Field biology program
Students taking field biology courses at Itasca are immersed in the natural world. Our courses take the idea of “experiential learning” to a new level. Hands-on field learning experiences foster a deep connection to the environment and provide real-world insights that can't be replicated in a classroom. Students don’t just learn what mammalogists (people who study mammals), mycologists (people who study fungi), ornithologists (people who study birds), or animal behaviorists (that one is easy to guess) do… they do what they do on a daily basis. They live-trap and handle mammals and birds, key out fungi and plants, collect and identify invertebrates, and design experiments, all with the guidance of supportive faculty mentors and in collaboration with their peers. The station’s unique location at the convergence of three of North America’s largest biomes (coniferous, deciduous, and prairie), and at the pristine headwaters of its largest watershed, provides the perfect setting for students to explore a broad range of ecosystems, flora and fauna.
"There is a moment in these classes where students realize that for certain parts of the learning, [their instructors] do things that are off script. And those are the best parts of these courses."
— Jonathan Schilling, Professor and Station Director
It’s not all just work and no play at Itasca. Students, faculty, and staff join together to create a living-learning community. Some of the most memorable moments take place around the picnic tables outside of the dining hall over shared meals or toasting marshmallows around the campfire. In their free time students have access to bikes, canoes, kayaks, athletic fields (volleyball, soccer, badminton), and the assembly hall (ping pong, board games, puzzles). The station invites students to participate in a range of guided recreational activities in and around the state park, like hikes, fishing trips, canoeing excursions, and bike rides. We also hold an evening seminar series where faculty and students share their science with the Itasca community. Hear more from recent students.