A photo of the lake at the wilderness field station

Wilderness Field Station Course Offerings

Three student watching ducklings while canoeing

Session 1: June 13- July 11, 2020

Session 2: July 13- August 10, 2019

Brief Course Descriptions

Session 1

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. Click here for the longer course description for Conservation and Ecology of Mammals.

Roger Powell (North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina)

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.

Ecology and Biology of Birds (BIO-165)

This course is an introduction to the study of birds in all their forms. With birds literally breeding everywhere right outside our cabin doors, we will explore their diversity, how they interact, find food, raise young, and defend themselves from predators. If you are a birder, be prepared for a wild diversity of breeding warblers, from Northern Waterthrush to Mourning Warbler, and other birds of boglands and northern conifer-aspen forests. We will record the night song of the Ovenbird, do some bird banding, and learn various ways to survey birds by sight and sound. Our canoe expeditions will take us into the Pagami Creek Burn to perhaps discover endangered Kirtland's Warblers and understand how birds respond to wildfire, and to remote undersurveyed lakes to collect data on breeding bird populations. This course is appropriate for both biology majors (who will gain valuable field experience) and non-scientists who need "lab" experience. No experience is necessary, just enthusiasm or curiosity.

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.

Session 2

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.

Harlo Hadow (Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Wilderness Sustainability (BIO/EVS-2xx)

An exploration of ecological and economic sustainability efforts at the Wilderness Field Station, the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters, and in the community of Ely, MN. Help the Director improve sustainability efforts at the Field Station, whether investigating solar, energy efficiency, or reducing food miles. You will take a hands-on approach, measuring what we're doing now, and considering the costs and benefits of different changes we might be able to make in the future, and report back to the director on your findings.

Prerequisite: None.

Jesse Ellis (Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

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.