A photo of the lake at the wilderness field station

Wilderness Field Station Course Offerings

Three student watching ducklings while canoeing

Session 1: June 10 - July 8, 2023

  • Environmental Justice: Race, Class, Power and Sustainability (POL 185): Pablo Toral; Political Science, Beloit College
  • Entomology and Forest Health (BIO 185): Spencer Stout; Biology, Coe College
  • Conservation and Ecology of Mammals (BIO 335): Instructor to be announced.

Session 2: July 8 - August 5, 2023

  • Animal Behavior (BIO 285 with Lab): Jesse Ellis; Biology, Coe College
  • Writing Wilderness (RHE 345): Chris Fink; English, Beloit College
  • Northwoods Ecology (BIO 203): Alyssa Hakes; Biology, Lawrence University

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.

Entomology and Forest Health (BIO 185, with lab)

Do you like bugs? Are you interested in canoeing and camping for a class? Do you love
to be surrounded by nature all the time? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you
should consider Entomology and the Northwoods taught at the Wilderness Field Station in
northern Minnesota. Entomology is the study of insects and other associated arthropods. Insects
are useful organisms for study because they are abundant, they are not usually protected under
many ethics laws, they are sensitive indicators of forest health—for all of these reasons they are
intrinsically interesting. We will study the wonderful world of insects and their interactions with
the boreal forest of Northern Minnesota.

Prerequisites: none

Spencer Stout (

Animal Behavior (BIO 285, with lab)

The North Woods is an incredible place to learn the ins and outs of why animals behave as they do. Using the perspective of natural selection and fitness, we will investigate both the mechanisms and adaptive qualities of animal behaviors. By watching animals, be they feeding hummingbirds or territorial dragonflies, we can learn to generate good questions. We can then attempt to answer those questions by setting up field experiments and collecting our own data. 

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.

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)