The participants in the NSF-funded workshop “The Decline in Field Studies: Proactive Strategies for Essential Training for the Next Generation of Biological Researchers,” represent a wide variety of institutions, areas of taxanomic expertise, and roles that serve undergraduate field biology.
Tom Fleischner, PI
Natural History Institute and Prescott College
I have been teaching college field courses for more than three decades. My field classes here at Prescott College, where I’ve been for 28 years, have included sites near and far. Examples of the former include my “Natural History and Ecology of the Southwest” class, which includes two all-day field trips each week, and “Nature’s Voice: Reading and Writing About Natural History,” with one 4-hour trip each week. Examples of the more distant sites include backpacking trips in Alaska and the Utah canyon country, as well as field station-based courses in the Gulf of California, Mexico, and Maine. Courses that lack any field component have been the exception rather than the rule. Prior to Prescott College, I taught backcountry field courses for the Sierra Institute at UC-Santa Cruz. For the past three years I’ve also served as Director of the Natural History Institute, here at Prescott College. I was also the founding President of the Natural History Network, and a co-founder of North Cascades Institute.
Lisa Zander, Project Coordinator
Natural History Institute
My work to build the Natural History Institute at Prescott College, alongside Tom Fleischner, started with my senior project in 2012. After graduating, I became the Institute’s program coordinator and collections manager, and am responsible for creating, marketing, and managing our public programs and biological collections. I have a particular fondness for plants, pollinators, and data management. My experience in the field includes leading teenagers in courses and outdoor expeditions, studying riparian areas, canyons, deserts, forests, and coastal ecology at Prescott College, and collecting vegetation data for the Forest Service in California’s Sierra Nevada.
Robert E. Espinoza
California State University-Northridge
Research in my lab seeks to identify the mechanisms that underlie aspects of the biological diversity of the world’s amphibians and reptiles. As such, our research often overlaps several traditional fields of study including ecology, evolution, behavior, and physiology and our projects typically include a blend of field observations or manipulations and controlled laboratory experiments. Recent studies have focused on (1) thermal physiology, (2) causes and consequences of evolutionary shifts in diet, (3) structure and function of gut microbial communities in space and time, (4) the evolution of sociality, and (5) rapid evolution in invasive species. Our investigations have primarily focused on species from temperate deserts (North and South America), but have included species from the Neotropics as well.
University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse
Having witnessed the transformations students experience when participating in field courses, I have geared my instruction to provide field opportunities to as many students as possible and to break down barriers that may limit participation. As an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse that studies unique life histories of invertebrates in both marine and freshwater systems, I continually develop field instruction opportunities locally and internationally. Previously, I worked as the Assistant Director of the University of Notre Dame Environmental Center Program West collaborating closely with the Salish and Kootenai tribes in Montana to develop student research opportunities that incorporated tribal conservation perspectives. It is clear that there is no replacement for the hands-on sensory experiences that drive student learning when they are immersed in natural systems.
At the end of 2016 I will retire after 38 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate natural history field courses at University of California at Berkeley and Cornell University. I’m managed to survive in academia despite trying to maintain as little distinction as possible among my research and teaching, all of which focuses on the ecology, evolution, and conservation of predators. My books include Snakes: the Evolution of Mystery in Nature and Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art, and I’m now working on one that concerns hunting and wildness.
Robin Wall Kimmerer
SUNY—Environmental Sciences and Forestry
Field teaching is at the heart of my work. Nature is the best teacher and it’s a privilege to nurture that encounter with my students. I’m a plant ecologist and have taught field courses for 35 years, in Ecology of Mosses, Field Ethnobotany, Disturbance Ecology, Tropical Ecology and Field Botany. I serve as co-director of the Cranberry Lake Biological Station in the Adirondacks, as a Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY. I serve as Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, whose mission is to bring together the wisdom of indigenous and scientific knowledges for sustainability; in research, reaching and collaboration with tribal partners. I support the Natural History Institute’s vision of the “practice of falling in love with the world” and try to foster that relationship through my writing. My research interests focus on restoration ecology and on the restoration of human relationships with land.
Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, UC-Berkeley
I am a field biologist. I became an academic because that career path provided the means to spend a portion of each year outdoors, documenting the behavior of animals in their natural environments. After studying ground squirrels in the Yukon for my Ph.D., I shifted my focus to the southern hemisphere, where I have spent the past 25 years studying the behavioral biology of rodents in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile. As a scientist, I believe that studies of free-living organisms are essential to understanding all aspects of biological diversity. As a person, I am inspired by the complexity and subtlety of natural systems. Increasingly, I find that these same forces guide my educational efforts – both mentoring students already engaged in fieldwork and encouraging those with no field experience to explore the natural world. These often represent two very distinct populations of students, both of whom are critical to the future of biological research. My goal is not to convert all future researchers into field biologists but, rather, to try to ensure that even the most lab-oriented scientists understand the critical value of studying organisms in their natural environments.
Steve’s areas of expertise include outdoor education and college program administration, risk management of field activities, interpersonal and group communication, mediation and conflict resolution, and therapeutic use of adventure education. Steve has worked extensively with the Association for Experiential Education. He is a past chair of their Accreditation Council and a past President of their Board of Directors. He is the editor of the Manual of Accreditation Standards for Adventure Programs and has served as an expert witness in court cases involving the management of risks in outdoor education. Steve began teaching at Prescott College in 1992. He teaches courses in both the Psychology and Human Development Department and the Adventure Education Department. In addition to teaching Steve has held various administrative appointments including Director or Risk Management for Field Activities, Department Chair, and Dean of Resident Degrees. Prior to coming to Prescott College Steve worked for more than a decade at the Voyageur Outward Bound School. Steve earned a B.S. in Environmental Studies at Antioch College and a Masters in Social Work from Denver University.
College of the Environment, University of Washington
Julia K. Parrish is the Lowell A. and Frankie L. Wakefield Professor of Ocean Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, where she also serves as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of the Environment. She is a marine biologist, a conservation biologist, and a specialist in citizen science. For more than 25 years, Julia has conducted field research on seabirds, focused on the natural and human-caused factors causing population decline. Julia is also the Executive Director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), a coastal citizen science program from northern California to the Arctic Circle involving over 800 participants collecting monthly data. Julia is a luddite, preferring pencil and Rite-in- the-Rain to digital camera and cell phone app. In the field, she uses her roots in art to shape her notes, and is probably the only person in the world who has drawn a key to “fish butts” as a way to help identify forage fish returned to chicks by Common Murre parents (one fish at a time, always carried head in, tail out). A firm believer in getting out there, as a professor, Julia has helped create a series of field opportunities, including weekend field trips for students in her Marine Biology course, and an 8 week immersive field opportunity for students at the intersection of conservation and inclusion (the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the UW)
Archbold Biological Station
Hilary Swain has served as the Executive Director of Archbold Biological Station www.archbold-station.org in Venus FL, since 1995. Archbold is an internationally recognized, independent, not for-profit biological field station. Staff and visiting scientists conduct research at Archbold’s 8,840-acre scrub preserve on the Lake Wales Ridge and at its 10,300-acre working cattle ranch, the MacArthur Agro-ecology Research Center. She oversees long-term research, environmental monitoring, science education for K-12, undergraduate and graduate student training including visiting classes, public outreach, as well as land management and conservation programs. Dr. Swain’s research interests are: reserve design, land management, and planning for natural communities and endangered species. She collaborates with government agencies, conservation groups and private landowners throughout the state, and is involved closely with the Organization of Biological Field Stations.
I have been teaching natural history – with an emphasis on vertebrates – at Middlebury College in Vermont for over thirty years. And I’ve been engaged in field explorations since I was in Junior High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, kicking around tide pools, desert canyons, and alpine glaciers anytime I could escape from the classroom. My field of scholarship is conservation biology, and I generally teach natural history through the lens of why direct personal engagement with nature is critical to working on its protection and restoration. I have chaired both my school’s Biology Department and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), so I have a good sense of what the possibilities and barriers are to mounting field curricula, especially as related to vertebrates. I’m a founding board member of the Natural History Network, and I continue to edit its publication, the Journal of Natural History Education and Experience.
North Cascades Institute
I am executive director of North Cascades Institute, a conservation organization that provides transformative experiences and education for people of all ages and backgrounds in the wildlands of the Pacific Northwest. The Institute reaches more than 10,000 children and adults each year in place-based programs that mix natural and cultural history, science, humanities and the arts. I worked throughout the Northwest as a wilderness ranger, commercial fisherman, naturalist/field biologist, and fire lookout before starting the Institute in 1986. My day job focuses on strategic planning, partnerships, board development, and developin resources that grow our capacity to effect change. I describe myself as a reluctant administrator, and still teach field classes ranging from natural history to alpine ecology and poetry. I also teach leadership and nonprofit administration, which allows graduate students to grapple with the tricky balance between the mission and the business of nonprofit organizations. My latest (non-work) project was Headwaters: Poems & Field Notes, published in 2015 by Pleasure Boat Studio. I live in Bellingham, Washington, near the shore of the Salish Sea, where my passions include canoeing, bugs and walking in the mountains in the rain.
David “Wink” Winkler
I have been a keen naturalist since age 5, and I got into birds when I was 12. In my research on the life histories of birds, I push as far as I can in the technological and conceptual realms, but I never have done research that is not firmly grounded in studies of the organism in the field. Over 15 years ago, I founded Golondrinas de las Americas, a network of researchers across the Western Hemisphere dedicated to studying the breeding biology of box-nesting Tachycineta swallows. With a PIRE grant from NSF, we were able to send 48 US students into the field working with 21 different students at 13 different international sites studying eight different species of swallows. That project continues in a leaner form. I have also been the faculty mentor for Cornell Expeditions in Field Ornithology, a student-led group that organizes and conducts expeditions to explore and document the natural history of poorly known, but phylogenetically interesting, bird taxa. This group, supported by the Ivy Expeditions Fund of the Lab of Ornithology, has made three successful expeditions to Borneo and one to Panama focusing on Old World Suboscines, totaling about 30 weeks in the field, collecting both physical and digital specimens. As Director of the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates and Chair for the last ten years of Cornell’s IACUC, I also have grappled with compliance and permitting issues as they pertain to field studies both within and outside the University.