Desert Studies Institute Workshops

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Desert Studies Institute (DSI) was established in 1997 as a cooperative program between the Department of Anthropology at Boise State University and Celebration Park, which is operated by Canyon County Parks, Recreation and Waterways.  Each year, the Desert Studies Institute provides a broad range of academic offerings of interest and value to students, teaching professionals, Idaho’s citizens and visitors.

The mission of the Institute is to provide educational programs and scholarly presentations concerning the prehistory, history, ecology and politics of Idaho’s desert environments and deserts worldwide.  The programs are presented to enrich the understanding and appreciation of complex desert ecosystems in Idaho and to promote their perpetual preservation as educational resources for the future.


The faculty of the Desert Studies Institute is selected on the basis of their expertise in areas relating to the objectives of the DSI.  Faculty from Boise State University and the region form the core of the instructional faculty.  The institute regularly arranges for the participation of distinguished scholars from other institutions.


All workshops are one credit each, unless otherwise indicated, and are available for undergraduate or graduate credit, plus a small workshop fee.  All workshops are listed under anthropology; most are cross-listed with other disciplines.  For detailed information, or for registration information call 426-1709 (Boise State Summer Program/Extended Studies).

Brief Description of our Summer 2019 Workshops:

The Way West

July 13-14, 2019 Jerry Jerrems
This workshop will review the history of emigration associated with the Oregon Trail in southern Idaho, placing an emphasis upon its role leading to the environmental degradation along the trail corridor.
NOTE: Field Trip.
Cross-listed.  1 credit

Prehistoric Archaeology of the Snake River Plain

June 13-14, 2019  Mark Plew
This workshop provides an overview of the archaeology of the Snake River Plain. Discussions will focus on major prehistoric developments in southern Idaho and include assessments of current issues and problems in the archaeology of the area.   There will be a field trip to Celebration Archaeological Park near Melba, Idaho: no transportation provided.
NOTE: Field Trip.
Cross-listed.  1 credit

Ethnobotany:  Introduction to Edible, Medicinal, and Useful Plants

June 8-9, 2019  Raymond Vizgirdas
This workshop focuses primarily on plants used by Native Americans as food, medicine, clothing, and building materials.  Classroom and field activities will emphasize plant identification, ecology and ethnobotany.  This workshop will bring together aspects of our region’s natural and cultural history.  Field trip.
Cross-listed with Anthropology, Biology, and Environmental Studies.       1 credit

Introduction to Idaho’s Native Pollinators

June 15-16, 2019  Raymond Vizgirdas
This workshop is an introduction to the concepts and issues surrounding pollination ecology.  Some 80% of the earth’s flowering plants rely on animal pollinators, primarily insects, to ensure reproduction.  Beyond the direct economic value, insect pollination is essential for maintaining the structure and function of a wide range of natural communities including sagebrush steppe and montane forests.  Alarmingly, managed and wild insect pollinators have suffered declines in recent years prompting calls for proactive strategies to help bolster their populations.  Field trip.
Cross-listed with Anthropology, Biology, and Environmental Studies.       1 credit

Death of an Ecosystem

June 22-23, 2019  Eric Yensen
This workshop will focus on important ecological interactions in northern Great Basin ecosystems.  Learn about the ecological roles of ground squirrels, badgers, raptors, coyotes, grasshoppers, sagebrush, and many others; how they interact to form a functional ecosystem; and how human activities are causing the collapse of this ecosystem.  The workshop includes a field trip to the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.
Cross-listed with Anthropology, Biology, Environmental Studies, and Geosciences.  1 credit

Historical Archaeology

June 1-2, 2019  Weston Wardle
This workshop will review historical archaeology of 19th and early 20th century Idaho.  An overview of the history of this time period will be complimented by a survey of past archaeological projects.  A field trip is scheduled for the second day of this workshop.
NOTE: Field Trip.
Cross-listed.  1 credit

Desert Ecology

June 26-27, 2019  Laura Barbour and Nikki Schwend
In this workshop guest speakers and specialists in desert ecology provide a broad overview of natural and human ecology through short lectures and demonstrations.  The workshop will meet at Celebration Archaeological Park near Melba, Idaho.  Included are field trips to Leslie Gulch, Halverson Bar and a fossil locality.
Cross-listed with Anthropology, Biology, Geosciences, and Environmental Studies.  1 credit

National Parks

June 6-7, 2019  Emily Wakild
This workshop focuses on the history of national parks around the world but especially American West and Patagonian South America. The US National Park Service celebrated its centennial in 2016 but did you know that Argentina and New Zealand also had parks by then?  We will explore stories about the origins and existence of these parks as well as trace their history through textual, visual, and film sources.
Cross-listed.  1 credit