A photo of the lake at the wilderness field station

Wilderness Field Station Course Offerings

Wilderness Field Station Course Offerings

Three student watching ducklings while canoeing

Session 1: June 8 - July 6, 2024

  • Aquatic Ecology (BIO-275): Carrie Kissman, St. Norbert College
  • Ecology and Biology of Birds (BIO-165): Jesse Ellis; Biology, Coe College
  • Entomology: Insects and the Northwoods (BIO-185/185L): Spencer Stout, Coe College​​
  • Environmental Justice: Race, Class, Power and Sustainability (POL 185): Pablo Toral; Political Science, Beloit College

Session 2: July 6 - August 3, 2024

  • Conservation and Ecology of Mammals (BIO-335): Instructor to be announced.
  • Writing Wilderness (RHE 345): Chris Fink; English, Beloit College
  • Northwoods Ecology (BIO 203): Alyssa Hakes; Biology, Lawrence University

Brief Course Descriptions

Aquatic Ecology (BIO-275, with lab)

Study of the biota of lakes and streams in northern Minnesota and adjacent Ontario, and their abiotic environment. Extensive field sampling enables students to study predation, diel vertical migration, stream drift, induced morphological defenses, and food-web interactions. Regional and North American lake and stream biodiversity and the effects of introduced species and human intervention on aquatic ecosystems are reviewed. 

Prerequisite: Cellular and Molecular Biology and Laboratory or Organismal and Ecological Biology Laboratory.

Carrie Kissman (St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin)

Conservation and Ecology of Mammals (BIO-335)

Studies mammals of Minnesota and the natural history, form/function relations, behavior, distributions, and interaction with their environment and other organisms. Investigation of how these variables impact conservation. Class activities include direct observations, reading tracks and “sign.” Live-trap mark and recapture studies supplemented by readings, lectures, and discussions. 

Prerequisite: None.

Ecology and Biology of Birds (BIO-165)

Humans have long been interested in birds because they are charismatic, fellow vertebrates and reliable indicators of environmental conditions. Our interest has made the scientific study of birds (ornithology), one of the richest animal-based sciences. This course introduces ornithology and focuses on the breeding biology and ecology of the diverse avifauna nesting in pristine and moderately disturbed habitats near the field station. Canoe trips provide opportunities to practice bird identification, to discuss the adaptiveness of bird anatomy and physiology, and to observe nesting gulls, herons, and Bald Eagles. This course satisfies the lab science requirement and elective credit requirements for biology majors in most schools.

Prerequisite: None.

Jesse Ellis (Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Entomology: Insects and the Northwoods (BIO 185/185L)

Introduces the biology of insects and related arthropods, focusing on how homeostatic problems common to all organisms have been solved. Topics include physiology, morphology, systematics, and the relationship among insects, plants, and humans. 

Prerequisite: None

Spencer Stout (Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Environmental Justice: Race, Class, Power and Sustainability (POL-185)

This course introduces the students to field-based research in the social sciences. Students will become familiar with survey research by learning data-collection techniques such as participant observation and interviewing techniques. Students will also learn to record, analyze and present data. They will conduct research from two different cases of wilderness preservation, the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area in the United States and Quetico Provincial Park in Canada. Cross-national comparisons of political institutions, regulatory styles, and state-society relations will reveal different styles of environmental management and wilderness preservation. Students will interview key stakeholders on both sides of the border, including members of native communities (called "first nations" in Canada), business groups, environmental groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and government. The course is designed for undergraduate students with an interest in environmental studies and social research methods, but no previous knowledge of political science or research methods is needed. Students considering graduate school will find this course particularly valuable because many graduate programs in the social sciences require strong field research skills.

Prerequisite: None.

Pablo Toral (Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin)
Click here for Environmental Justice: Race, Class, Power and Sustainability full course description.

Northwoods Ecology (BIO-203/203L)

Learn methods and principles of field ecology in this class as it explores the various ecosystems of the boreal forest biome. Examine predator-prey interactions by collecting data on the food consumed by carnivorous pitcher plants in a bogs. Understand the dynamics of the processes of disturbance and succession as you paddle through the Boundary Waters visiting healthy mature forest, areas recently burned, and areas affected by massive windstorms known as derechos. Examines relationships between organisms and their biotic and abiotic environment with a focus on the near-boreal communities surrounding the field station. Field work augmented by readings, lectures and discussion will cover ecology at the population, community and ecosystem levels. Applications to human ecology in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area will be integrated into the course.

Prerequisite: None

Alyssa Hakes (Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin)

Writing Wilderness (RHE-345)

This course investigates strategies for writing about the natural world in an informal workshop format. Class members explore the terrain around the Field Station and share with each other their written observations about those experiences. The composition assignments invite everyone to express their insights in various genre options: daily field journals, essays, poetry, short fiction, journalistic articles, memoirs, etc. By exploring and writing about this immersion into the north woods--plus reading works by such classic naturalists as Thoreau, Muir, Leopold, Olson, and McPhee--we should all gain a richer understanding of our relationship with the wilderness.

Prerequisite: None.

Chris Fink (Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin)
Click here for Writing Wilderness full course description.