A photo of the lake at the wilderness field station

Wilderness Field Station Course Offerings

Three student watching ducklings while canoeing

Session 1: June 12 - July 10, 2021

  • Environmental Justice: Race, Class, Power and Sustainability (POL 185): Pablo Toral; Political Science, Beloit College
  • Aquatic Ecology (BIO 275): Carrie Kissman; Biology, St. Norbert College
  • Wilderness Medicine: Instructor(s) to be announced. Wilderness First Responder certificate will be awarded if students pass required coursework. Extra fee required.

Session 2: July 17 - August 14, 2021

  • Conservation and Ecology of Mammals (BIO 335): Roger Powell, North Carolina State University
  • Writing Wilderness (RHE 345): Chris Fink; English, Beloit College
  • Northwoods Ecology (BIO 203): Alyssa Hakes; Biology, Lawrence University
  • Animal Behavior (BIO 285): Jesse Ellis; Biology, Coe College

Brief Course Descriptions

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.

Aquatic Ecology (BIO-275)

Aquatic ecology is the study of the aquatic life and how it interacts with the biological, physical, and chemical environment. In this course, we will explore the diversity, abundance, and distribution of aquatic organisms in the diverse aquatic ecosystems available at the Wilderness Field Station, Superior National Forest, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

Prerequisite: One college biology course.

Carrie Kissman (St. Norbert College, DePere, Wisconsin)
Click here for Aquatic Ecology full course description.

Animal Behavior (BIO-285/280)

Animals engage in a bewildering diversity of behaviors: moths "jam" the sonar of bats, wasps try to mate with flowers, whales communicate over kilometers of open ocean, and bees "dance" to tell their sisters when and where to forage. In this class we will explore both the ways scientists have tried to unravel the mysteries of animal behavior and the understanding that this research has provided. The unifying principle of most modern studies of animal behavior studies is that behavior, like morphology, physiology or cellular processes, has evolved under natural selection. To begin to fully understand animal behavior, however, we will look at behavior from several perspectives, including its physiological, genetic and environmental causes as well as its adaptive significance. We will review studies from around the world and apply what we learn from these to questions about species found in the Boundary Waters region.

Prerequisite: One college biology course. For 2021 students with no biology experience may apply. We will get you up to speed.

Jesse Ellis (Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Conservation and Ecology of Mammals (BIO 335)

Dr. Roger Powell wrote the book on the fisher and is an expert in bear biology to boot - his students learn how life history, anatomy and physiology reflect and predict ecology and behavior of mammals, and how this information informs their conservation. Radio-track pine martens, investigate the distributions of chipmunks and voles, and analyze the signs of bear and moose to learn how these animals survive in the boreal forest.

Prerequisites: One college biology course.

Roger Powell (North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina)
Click here for the longer course description for Conservation and Ecology of Mammals.

Wilderness Medicine (BIO-2xx)

Students will explore issues of emergency preparedness and response when in the back country, over an hour away from medical care. Students who complete the course will receive their Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification through Longleaf Wilderness Medicine, as well as academic credit from Coe College. Academic coursework will include the foundations for best practices in wilderness emergency responses as well as very basic anatomy and physiology. Put theory into practice on multiple canoe trips into the wilderness.

Prerequisite: None.

Instructor To Be Announced

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.

Northwoods Ecology (BIO-203)

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)