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2019 Field Biology Courses

Embark an only-in-Minnesota learning experience this spring in the heart of Itasca State Park.

Registrations begins March 7th, 2019 for U of M students and March 14th, 2019 for everyone else!


All courses listed below begin with a mandatory orientation at Itasca on Sunday, May 19th, 2019 at 5:00pm.

We have several scholarships available to help students cover the cost of these courses - click here to view more information and to apply.

May Term 3-week field courses:

  • PMB 3802/5802: Field Microbiology (3 credits, M,T,W,F 8am - 11:50am May 19 - June 7, 2019) Environmental Microbiology - The microbial world is incredibly diverse, but we can only culture a very small fraction of this diversity for lab studies. This demands microbiologists venture into the field, a prospect increasingly enabled by new, real-time sequencing technologies. Environmental Microbiology will be a three-week course at Itasca Biological Station, where students will be taught methods of environmental microbiology, develop their own independent research ideas, and integrate their data generation efforts with an existing infrastructure of analytical tools focused on microbes and their consequences in nature.
    - Coordinated by Profs. Jim Cotner (cotne002@umn.edu) and Jeff Gralnick (gralnick@umn.edu) with guest lectures / adventures with Profs. Trinity Hamilton, Katie Fixen and Kyle Costa.
    - Students will learn how to sample from a variety of environments, isolategenomic DNA, PCR amplify 16s rRNA genes, sequence and analyze the 16s genes. Community information will be integrated with environmental data that will also be collected.
    - MinION Sequencing: a focus of this course will be implementation of the MinION sequencing platform that will be used to quantify microbial populations. https://nanoporetech.com/products/minion
    - Students will develop and carry out short independent projects.
  • PMB 3812/5812: Field Mycology  (3 credits, M,T,Th,F 1pm - 4:50pm May 19 - June 7, 2019) Fungi are often lumped with 'microbial organisms' despite having plentiful examples that are visible with the naked eye, beautiful, abundant, tasty, and of great importance in both ecosystem-level and industrial processes. This course will be hands-on to reveal the diversity and biology of the fungi in the field, specifically at Itasca Biological Station. Students will be outside, every day, and will collect specimens that will be used alongside herbarium and dried samples to compare, identify, and prepare morphologies. Students will engage the deep mycological history at Itasca, as well as connect the fungi to broader microbiome efforts with the help of University of Minnesota faculty and Chicago Field Museum researchers. Questions about this course can be directed to Professor Jonathan Schilling at schillin@umn.edu.

May/Summer Term 5-week field courses:

  • EEB 3811: Animal Behavior with Prof. Brian Wisenden (4 credits, Mondays & Thursdays + 2 additional days TBD. May 19 - June 20, 2019) This course introduces the principle concept of animal behavior through hypothesis-driven inquiry of animal systems in the field. Topics covered: proximate and ultimate causation of behavior, optimality, foraging, habitat selection, risk-sensitive behavior, antipredator behavior, courtship and territoriality, parental care and implications of animal behavior for resource management and conservation. Most class days begin with the introduction of a topic followed by a day-long field experiment involving the concept. Thus, students learn concepts in animal behavior and how to be an animal behaviorist. In the process, students acquire skills in data collection and management, and experimental design (controls, replication, conclusions based upon statistical inference, connecting class results to the primary literature).
  • EEB 4839: Field Mammalogy with Prof. Joseph Whittaker (4 credits, Tuesdays & Fridays + 2 additional days TBD. May 19 - June 21, 2019)  The primary goal of this course is to introduce you to the study of mammals, including aspects of their evolution, natural history, identification, and techniques used for scientific study. This course will enable you to integrate concepts of ecology, morphology, physiology, as well as other aspects of natural history using mammals as model organisms. This course will supplement your knowledge of taxonomy, phylogeny, and ecology while providing practical experience with current methodology. Writing assignments will expose you to current literature and aid you in the process of critical thinking.