Thursday, August 11, 2005


Colorado State University had one of the world’s premier ecology departments, rooted in its earlier history as an agricultural college. Majors could specialize in restorative ecology, closed systems ecology, paleo-ecology, microecology, evolutionary ecology, ecological policy, or inorganic ecological interfaces. The philosophy department offered a concentration in ecological philosophies.

In addition to ordinary faculty, each program had a corporate endowed chair, a post-doc or two, a few PhD students, a dozen Master‘s degree students, and dozens of ecology majors specializing in the program. A Wyoming coal company sponsored the chair of the restorative ecology program. Boeing sponsored the chair of the closed systems ecology program. The paleo-ecology chair was sponsored by Dreamworks, one of the major Hollywood studios. Microecology was sponsored by Eli Lilly, the drug company. Xcel Energy sponsored the evolutionary ecology chair. Wild Foods sponsored the ecological policy chair. And Honda sponsored the inorganic ecological interfaces chair.

Every major was required to take an introductory biology and ecology core, math and computer science courses in statistics, dynamic systems and systems simulation, an intermediate class from a majority of the programs, a core of senior level classes in a program, and a year long field work project in our program. The student assistance center was always full of upper class students working as tutors to explain food webs, ecological niches, boom-bust predator population models, the carbon and nitrogen cycles, the ecology of the human digestive system, and invasive species to freshman and sophomores completing their core requirements.

Espirt de corps was high. Clothing with messages like “Ecologists love complex women.” and “Restore the Great Plains!”, filled the campus. Alpha Omega Alpha, the honorary society for the department, was the sponsor of the annual fox hunt, in which the ceremonial fox was hunted, in full British regalia on horseback, by students and faculty alike, armed with tranquilizer guns and specially bred fox hunting pigs that tracked but did not kill their quarry. The spring equinox hunt brought national press coverage every year. Micoecology graduates routinely were admitted to John Hopkins University and found internships at the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Center. A long forgotten Congresswoman had managed to locate the United States Ecological Warning System of the Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Fort Collins where scientists set priorities under the Endangered, Threatened and Invasive Species Act of 2013.

Fort Collins was also believed by the Homeland Security domestic counter terrorism office to be the headquarters for at least three ecoterrorist groups, among them the Earth Liberation Front, one of the oldest and most destructive of the leading ecoterrorist organizations. It was widely assumed on campus that there were several undercover agents on campus trying to infiltrate these groups, and every few years an upstart group or cell of an established organization was shut down. Several professors were suspected of sponsoring ecoterrorist groups, but the federal government had never managed to find any proof that would hold up in court, despite several wiretaps, library searches, and sneak and peak searches.

On the afternoon of December 2, 2030 the ecology department's admission committee met. Up for consideration was an application from a certain Garth Woods, with a criminal record, but also clear evidence of being completely reformed. He wanted to enter as a junior transfer student starting with the Spring Semester. The discussion took about five minutes. The vote to admit him was unanimous.

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