Biology Field Experiences | Wittenberg University

Biology Field Experiences

Wittenberg biology majors have many opportunities to participate in field experiences in which they can experience different habitats and learn techniques for field collection and data analysis. There are many opportunities in our curriculum to visit local wetlands, grasslands, and forests during weekly laboratory outings.  In addition, some courses offer extended field studies, in which students can opt for a 4-5 day experience in which they study different habitats.  Finally, students have the opportunity for dedicated summer or semester-long field experiences.

Field Studies in Marine Science:

San Salvador, The Bahamas – Comparative Communities

This three-week program is offered during alternate summers at the Gerace Research Center, San Salvador, The Bahamas. In this program, students experience the culture of the island of San Salvador while exploring terrestrial and marine environments on daily field trips to coral reef systems and other tropical marine communities. Several hours are spent snorkeling daily as students learn to identify reef fish, invertebrates and plants. We also visit a local cave, hike in the interior of the island, swim to nearby cays, and survey the intertidal organisms of the rocky shore. After exploring a variety of habitats, students will identify a question of interest, propose a hypothesis to answer the question, and design and conduct a field research project to test that hypothesis. Many students present their findings at Wittenberg's annual Celebration of Learning; some also present at scientific meetings.

Duke Marine Lab, Option 1: Spend the semester at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina

Junior or senior students interested in marine science may be recommended by the Marine Science Program Committee to attend the Duke University Marine Laboratory during the fall or spring semester. At the Marine Laboratory, students can take a variety of courses in marine science, conservation and policy. If you attend during the fall semester, you will remain in residence at the Marine Laboratory for the entire semester, where most students choose to conduct independent research projects. During the spring semester, which is divided into four blocks, you can choose from a variety of study-abroad opportunities within the Duke course offerings. Options include studying sea turtles in Puerto Rico, tropical marine ecology in St. John, U.S.V.I., or Belize, or urban ecology in Singapore. Selection for the Duke program is based on interest, previous course work, grade-point average, faculty recommendations and a personal interview. Click here to learn more about Duke's Marine Lab Program.

Duke Marine Lab, Option 2: Five day extended field studies at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina – Marine Ecology, Biology of Marine Invertebrates

Students stay in the residence halls at the Marine Lab campus while collecting organisms and conducting experiments in the local marine habitats. In Biology of Marine Invertebrates, we travel near the end of the semester; students observe the marine organisms covered in class in their natural habitats. In Marine Ecology, we travel early in the semester; on this trip, students conduct experiments and collect samples that form the basis of the laboratory exercises for the remainder of the semester.

Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology:

Wakeley Lake House near Grayling, Michigan (44.60025° N, 84.57500° W) – Winter Tracking, Introduction to Wildlife

This field station is located in the Huron National Forest which is over 400,000 acres of land that has been protected from logging since 1909. Our field station is located on the edge of a 1,000 acre piece of northern transitional forest habitat and has a large, shallow lake nearby. Wildlife is abundant near the field station, and includes whitetail deer, rabbit, fox, turkey, coyote, raccoon, grouse and black bear. The Huron National Forest is also home to the recently delisted, but management-obligate Kirtland’s warbler. This experience gives numerous opportunities for students to both observe and track wildlife. In addition, the vegetation near the field station is a great place to study plant ecology. There are two burn sites near the field station that will allow students to assess succession in this pine forest.

Students will have multiple opportunities to visit this field station. Our Ecology and Winter Tracking courses take students to this field station for 4-5 day extended field studies. In addition, some students win internships with the US Forest Service, and spend the summer in the field site conducting research projects.

Sip’s Place, Retired Farm in Lafayette County, Mississippi (34.27655° N, 89.70063° W) – Ecology

Students in Ecology may elect to take a 5-day extended field study to the site where they examine species association among the hardwood forest, timber stands, and fallow fields.  Students participate in an ongoing mark-recapture study on reptiles while examining the retired farmland in Mississippi.  Students examine ecological factors associated with capture rates and herpetofauna diversity patterns.  The field trip is meant to replicate 5 days in the life of a field biologist:  data collection and long days resulting in new knowledge gained, the satisfaction associated with overcoming mental and physical challenges in a supportive group setting, and the value of shared stories over group dinners.

Field sites near Wittenberg:

cb’s place (39.97755° N, 83.77666° W) – Concepts of Biology, Ecology, Introduction to Wildlife Management, Introduction to Environmental Science

Located just south of Springfield, Ohio, cb’s place is a 33 acre field site that gives students access to a local intact riparian area along the Little Miami River.  The field station is adjacent to public land and is a mix of hardwood forest and prairie.  Wildlife observed at cb’s place includes whitetail deer, skunks, raccoons, American toads, red belly woodpeckers, belted kingfishers, and crows.  This provides numerous opportunities for students to observe wildlife.  Trail cameras set up at the site can record animal activity in the absence of human presence.

Most Biology students will visit cb’s places as they work through the curriculum.  Student projects at cb’s place include assessing species diversity and abundance for both plants and animals, habitat associations of species, and GIS mapping of the property.

Clark County Park District – Freshwater Ecology, Ecology, Introduction to Environmental Science, Conservation Biology

Students have many opportunities to collaborate with the CCPD at George Rogers Clark Park and the Leadingham Prairie. Students can participate in the semi-annual BioBlitz in which they will sample and identify as many species as possible in one 24 hour period. Students sein for fish, set out motion detection cameras and track traps for mammals, conduct acoustic surveys for bats, spotlight for moths and spiders, and survey owls and other birds.  Students have collaborated with park district staff on several research projects and class investigations of water quality and species diversity.

Five Rivers Metroparks – Freshwater Ecology

The Great Miami Mitigation Bank Conservation area is one of the largest tracts of open land in Montgomery County, Ohio. It was farmland until 2010, and is now being restored to wetlands, grassland, and forest. Students are collaborating with the metroparks to assess biodiversity by collecting and counting macroinvertebrates and amphibians.  They also monitor the water quality and zooplankton diversity.

National Trails Recreation and Parks District – Ecology, Introduction to Environmental Science

In addition to Clark County Park District, National trails maintain greenspaces and parklands throughout the Buck Corridor of Springfield.  Students have used trail camera and howling surveys to monitor coyotes in the Springfield area.  Students also document artificial nestbox occupancy rates and are currently coordinating with NTRPD in hopes of establishing a turtle basking platform in an urban park.

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