Waterton Glacier International Peace Park Academic Expedition

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Transboundary Resource Management, Indigenous Peoples & Climate Change in Waterton Glacier International Peace Park

The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park represents a unique opportunity to show students how cooperation and tensions arise in the management of forest and water resources across the political boundaries of the US and Canada. This expedition-style learning experience allows students to learn about sustainability and climate change through daily excursions and interactions with researchers and professionals.

The aim of this 6-credit course will be to provide students with a unique opportunity for experiential learning in Sustainability, Climate Change and Environmental Peacebuilding. The Waterton Glacier International Peace Park is the name for the union of the Canadian Waterton Lakes National Park and the United States’ Glacier National Park, which were joined to form the world’s first International Peace Park in 1932. The peace park was created after members of the Rotary Club successfully lobbied the US and Canadian governments to link the two parks in 1932. A peace park can be defined as a protected transboundary area that aims to preserve and maintain biodiversity, preserve cultural and natural resources and promotes peace and cooperation.
In 1995 UNESCO declared the Union of the Parks a joint World Heritage site in recognition of the area’s geological and biological diversity. Situated on the border of the two countries, the park offers unique scenery, featuring prairie, forest, alpine and glacial landscapes. The area is exceptionally rich in plant and mammal species. However, the effects of global climate change – loss of glaciers, species extirpation, species extinction, habitat fragmentation, lost business revenue and livelihoods – are threatening to destroy this vital ecosystem, as well as the cultural identity of the original human inhabitants of the area. In addition to the environmental conflict, this Park is also the central focus of a one hundred year structural conflict over land dispossession between the U.S./Canadian governments and the four tribes of the Blackfeet Confederacy– the Piikani, Siksiska and Blood/Kainai Nations in Alberta and the Blackfeet Nation in Montana.


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Course Objectives

  • 01

    Climate Change - Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation

  • 02

    Transboundary Natural Resource Management

  • 03

    Indigenous Communities

Course Overview

In this interdisciplinary course, students will learn about three independent yet interrelated topics through the lens of environmental peacebuilding (see Course Topics for more details):

Transboundary Natural Resource Management

Relations with Indigenous Populations

Climate Change and Other Impacts of Extractive Industries

The outcome of this course will be a thorough understanding of peacebuilding and policy-making in the environmental field in general and the above mentioned topics in particular.


  • Todd Walters

    Founder and Executive Director of International Peace Park Expeditions, Inc.
    Chair of IPPE Inc Board of Directors, 2010 to Present.

    Walters has adapted Peace & Conflict Impact Assessment methodology to transboundary protected areas, and produced short documentary films in the Transcending Boundaries series which portray multiple stakeholder perspectives concerning environmental peacebuilding in transboundary protected areas. Walters is also a member of the Transboundary Conservation Specialist Group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature where he is developing a practitioners training curriculum on Transboundary Conservation best practices and is a Fellow at the Institute for Environmental Diplomacy and Security. Walters is a National Outdoor Leadership School certified adventure guide with wilderness first responder emergency medical training, has led expeditions in dozens of countries around the globe, and has published a number of chapters and articles on Environmental Peacebuilding.

  • Harold Perkins

    Dr. Perkins' research focuses on urban political ecology and environmental (in)justice. I study urban environments including forest, parks, and waterways to examine underlying processes that create uneven and deeply disempowering relations to nature within neoliberal forms of capitalism. More specifically, I employ a political economy perspective to delve more thoroughly into the complex issues of urban environmental governance in the wake of state retrenchment, where multiple actors assume responsibility for environmental service provision. I am also interested in the political status of nonhuman organisms within capitalist urbanism.

Course Assignments

Journal Entries with Reading Reflections

To be turned in on days 3, 6, and 9, reviewed by instructors, and returned to students the next day. Student will be given the opportunity to review their journal entries and hand in a final draft one week after the end of the expedition.
Journals provide an opportunity for students to capture an individual record of their educational experience, and analyze it through the personal reflection of the writing process. They will be utilized to start class discussions, drill deeper on specific topics, identify linkages between the readings, class discussions and field observations, and as a chance to respond privately to guest lecturers. Topics include: pre-expedition impressions, reflections on guest lectures, in the field observable examples of concepts discussed in the readings, answer to the "Question of the Day" posed by the Instructors, eco-tourism assessments, and a post-expedition summary of the experience and the lessons learned.

Stakeholder Profile

Students will be asked to prepare Individual Research Projects on a stakeholder to be interviewed in the field (in consultation with the instructor ahead of time).
Individual students will each interview a different stakeholder in the field, take notes, and create a presentation based on the stakeholders’ needs, beliefs, and actions. A presentation of their project in the field. Students are encouraged to include their fellow students in their presentations and make use of experiential learning tools.

IUCN Transboundary Conservation Assessment - Group Project

Students will work in teams of 3-4 on group projects on the theme of Observations of Environmental Peacebuilding and Opportunities and Challenges in the region in one of the three key topic areas outlined above (Transboundary Natural Resource Management, Relations with Indigenous People and Climate Change and Extractive Industries).
Students will utilize the Diagnostic Tool for Transboundary Conservation Planners for this exercise. These group projects will flow out of experiences, conversations and lectures in the field and will be generated during the 10-day course. Students can prepare for these group projects by familiarizing themselves with the learning tool and reading up on their specific issue. Each group will present their project on the last day of the expedition

Blog Entry

Students will write and peer edit three blog posts with the aim to publish in home university outlets. Each student will have a country-focused and transboundary-focused option.


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