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Students conducting research at Itasca Biological Station

Field biology courses

You won’t just learn what mammologists (people who study mammals), mycologists (people who study fungi), or animal behaviorists (that one is easy to guess) do… you’ll do what they do on a daily basis. You’ll set traps, key out samples, and design experiments, all with the guidance of supportive faculty mentors and peers. 

Have questions about the experience up north? Watch this Information Session from the IBSL Booster Club for more details. If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to email


  • Registration opens for UMN students February 23
    • For students from UMN campuses other than the Twin Cities, check with your advisor for information on multi-institution enrollment
  • Registration opens for non-UMN students March 2 (Learn how to register)

"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 IBSL Director

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PMB 3812/5812: Field Mycology

3 credits | May 15 - June 2, 2023 | M, Tu, Th, F | 1 - 4:50 p.m

This class focuses on learning about how to study fungi. Students will gain experience identifying mushrooms and other samples collected during course field trips using macromorphological, microscopic, and molecular techniques. In addition, students will isolate fungi from environmental samples and maintain cultures as well as assess fungal community abundance and composition using both traditional (e.g. root tip colonization) and DNA-based methods (e.g. next-generation sequencing, bioinformatics, and ecological statistics). Course lectures highlight different aspects of fungal diversity (taxonomic, physiological, and ecological) and lab exercises provide hands-on practice. Course writing assignments and presentations emphasize the exploring the natural history of fungi as well as critically assessing primary research literature.

Instructors: Professors Jonathan Schilling ( and Peter Kennedy (

For more information (including prerequisites) refer to the course catalog. If you have any questions about the course, email the instructor. Permission is required for undergraduates to enroll in the graduate-level of this course (PMB 5812); inquire with the instructor.

EEB 4844: Field Ornithology

3 credits | May 15 - June 2, 2023 | M, Tu, W, Th, F | 5:30 - 11:30 a.m.

This class focuses on developing basic field ornithology skills, complemented by analyses of collected data. Students will learn field identification skills, focused on the diversity of northern Minnesota. They will learn and practice mist-netting, bird banding, point counts, and territory mapping to quantify community composition, density, behavior, and long term population trends. A diversity of habitats will be explored by day trips to nearby field sites. Collected data will be analyzed using statistical and GIS methods. A field journal, lab reports, and field exams will form the basis of assessment.

Instructors: Fred Beaudry (

For more information (including prerequisites) refer to the course catalog. If you have any questions about the course, email the instructor.

EEB 3811W: Animal Behavior

4 credits | May 15 - June 15, 2023 | M, Th; full-day + 2 additional field days TBD

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).

Instructor: Professor Brian Wisenden (

For more information (including prerequisites) refer to the course catalog. If you have any questions about the course, email the instructor.

EEB 4839: Field Mammalogy

4 credits | May 16 - June 16, 2023 | Tu, F; full-day + 2 additional days TBD

The primary goal of this course is to introduce students to the study of mammals, including aspects of their evolution, natural history, identification, and techniques used for scientific study. This course will enable students to integrate concepts of ecology, morphology, physiology, as well as other aspects of natural history using mammals as model organisms. This course will supplement knowledge of taxonomy, phylogeny, and ecology while providing practical experience with current methodology. Writing assignments will expose students to current literature and aid in the process of critical thinking.

Instructor: Professor Joseph Whittaker (

For more information (including prerequisites) refer to the course catalog. If you have any questions about the course, email the instructor.

BIOL 3800: Special Topics at Itasca: Science Communication

1 credit | June 5 - June 16, 2023 | M, Tu, W, Th, F | 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Students will develop oral presentation and communication skills to support both the dissemination of research findings and interaction among the public and other members of the science community. Topics will include audience analysis and engagement, narrative structure, writing for the spoken word, speaking anxiety causes and mitigation, vocal production, physical presence, and the skills and methods of effective practice. The class will be a combination of lecture and practicum, during which students will give presentations.

Instructor: Brian Sostek (

For more information (including prerequisites) refer to the course catalog. If you have any questions about the course, email the instructor or watch this video message about the course.


2023 Course Costs*

Room & Board (students incur one room & board charge regardless of concurrent registration in multiple Itasca courses)

  • 2-week course — $541
  • 3-week courses — $796  
  • 5-week courses — $1344  

(Students taking both a 3-week and 2-week course will be charged the 5-week course fee)

Tuition & Fees 

  • UMN Tuition — Check the OneStop tuition page to determine your UMN tuition rate
  • Registration fees — Check the OneStop fees page for other UMN registration fees
  • Transportation fee — $50 (per course)
  • Lab materials fee — $88 (per course)

*Scholarships are available to students to cover the costs of Itasca field biology courses. 

COVID-19 Statement

As a University of Minnesota field station, we follow all University COVID-19 policies as it relates to housing, dining and classrooms. All University of Minnesota students enrolled online or in person (including all undergraduate, graduate, professional, and Post Secondary Enrollment Option) were asked to complete this Student COVID-19 Immunization Vaccination Form by Oct. 8, 2021. We anticipate formal guidance for the summer 2022 courses to come in the spring of 2022.

IBSL staff will continue to be in close contact with Collegiate and University leadership to ensure the safety of students and faculty during field courses. If you have any specific questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to email