Understanding Nature

Ecology for a New Generation

Most college Biology and Environmental Science majors in the U.S., at least half of whom are health pre-professionals, are required to take a course in ecology as undergraduates.  Getting them sincerely interested in ecology and having them see the relevance of the course can be a challenge.  Students do not always have the math skills necessary to appreciate some of ecology’s theoretical underpinnings.  Their decreasing familiarity with the outdoors is a major obstacle.  


Enter Understanding Nature:  Ecology for a New Generation.  I spent 14 years teaching ecology in the standard format, followed by seven years of experimenting with different techniques to better reach students.  Comments on course reviews went from lukewarm in the standard format to the following:


“Over the course of the semester, I learned so much and fell madly in love with ecology.”

“This course has significantly changed my relationship with nature.”

“Nature study has value to every person on this earth, whether they believe it or not.”

“Walking into a forest will never be the same for me in the best way possible.”


How did I do it?  This book challenges ecology instructors to rethink how and what they teach about nature.  In this age of nature deficit disorder, anxiety, obesity, and screen addiction.  Students buy in if they see nature as therapy.


The goals of this innovative book are to: 

   (1) provide a straight-forward resource that teaches natural history and ecological content,

   (2) provide a way to instruct students that will heal both Earth and self. 

Photo: Students after building a shelter during wilderness training at USF, by Lou Weber

Features of Understanding Nature:

  • suggested field activities at the beginning of each chapter. 

  • a storytelling approach that presents the fundamental theories and concepts of natural history and ecology as they developed historically.

  • image-rich chapters with graphic organizers, written for the busy 21st Century student.

  • review questions, thinking questions and suggested research topics at the end of each chapter.


The book will be published by CRC Press.  It is expected to be in print by summer of 2023.

Interested?  Discover what it takes to meet students where they are and have them fall in love with nature again.   More details are available by writing to Louise Weber at  lweber@sf.edu.