Course Synopsis
Sudden Oak Life: The Science and Practice of Forest Restoration
Sponsored by Gaia University

Faculty – Lee Klinger MA, PhD. For course content inquiries, contact

Faculty Assistants – Giovanna Piumarta (SOL) and Ava Klinger (Gaia U). For registration inquiries, contact

For thousands of years indigenous people around the world have tended the land and trees with a deep understanding of and respect for the living earth. Most of our largest and most ancient trees are now thought to owe their origin and longevity to indigenous tending practices. Considering that these ancient practices have been shown to create and maintain healthy forest ecosystems, we are provided an ecological/cultural model on how best to restore the health of our declining forests.

This course will explore the ecology of trees and forests, the roles of microbes and cryptogams in soil fertility, the relative influence of climate change, and the effects of disturbance, especially fire, on the development of ecosystems. We will also examine our current knowledge of indigenous tending practices, and present a set of methods for tending trees and forests that are a logical extension of these practices. The intent is to bring interdisciplinary knowledge, awareness, and skills of forest restoration and management to students, homeowners, land managers, and tree care professionals.

Click here for the Sudden Oak Life website
Enrollment is limited, so secure your place soon!

Online Curriculum (March 21 – June 11, 2018; Six two-week modules)
Module 1) Scientific and cultural foundations: Topics include indigenous worldviews, Gaia theory, systems theory, and climate change.

Module 2) Basics of botany and ecology: Topics include anatomy and classification of plants, identifying keystone species, essentials of ecosystem theory, the ecology of cryptogams, and restoration ecology.

Module 3) Soils, land-forms, and disturbances: Topics include soil biology, chemistry and development, influence of land-forms, types of disturbance, and forest response to fire suppression.

Module 4) Indigenous tending practices of trees and forests: Topics include indigenous ecology, traditional uses of keystone species, fire management, culturally modified trees, and the roles of middens and terra preta soils in forest tending.

Module 5) Assessment and remediation of forest health: Topics include pathogens and insect pests of oaks and pines, effects of climate and air pollution, improving soil fertility, methods of prescribed fire and fire mimicry, and surgical procedures for stem infections.

Module 6) Current state of progress and future directions in forest restoration: Topics include assessing the response of trees treated with prescribed fire and fire mimicry, wound healing after surgery, and potential improvements through technology.

Immersive Practicum – A 4.5-day practicum will be held October 15-19, 2018 in a location TBD in central California, USA.

Practicum Schedule:

Monday (Oct. 15): Greetings; orientation to facilities and safety; social time. Personal exploration of the site; report on personal observations; detailed overview of the local plants, soils, and ecosystem dynamics; identification of culturally-modified trees and landscapes.

Tuesday (Oct. 16): Diagnosing the health of trees and forests; identification of local oaks and oak groves in need of care; preparation of a tree/forest restoration plan; the human-nature connection in working with trees.

Wednesday (Oct. 17): Methods, equipment, and materials for oak restoration and care using fire mimicry; site preparations and staging of materials and tools; safety protocols; initiate treatment protocols.

Thursday (Oct. 18): Demonstration of surgical procedures; finish treatment protocols; tracking of results using case studies and repeat photography.

Friday morning (Oct. 19): An ecosocial regenerative model of a sustainable forest restoration practice; needs and innovations for improvement of restoration techniques; Sudden Oak Life Level I Practitioner awards.

*Note: For the practicum, students are required to first complete the Online course, bring work clothes, sturdy boots, work gloves, eye protection, and ear protection. Poison oak and ticks may be encountered in the landscape.  Lodging and food are included in the cost of the Practicum.


Online course refunds: If you cancel before March 20, 2018 you are eligible for a 80% refund of the online course fees (minus a 10% service fee).  There will be no refunds after the starting date of the online course.

Practicum course refunds: Full refunds for the practicum will be given if the person cancels prior to September 1, 2018 (minus a 10% service fee). Half the cost of the practicum will be refunded if you cancel before October 1, 2018 (minus a 10% service fee).  After Oct 1, 2018, there will be no refunds for practicum course fees.

To register, please fill out the form below and submit your information and payment.