BIOS 35502-01: Practicum in Field Environmental Biology
The University of Notre Dame offers a 6-credit, 10-week summer course for students who have completed their sophomore or junior years. It introduces students to laboratory and field experiences across a variety of taxa and natural habitats in the Michigan Upper Peninsula. The class is composed of four sections: introductory week, course modules, independent research weeks, and a final week culminating in a research symposium.
During the spring semester preceding the summer course, each student is paired up with a mentor, who is either an instructor in the course or a doctoral student performing research on the UNDERC property. The student and mentor work together to develop an independent project that can be completed in its entirety by the end of the summer session.
In the first week at UNDERC, students are introduced to the 7500-acre property and its variety of upland and wetland habitats. They learn basic field skills, which may include using a compass and map-reading exercises, driver's safety on the property, and a review of statistical procedures. During this week, students are expected to complete a proposal detailing their planned independent project (introduction, hypotheses, methods, and materials). Proposal details.
The bulk of the summer field course is comprised of (5) seven-day modules, each taught by a different faculty member devoted to their subject of expertise. The hours of class vary according to the topic; however, a 9-5 day is atypical in most modules. Total contact hours for the modules generally range from 40-60 hours, depending on the degree of independent assignments. A brief description of each module is provided below:
Three weeks, interspersed among the module weeks, are dedicated to the student's independent research project. With the guidance of their mentors and field assistance from their peers and the class teaching assistants, the students conduct field and laboratory experiments according to their own schedules.
During the final week of the summer course, each student completes a written scientific paper, detailing their independent project. In addition, each student gives a 15-minute powerpoint presentation to the class, mentors, and other researchers on the property. Paper formatting instructions
As time permits, small group projects are completed throughout the course, contributing to long-term data sets for the UNDERC property. Past projects have included tree plot surveys and deer density estimates.
Grading policy: Each of the five course modules are worth 8% each (40% total). Research projects constitute the remainder of the grade. The research proposal contributes 10%. The final paper and final oral presentation are worth 25% each, totaling 50%.
Habitats: grasslands, montane forest, and streams