Rich Van Buskirk, PhD

Professor, Department Chair
UC Box 
Douglas C. Strain Science Center 303 (Forest Grove)

Course Information

At Pacific University, all faculty teach a variety of different courses. Typically, we do not use graduate teaching assistants, which means that your classes will be taught by professors and that you will have plenty of opportunities to get to know the faculty in your discipline.

Below I have listed some of the courses that I teach. We are always developing and trying out new classes, so the list may change now and then. 

ENV 100 | Environmental Studies Seminar

ENV 155 | Ecosystems & Cultures: Conservation and Environmental Issues in Hawaii

ENV 170 | Introduction to GIS

ENV 230 | Restoration Ecology

ENV 260 | Oregon Natural History

ENV 380 | Environmental Problem Solving

ENV 360 | Conservation Biology

ENV 490 | Capstone Experience

Teaching Philosophy

From the nuisance of aphids on a rose bush to the latest media piece on climate change, there is no limit to the relevant examples of environmental science that students encounter daily. I capitalize on examples such as these, and our limited understanding of the processes that underlie them, to show that science is not simply a repository of facts and jargon, but a vibrant, on-going process with links to us all. In this light, students can see the creative, problem-solving mindset that drives the best scientific research and are able to envision how they too can contribute. This is the type of classroom that I strive to create, one in which students are not only receiving but also responding to the available information. As they make connections between personal experiences, material from readings and lecture, and dialogue with peers and faculty, the spontaneous process of learning is free to occur.


Post Doctoral Scholar in Evolution of Seabird Foraging Behavior, UC Davis, Davis, Calif., in 2001

PhD in Zoology with an emphasis on Phylogeography of zerene fritillaries, UC Davis, Davis, Calif., in 2001

Master of Arts in Zoology with an emphasis on Population biology of zerene fritillaries, UC Davis, Davis, Calif., in 1997

Bachelor of Arts in Biology, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1988

Areas of Research & Specialization

I describe myself as a broadly trained evolutionary ecologist with a passion for questions having conservation applications. My research interests range from the assembly of functional grassland and riparian communities to the response of organisms to environmental change. Historical biogeography and phylogeography set the context for these questions while field-based assessments of habitat requirements and animal movement are used to determine the shortcomings of current management practices. I am fascinated by advances in molecular biology and remote sensing that allow previously untenable questions pertaining to distribution and abundance to be pursued at the landscape scale. To this end I have applied techniques in genetic analysis and remote sensing to understand how evolutionary history and patterns of movement influence current population dynamics.

Clatsop Plains – Clatsop County, OR

Remnant coastal grasslands on the Clatsop Plains once supported a large population of Oregon Silverspot Butterflies (Speyeria zerene hippolyta).  Development, invasive species, and succession have fragmented and degraded the landscape to the point that this federally threatened species is no longer viable at this occurrence.  Working with the Oregon Military Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the North Coast Land Conservancy, and the Nature Conservancy, I am assessing ongoing management of coastal prairie remnants and determining methods for the restoration of sites now dominated by non-native plant species.

Gales Creek – Washington County, OR

Gales Creek is located just minutes from the Pacific University campus but is often overlooked by residents of Forest Grove.  The agricultural fields that hem it in on either side belie the creek’s true ecological significance.  Native fish such as cutthroat trout, lampreys, and suckers still occupy its waters and it has the potential to provide spawning grounds for threatened winter steelhead trout.  I am currently working with Clean Water Services and the Tualatin River Watershed Council on restoration projects along the Gales Creek riparian corridor and plan to monitor the success of these projects not only in terms of their impact on fish populations but also in providing habitat to terrestrial species that occupy these gallery forests.