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Landscapes and Ecological Systems Certificate

Landscapes and Ecological Systems Certificate

Landscape architects draw from natural elements to form and design outdoor spaces. The Landscapes and Ecological Systems Certificate provides knowledge of plant systems and their ecological value; plant classification and identification; and ecological processes, patterns and practices. An advanced studio format offers the tools to successfully select plant species for specific uses, lessons on sustainable applications, and the ability for students to produce meaningful spatial design concepts.


The Landscapes and Ecological Systems Certificate offers on campus courses and is open to anyone with an interest in landscapes. Students can choose from a mix of onsite and online classes to complete the certificate.

Requirements and Courses

The Landscapes and Ecological Systems Certificate program requires the completion of three courses for a total of 9 credits. Students take the same courses as those in the Landscape Architecture degree programs.

Courses are offered in the fall and spring semesters. See what Continuing Education Courses are coming up soon.

Courses | 9 Credits:

This course is an introduction to botany and the evolution of plant science. The course presents students with the various aspects of plant characteristics, from their aesthetic quality to their fuel value at both a micro and macro scale. The emphasis is on traditional and technical knowledge, and will directly complement the existing and vital relationships between plants, animals, and human beings. Field trip explorations will include studies and observations on plant physiology and form, plant ecology, plant communities, and biodiversity, as well as basic plant classification and identification. Understanding plant growth forms, reproduction and dispersal mechanisms will lead to appreciation of horticulture and design. The course will also explore the relationships between native vegetation, invasive plants and managed plantings. The use of basic computer skills is required; digital cameras are encouraged to facilitate documenting fieldwork and diagnostic plant features.

Plant Taxonomy is an introductory course on the principles of plant classification, nomenclature and the practice of field identification. Students will become familiar with the diversity of woody plant species - trees, shrubs, vines and groundcovers used for landscape design in Eastern North America. Special attention will be given to learning about native species for their critical role in restoring ecological integrity and combating climate change.

Through lecture, discussion and project exercises, this course will explore the relationships of ecological communities in diverse environments, the implications of landscape patterns, and how landscape scale affects ecosystem processes from rural to urban. Students will consider conservation and management issues at the landscape scale as part of a holistic approach to systems thinking. Key concepts of landscape and urban ecological systems will be examined through the application of concepts to students’ own scaled design proposals. Students will explore the opportunity for redefining our social relation to nature, and our role in doing so as designers, as a way to course correct climate change.

This course considers the processes involved in developing planting designs for urban contexts, with particular emphasis on site-specific species selection, comprehension of natural and constructed plant communities, and the application of planting design methods within the designed landscape. This course will address design placement, the development of technical drawings, and specification standards of plant materials, in the production of planting design schemes with a focus on sustainability. Students will demonstrate comprehension of planting design principles and strategies through exposure to technical standards and criteria, graphic representation, observation of plants in the landscape, and critical readings, to develop a well-rounded understanding of the theories and practices of sustainable planting design. Students will develop planting schemes through a studio-structured course, phased through site analysis (concentrating on elements affecting species-selection), conceptual design strategies informing species selection, technical and illustrative planting plans with nursery specifications, detailed sections, and illustrative renderings, in an effort to present both technically correct and visually compelling urban planting design proposals.

*SUS2022 Sustainable Planting Design and Practice requires permission from the Program Director to register. Interested students should email

How to Enroll in a Certificate Program

To enroll in a BAC Certificate Program, submit the following application materials to Continuing Education and then register for courses during an open registration period:

Please Note: An undergraduate degree is recommended for the Sustainable Design Certificate, the Real Estate Development Certificate, and the Historic Preservation Certificate. Courses in these certificate programs are taught at the graduate level.

Certificate students must begin academic coursework in the program within two academic semesters of submitting the application materials. 

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