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
  • Wilderness Medicine: Instructor(s) to be announced. Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certificate will be awarded if students pass required coursework. Extra fee required.

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.

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.

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)

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)