Field Ecology Workshop (June 18-July 11)

Envir St 375

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Mon / Tues / Wed
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
3 credits

4-week session • June 18-July 11

Fulfills Environmental Studies
Field Theme
UW Designations
Biological Science Intermediate


Vera Pfeiffer
Vera Pfeiffer
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This class provides a general introduction to the science and practice of collecting ecological data in the field. Course content includes an overview of techniques used to make observations and record information across a range of animal and plant life, as well as how to access or collect relevant spatial data. Lecture and labs will be held primarily in the field, and will include visits to sites of ecological interest around Madison, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum and Cherokee Marsh.

Each course week will emphasize study of different taxa (e.g., plants, invertebrates, birds), as well as research questions, field protocols and equipment that are appropriate to each. We will discuss the importance of spatial and temporal scale in ecological research and data collection, and discuss these ideas with relevance to ecological research projects that have been conducted locally.  We will learn about the importance of replication, and the utility and importance of both observational and experimental studies.

Students will gain an understanding of the process of experimental design, field work preparation, and field data collection practices with lots of first-hand experience each week. Field work will include plant surveys, aquatic invertebrate sampling, plant and pollinator sampling, as well as bird behavioral observations.

We will discuss the types of jobs that include ecological field work and how ecological research and monitoring is conducted in different institutional environments including universities, government agencies, and environmental impact consulting companies.

Course projects will link with citizen science or other active projects, so students can observe or hear how their work will contribute to ongoing projects in the region. Students will experience each stage of a field ecology project: experimental design, data collection, data analyses, and report writing. Much of this work will be done in groups, and the small class size generally creates a great group dynamic.

There is no better way to understand a subject than by doing it; we will spend the majority of course time outside, enjoying the ecosystems being studied. The instructor will also introduce students to labs on campus where students may be able to volunteer or conduct undergraduate research projects after the course ends.


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