addition to lectures, students will read, discuss, and write extensively and by doing so, can expect to gain better understanding of the “science of sustainability’ with regards to 21st century fisheries in Alaska and beyond.

Course Objectives

This course has the following objectives for student learning:

  • To develop a thorough understanding of the complexity of natural resource issues;
  • To critically read and synthesize diverse opinions on issues;
  • To foster each student’s own informed views of complex natural resource issues;
  • To clearly express those views in writing and in discussion with peers.

Course Expectations

Together we can be most effective and are most likely to achieve the courses’ objectives if we are clear about what we can expect from one another. As a result, the following expectations will guide our work together.

My Expectations of Students

  • Come to class on time, engage in the course content for the full class time, and refrain from any activities that distract us from doing our best jobs of teaching or detract from a positive learning environment for all involved;
  • Come to class prepared to participate, having completed assigned reading, writing, and research in advance;
  • Participate in class activities in ways that support course goals and demonstrate respect and civility toward all other students and teachers;
  • Take an active role in obtaining information and resources for completion of tasks and assignments in the course and, ultimately, in promoting your own learning;
  • Monitor your own learning and contribute feedback to support the Facilitator in achieving course goals.

Students’ Expectations of the Facilitator

  • Begin and end class on time;
  • Come to class prepared to do the best job of supporting your learning;
  • Provide information and resources to support your learning in the course;
  • Make the best possible use of class time to support your learning in the course;
  • Answer questions and emails promptly and sufficiently;
  • Be available to provide additional assistance when needed;
  • Provide clear and consistent criteria that can be used fairly in evaluating your learning;
  • Welcome input on ways to support you in your achievement of course goals.

Learning Outcomes

By the completion of the course, you should be able to:

  • Understand the primary role of natural selection in driving adaptation in fish;
  • Apply concepts of population growth and density-dependence to explain patterns in abundance;
  • Clearly articulate the logic behind how Alaska salmon fisheries are managed (e.g. what’s ‘fixed escapement?’);
  • Articulate some of the frequently used definitions of ‘sustainability’ and ‘resilience’, and clearly explain what these terms mean to you;
  • Understand what is meant by ‘global climate change’ and explain some of the challenges it poses for fisheries management. Explain how climate is different than weather;
  • See connections between different topics and ideas and apply these connections to new scenarios;
  • Have increased confidence speaking in front of peers and articulating your thoughts in writing;

Assumptions About learning

These assumptions will guide our path in the course:

  • Students learn in unique ways (for example, when asked what you did yesterday, do you see pictures or words?);
  • Writing, reading, and thinking are inextricably linked;
  • Students learn best from either themselves or from peers;
  • The best discussions come from good listening;
  • Transformative learning occurs best when preconceived notions are challenged;

Required Readings

These books are available at the UAF Bookstore, online at, local bookstores (e.g. Barnes & Noble) and several copies (including E-versions) are available at the Rasmuson Library. It is your responsibility to obtain these books, or have a plan for accessing the readings, by the first week of class!

Four Fish by Paul Greenberg

Billion Dollar Fish by Kevin Bailey

Both titles are available at the UAF bookstore, at local retailers, or online

Additional Readings

Posted on the class website in the Assignment section of the Schedule  page. It is essential that you are comfortable navigating this course website.  Through the website, I will provide details on assignments, important changes to dates on the syllabus, class outlines and notes, class recordings, and supplemental reading material and content.

Core activities & Important dates

Assignments & Participation in Fish Tank Thursdays (FTT)

On most Thursdays, HALF of our class time will be devoted to FTT in which we will continue the conversation that started online based on responses you gave to the weekly proposed question (inspired by assigned readings for the week).

Your role in FTT has three parts and your combined performance counts toward one third of your course grade.

First, each student will post online (on the forum section of the course website: ) a response to the proposed weekly question  (See Grading Policy & Expectations for examples)

These responses are due on the online discussion forum by 11:59 pm on the Tuesday before FTT (see course schedule for dates).

Second, students will reply to at least two responses by other students with a substantive comment. This can be done by clicking on someone’s post and typing a response in the comment box, then hitting ‘submit’. Comments like ‘I agree with this’ or ‘Nice thought Molly’ will receive no credit. The idea is to take the online forum and pick it up in class in person. Think about what you want to say before typing!

Replies are due online by 11:59 pm on the Wednesday before FTT

Third, students are expected come to FTT ready to participate in class dialogues. To receive credit, students must contribute in a meaningful way to the conversation (i.e. you have to speak at each FTT). However, full points for this criterion of the participation score can be achieved through speaking during at least 7 FTT discussions (there are 9 FTT during the term). Trivial statements will receive zero or partial credit.   See the section on Grading Philosophy & Expectations for more clarification. I will pull from the class Fish Tank, comments from the forum to facilitate discussion. Be on your toes.

Your performance in FTT through responses, replies, and engagement during the in-class conversation will count heavily toward your participation grade.

Exams & Quizzes

There will be an in-class mid-term exam and a cumulative final-exam (i.e. material covers the entire course), which will consist of definitions, short-answer, and essay-type questions. Note: things discussed during FTT will be prime targets for exam questions! To prepare for the exam and to practice the type of questions that will be asked, we will have two short (15 min) in class quizzes (see dates for Exams and Quizzes on class Schedule).

The final will have twice the weight as the mid-term, and combined the exams will count towards one third of your grade in the course.

Quizzes will be conducted through Canvas

Expert Panels

In previous years, students have chosen topics and formed  expert panels to explore ‘hot’ current topics (e.g. the use of Marine Protected Areas as a fisheries management tool). This year, we will explore various aspects in which the COVID-19 global pandemic is impacting global fisheries. I will work with groups to identify and shape appropriate topics for expert panels  and will provide key documents to kick start their research. Groups will be graded on two products: First, they will use a  joint-written ‘executive’ summary of their key findings to update or create a Wikipedia page based on their topic, and Second they will give an in-class presentation of the issue. Based on the briefing and presentation, the class will then ask questions of the panel. How well do you know the issue? Be prepared for tough questions! The remaining third of your grade will be based on your participation and performance on the panel. Thus the score from the expert panel assignment will have two components that are based on the groups performance and one component that is from each individual student.


Grade scale: 92-100 A; 90-92 A-; 88-90 B+; 80-88 B; 78-80 B-; 65-78 C; 50-65 D; below 50 F. If the class average falls below 75%, this scale will be adjusted accordingly.  Point and percentage values for each of the three evaluation components (shown below in BOLD) are as follows:

Topic Points Possible % Total of 900 Points
FTT Assignments & Participation 300 33.3
Responses on Discussion Board 50
Posted response to Weekly Question 200
Participation in discussions 50
Exams & Quizzes 300 33.3
Mid-Term 85
Final Exam 170
Two quizzes 45
Expert Panels 300 33.3
Executive summary/Wikipedia Update 100
Personal presentation 100
Group presentation/response to questions 100

Course Outline (subject to change)

See course Schedule

Grading Policy & Expectations

In this section I have provided examples of writing reflections, questions for FTT, and discussion comments that would earn full credit, in contrast to examples that would earn little or no credit.  More extensive details concerning expectations for the expert panels will be discussed in class.

Writing Reflection Example

Writing reflections are to be AT LEAST 250 words in length, use full and complete sentences, and communicate at least one clear line of thinking.

Snippet of language for Full Credit (contributed by past 110 students): “It’s funny to me that when Greenberg asked the question of why eat the sea bass instead of a local fish, the answer was almost always because it was European. To me that just shows how ridiculous we are as people. We prefer to have something exotic. Even though the sea bass doesn’t fit under Francis Galton’s guidelines, which make a lot of sense, we still chose to domesticate it. Even though there are huge difficulties with it, we still try, which I believe is simply for tradition’s sake. Greenberg brings up a good point when he says that if we were really looking for a reason to “feed the world’ we would have chosen a different source. I completely agree. The sea bass was an important steppingstone, just like the salmon. If it weren’t for research of the sea bass, Josh Goldman wouldn’t have been able to find such an incredible sustainable fish that fit under Galton’s criteria. I just wonder if people would accept it into the food source, seeing as it isn’t as popular as tuna, salmon, or bass. This does make me hopeful for the future of commercial fish though.’

Snippet of language for Partial/Zero Credit: I like this week’s reading, it was really clear and made a lot of sense.  But I didn’t understand what ‘domesticated’ meant.

Discussion comment example

Comment for Full Credit: “That’s a really good point Jack, but it seems to me that if we are serious about reducing the problem of overfishing that the primary goal has got to be to stop killing so many fish!’

Comment for Zero Credit: “One time at band camp I laughed so hard milk came out my nose!’


Please see this link for all non-academic policies, including COVID-19 procedures outlined by the university leadership.

Late work & attendance

As a reminder, we are all in this course together and so I expect that students will take a proactive attitude toward the work in Fish 110. I expect you to turn in assignments on-time, and if a rare legitimate reason gets in the way that you will let me know before the assignment is due! Also, I expect that you will attend all class sessions. As stated above, your participation in discussions counts for a large part of your grade. But more importantly, if you are not in class you cannot contribute and everyone has something unique to contribute! Simply put, not coming to class and not participating detrimentally impacts the learning of others. In the event that an emergency will keep you from attending class or completing an assignment on time, I expect an email or in-person conversation IN ADVANCE to discuss. Emails should be respectfully written, with a clear subject heading and concise message. If I do not hear from you and your work is not in on time the grade will be a Zero.

Academic dishonesty

I, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks as a whole, consider academic dishonesty and plagiarism as a violation of trust and an offense that has major ramifications (e.g. potential expulsion from UAF). This course is about developing your personal thinking with regards to issues of natural resource use and sustainability and I expect your work to be your own.  This is different than saying you must work in isolation! I want your thoughts to be shaped through conversation with your peers, through what you read, and what you watch. But the work you turn in needs to be in your own voice, express personal conclusions, and where appropriate acknowledge the contribution of others (through citation). Simply put, I will not tolerate dishonesty (in any form) in Fish 110.

Support Services and Disabilities

This class involves writing assignments.  You may find it useful to visit the UAF writing center.  For more information, go to  Make sure that your tutor understands the premise and audience for your writing assignments. For students new to Fairbanks and college life, consider using the services provided by Rural Student Services

If you need special accommodations because of a disability, please contact me as soon as possible and we will work together with the Office of Disabilities Services (203 WHIT, 474-7043) to make the necessary arrangements in order to maximize your learning. To the extent possible I will work to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities.

Notice of Nondiscrimination

Student protections and services statement: Every qualified student is welcome in my classroom. As needed, I am happy to work with you, disability services, veterans’ services, rural student services, etc to find reasonable accommodations. Students at this university are protected against sexual harassment and discrimination (Title IX), and minors have additional protections. As required, if I notice or am informed of certain types of misconduct, then I am required to report it to the appropriate authorities. For more information on your rights as a student and the resources available to you to resolve problems, please go the following site:

Land Acknowledgement

I live, work, and conduct  research on Indigenous lands in Alaska and beyond. The SEEC Lab, which I am a part of, is based on the Troth Yedhha’ campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the traditional homelands of the Lower Tanana Dene’. We are indebted to, and grateful for, the 10,000+ years of ongoing stewardship and sustainable management of fisheries by the many diverse groups of Indigenous peoples across the state.

We believe that both Indigenous and western knowledge are necessary in confronting the most pressing conservation challenges today, and we strive to become better stewards by applying the best available knowledge to inform society’s choices. All of us are at different stages of journeys to better understand the impacts of colonialism on Indigenous stewardship and the legacy of criminalization of subsistence ways of life, displacement, and erasure inside and outside of the classroom. We understand that this work is on-going and never complete. While undoubtedly we will make missteps along the way, we do so with good intentions and welcome loving corrections when we go astray.
-Written by lab members in the Spring of 2021

Fish and Fisheries in a Changing World