Discovering Place – A UCCS Field Guide

Have you ever wondered about the soil composition around campus and the precise types of sediment that makes up our grounds? Or the kinds of wildlife sharing the space with us, such as the red-tailed hawk, deer mouse or mountain lion (whether it be the four- or two-legged version)?

These curiosities and more can be satisfied by perusing the “Discovering Place – A UCCS Field Guide,” a 2014 publication and labor of love with contributions from 37 faculty, staff members and students and edited by Tom Huber and Carole Huber.

This guide fields any questions you may have regarding the background and annals of UCCS. It not only goes amazingly in-depth about the geological and physical roots of campus, but its historical roots as well, like the remnants of the sanitarium that lingered in classrooms and university buildings and the fight UCCS went through to be recognized as its own campus and entity. It also features anecdotes and poetry from staff and faculty, photos of campus taken across decades and topographical maps detailing student demographics, aerial views and more.

With sections ranging from “Geology,” “UCCS from Space,” “UCCS Birds” and “Archaeology along Austin Bluffs,” just to name a few, the detailed descriptions show the effort and care put into the book by contributors.

Excerpt from “UCCS Birds” chapter

Take the “UCCS Birds” section, for example. This chapter lists not only the avian varieties around us but their specific habitats, coloring, average measurements, tail shape and call descriptions, with some entries even including memorable portrayals like “if the Great Horned Owl can so successfully blend into a tree, crows and ravens are just the opposite by attracting attention through their clownish antics in the sky. They are an integral part of the fly space above the university and can be viewed throughout the day as they twist and roll and dive and soar either as sparring pairs or companionable duos.” Both close-up photographs and casual sketches accompany the blurbs to provide visuals that can give you an idea of what to look for in case you’d like to incorporate birdwatching during your treks around campus.

The attention to detail doesn’t end there. The “UCCS from Space” chapter breaks down campus landscape by class and vegetation index, complete with satellite imagery. “Climate and Water” provides average precipitation and temperature graphs while also detailing the three main arroyos- steep-sided gullies formed by erosion- on campus. In the section “Soil,” you can view the various soil series of campus color-coded on a map.

A memorable wildlife encounter from the guide

Alongside the meticulous accounts of environmental history are the sections recounting UCCS’s beginnings. As chancellor emerita Pam Shockley-Zalabak notes in the foreword, “the pages that follow are not sanitized versions of university history. This is no coffee table book designed to evoke happy memories of days gone by. Instead, editors and authors Tom and Carole Huber created a guide to UCCS that explains how UCCS began, our unique features, our mistakes, and the challenges that lie ahead.”

Fifty years of this background are summarized in the “UCCS History” chapter, starting with the haphazard opening where the university had a surplus of extraneous sanitarium supplies – “staff had just walked away from the facility, leaving all of the medical equipment and supplies” – and a deficit of school supplies – “there was a $50,000 allocation to renovate the facility but no funds at all for equipment, so the fall semester began with materials donated from the Boulder campus and the Denver Center.” This recount continues up until the publication year of 2014 with updated statistics detailing the campus growth over a half-century and concludes with expectations and hopes for the future, even mentioning the plan to build the (then-unnamed) Hybl Center.

This guide is a wonderful peek into so much of what makes up UCCS, from its humble beginnings and geographical history to the obvious passion found in its faculty, staff and student contributors. To see it for yourself, check out the digital version, rent a copy from the library, view it in the UCCS Digital Collections or pick it up at the UCCS bookstore.

About the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS)

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) offers 55 bachelor’s, 24 master’s and eight doctoral degree programs and enrolls about 12,000 students annually. Located in the heart of Colorado Springs, UCCS has a strong student focus and access mission, with a goal of transforming lives for the better. Learn more about UCCS at