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Frequently Asked Questions

Where will I live?

Students live in bunk-style cabins. There are eight cabins for men, each accommodating up to eight students, and nine cabins for women accommodating six to ten students each. The women’s cabins are equipped with toilets and sinks. A central bathhouse with laundry facilities is located near each of these groups of cabins. There is no charge for using the laundry machines, but please remember to bring your own detergent.

Am I allowed to camp?

Students residing on-site for field biology courses are required to live in student housing.The small station campground is open only to graduate students, postdocs and researchers visiting the station. Students are welcome to arrange their own camping at either of the nearby Itasca Park campgrounds by contacting the Department of Natural Resources. The Pine Ridge and Bear Paw campgrounds are both within 1/2 mile of the station.

What will I eat?

Daily meals are served in an attractive dining hall located on the lakeshore. All students housed in student cabins must purchase the meal plan, as there are no cooking facilities in the cabins. The cost is comparable to dining services on theTwin Cities campus. Meals are served all-you-can-eat buffet style and prices include all beverages, snacks and desserts. Vegetarian options are available at every meal, and the kitchen staff will make every effort to accommodate dietary restrictions. To discuss options, contact Dawn Wannebo, Head Cook, at 218-699-3550 ext 3462 or wanne007@umn.edu . Students living offsite during the session may purchase meals on class days if arranged in advance.

What should I bring?

Students must provide their own bed sheets (twin sized) or sleeping bag, pillows, pillowcases, blankets, and towels. Since the nights are often cool, it is suggested that students bring a warm blanket. Essential personal items include clothing for varying weather conditions (sweaters, sweatshirts, shorts, pants, t-shirts, shoes or boots for fieldwork, a warm jacket, warm socks, rain gear and a swimsuit), a flashlight, notebooks, writing utensils, a calculator, sunscreen, bug repellent and laundry detergent.

Don’t forget your recreation equipment! Many opportunities exist for day hikes, canoeing, fishing, sun bathing, swimming, and wildlife photography. Bring your fishing gear, bicycle, roller blades, etc. There are sand volleyball courts, a soccer field, a basketball court, and a baseball diamond at the station, as well as canoes and kayaks. In addition, bicycles and boats are available to rent from Itasca Sports Rental, about 1/2-mile from the station. Students find it especially convenient to have a bicycle on campus for quick trips around the station, or for more extensive rides around the 17-mile Wilderness Road within the park.

Am I allowed to have guests?

Guests may find accommodations off campus in one of the many resorts or hotels in the vicinity. They are not allowed to stay overnight with students at the Itasca Station.

What happens if I get sick?

Medications for minor problems (e.g., colds and poison ivy) are kept in the Itasca Program office. For more severe illnesses, emergency service is available in Park Rapids. Outpatient emergency charges that are not collectible from your insurance (excluding take-home drugs and supplies) will be paid by your health service fee up to a maximum per visit. If you are taking fewer than three credits and elect not to pay the health service fee, all medical services are your responsibility. In addition, everyone living at the Station is required to have hospitalization insurance.

What is the mailing address?

Itasca Biological Station
University of Minnesota
28131 University Circle
Lake Itasca, MN 56470

What is the phone number?

The main office telephone number is 218-699-3550 ext 3302. Callers may leave messages for students at this number, but will not be able to speak with students when they call. Please let your family and friends know that it may take time for you to receive messages, as much of your time will be spent in the field and there are no phones in the student cabins. Be sure to check the mailboxes in the front room of the office building (which remains unlocked) for any messages or mail you are expecting.

Can I purchase stamps from the Itasca office?

No. You should bring your own stamps or purchase them from the Park Rapids Post Office.

How can I make phone calls at Itasca?

Cell phone service is often unreliable within Itasca State Park, however cell phone boosters have increased the ability depending on cell phone carrier. At the Station, cell phone boosters are located in buildings 44, 48, and 75.  A courtesy phone is available in the Assembly Hall at the Station and is operational with a phone card. The office does not sell phone cards, so please plan to purchase one before you arrive. 

What will it cost to take a course at Itasca?

Program costs are posted on the tuition page. Students are billed for tuition, course fees and room & board through the Student Accounts Office at the U of M. These charges will appear on your student account and are due in early July. For more information about your student account, including options for making payments, please visit OneStop.

What kind of financial assistance is available?

The College of Biological Sciences offers several scholarships. If you are receiving financial assistance from an outside party who will be paying your costs at Itasca, please make arrangements with the program coordinator in advance.

Am I allowed to leave the Station on weekends?

Yes. You may leave anytime, but if you are going to be absent overnight or miss meals, please sign out on the sheet posted on the bulletin board in the Dining Hall.

Do I have to apply to the University of Minnesota to take a field biology course at Itasca?

No. Courses are open to all qualified graduate and undergraduate students and to others with continuing education objectives. The general rules for admission of graduates and undergraduates to the summer session apply to the Itasca Biology Program. Students with previous college work who wish to attend only the summer session may do so without filing an application for admission to the University, provided they are in good standing and are not degree candidates. Please see the registration page for details.

How many classes can I take?

Students may register for up to 8 credits (two classes). If you do register for two classes, be sure that they meet on alternate days.

Will these classes apply to my degree requirements?

Most students have no problem transferring Itasca course credits to their school or program. Check with the student services office or your advisor at your institution beforehand to be sure. If you need to get in touch with a specific instructor about specific course content, please contact the program coordinator.

Can I bring my car?

Students may bring their own cars, but garages and repair services are not available. A state park entry sticker must be purchased from the DNR at the park entrance and displayed in all vehicles. An annual pass for $25 provides access to all Minnesota state parks for an entire year! Students interested in carpooling should contact the program coordinator.

Can I bring my bike?

Students are encouraged to bring bikes to explore the 17-mile Wilderness bike trail as well as for trips around the Itasca Campus.

What about computers and internet access?

There are computers, printers and scanners available for students to use in the computer room and in the library at the station. There is a wireless network available throughout the station as well, so students may elect to bring their own laptops or computers so that they may work from their cabins.

Where do I purchase my textbooks?

You should purchase your textbooks from the bookstore on the St. Paul campus before you depart for Itasca. Non-University of Minnesota students who are unable to travel to the bookstore make make arrangements for the program coordinator to bring your books to Itasca for purchase upon arrival.