It has been a long time since we have updated the "What's new…" section of this web page. But much is happening this year, or recently.
There are several important personnel changes that have taken place, or will in the near future. In summer, 2014, Dr. Carrie Kissman (St. Norbert College) taught Aquatic Ecology at the field station for the first time, taking over from Mike Swift (St. Olaf) and Gary Wagenbach (Carleton) who had alternated teaching that course for many years. Carrie is young, compared with most of us who teach at the field station, is the first woman instructor there in two decades, loves limnology and particularly limnology in the out-of-doors, and her leadership skill and well-organized approach to teaching complement her infectious enthusiasm to make aquatic ecology a very attractive course at the field station.
After a decade of teaching Nature Writing at the field station "Dr. Bob" Marrs (Coe) decided that summer 2015 would be his last, at least for a while. As Director of the Coe Writing Center, Bob was deeply involved with writing center Peer Writing Councilors and was constantly encouraging prospective field station writers to consider taking Nature Writing. Many Coe students took that class through the years as well as students from Lawrence University, St. Olaf College, Beloit College and others. Bob is a gifted instructor, and his students left the field station much better writers than they arrived. Dr. Chris Fink, Chair of English at Beloit College, will teach Nature Writing for the first time this summer. Chris is most interested in fiction, has published at least one book and many short stories, and edits the Beloit literary magazines. Chris has been "waiting in the wings" for five years or more, and we welcome him to take his turn as the Nature Writing Instructor.
Arguably the largest change, though, is that Harlo Hadow will step down as Director of the Coe College Wilderness Field Station at the end of summer, 2016. Harlo taught Ornithology for his first time in 1980, and has taught all but three summers since then, with Animal Behavior having been his class for the past 15 years or so. Harlo also served as director for at least one session per summer for A.C.M. from 1987 to 2002, and director all year 'round from 2003 to the present. In September Dr, Jesse Ellis will become the next director. Jesse has taught in the Biology Department at Coe from September,2015 to the present, has expertise in Behavioral Ecology and is a far-out, lunatic-fringe birder. He grew up in the Twin Cities, went on family canoe trips in the Boundary Waters as a boy, and he looks forward to spending summers with his family as he teaches and directs the wilderness field station. Jesse will teach Animal Behavior in summer, 2016. Join us at the field station on July 10, 2016 when alumni return to bid farewell to Harlo, and welcome to Jesse!
There are some very exciting course changes too. In summer, 2014, the Coe sciences received a half-million dollar grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation to buy equipment. Harlo's part of the grant purchased telemeters, receivers, antennae, and everything else you need to radio-track organisms on a field station scale. Dr. Roger Powell's Boreal Mammalogy class caught two pine martens on the same day, after having not caught one in a decade or more. Roger and his class anesthesized the martens, collected appropriate measurements, collared them and released them where they were captured. Boreal Mammalogy in first session, and Animal Behavior in second tracked the martens and got home ranges and movement patterns for both the male and the female marten. What a wonderful new technique for the field station, and what a wonderful skill to develop for the students that worked with the martens! We have mouse/squirrel-sized telemeters in abundance, and hope in summer, 2016, to solve the problem of safely and securely attaching the transmitters to tiny mammals that don't have much of a neck!
Finally, after many false starts, the field station has a new generator! Purchased in June, 2015, the Kohler 14.5 kw propane generator worked flawlessly all summer, and produced the most constant power we have ever had. No one thinks it will last as long as our Onan 12.5 kw generator that revolutionized electrical generation for us when we purchased it in 1992, and it will be a very long time before any generator lives up to the legacy of the 10kw diesel Witte generator (built in 1938) that was brought over from the old field station on Basswood Lake. Both older and oldest generator are in good working condition, and are poised, ready to fire up should the new one falter. To Harlo, who has paddled up the range river on innumerable occasions through the years, straining his ears to hear the thump,thump of the Witte, knowing "all was well in the world" when he finally heard it; and for Karla Keyes who has carried so much ice when the generator was down and worried so much about food safety at such times, this is luxury indeed!
So there is much change in the human dimensions of the field station program in 2016, but this is superimposed on the constancy of natural processes that provide sanity, security, and comfort in a rapidly changing world as they always have. Alumni and others who had "owned" and loved it through the years may know that the field station is safe and secure, and providing life-changing insights and experiences for all who learn there, as it has for the past 54 years. Harlo will deeply miss being director, but feels secure that he leaves it with new President Dave McInally and Coe College who treasure it, and a new director and many "owners old and new" who love it that it will continue to do what it does best - teach the difference between "want" and "need," that one is not nearly so limited physically as one thinks, and that you can learn deeply on many levels when you combine gifted instruction and an inestimably lovely and interesting place.