A photo of the lake at the wilderness field station

Wilderness Field Station Course Offerings

Three student watching ducklings while canoeing

Session 1: June 11 - July 9, 2022

  • 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 (WFR) certificate will be awarded if students pass required coursework. Extra fee required.
  • Ecology and Biology of Birds (BIO 165): Jesse Ellis; Biology, Coe College

Session 2: July 9 - August 6, 2022

  • Conservation and Ecology of Mammals (BIO 335): John Berini; Biology, Carleton 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.

Aquatic Ecology (BIO-275/275L)

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-165/165L)

Appropriate for majors and non-majors. The Northwoods of Minnesota is incredibly rich in bird species, from an array of flashy warblers to woodpeckers, loons, kinglets and raptors. We will examine the biology and ecology of this group as they live their lives around us. Watch nestlings mature, perform bird surveys, and examine way birds use the varying habitats across the Boundary Waters. We'll visit recent burns, pine forests, swamps and spruce thickets as we study the species around us. This class counts for the Coe biology major.

Prerequisite: None.

Jesse Ellis (Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Conservation and Ecology of Mammals (BIO 335/335L)

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.

John Berini (Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota)
Click here for the longer course description for Conservation and Ecology of Mammals.

Wilderness Medicine (BIO-204/204L)

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. This class does not count toward the Coe College biology major.

Prerequisite: None.

Bud Ahrens (Voyaguer Outward Bound, Ely, Minnesota)

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)