Education at Field Stations

The best way to learn environmental science is to experience it first-hand in the field. Each year, tens of thousands of students from elementary school children through doctoral candidates visit field stations to observe natural processes, formulate questions, and think critically about environmental issues. They learn first-hand how natural systems function, the differences between healthy and unhealthy habitats, and how natural processes are at the core of human well-being.

Field station-based courses often give college students their first chance to apply the information they've learned in classrooms and books to the real world. Dry statistical theory comes alive when applied to a threatened otter population. Animal behavior takes on new meaning as students observe woodpeckers at their nest or track a fox across a snowy meadow. The impact of these direct experiences can be far reaching. Student evaluations of field courses regularly use such phrases as "best class ever" or "life changing." They often come away with strong friendships and a new perception of the world.

An independent project gives a student a feeling of ownership and responsibility…
The amount of work it takes to carry through an experiment--time in preparation, collecting data, entering data, sweat, flies, hard work--need to be experienced to get the full effect.
And they are all a part of field research that you don't really understand until you do it.

Sara, past student at a field station

Lessons learned at field stations remain with students throughout their lives. They all carry with them a deeper appreciation for the importance of natural systems, and some find a new focus. Many of today's working scientists look back on a class or a summer spent at a field station as a key event that determined their career path.

Whether on a lake in Minnesota, a beach in Baja California, a rainforest in Panama, or at any of the hundreds of other biological field stations around the world, students have life-altering experiences doing real science in the field.