SS 9 - The Critical Importance of Field Education in a Changing World

Monday, August 7, 2017: 10:15 AM-11:30 AM
Portland Blrm 254, Oregon Convention Center
Angie Moline, Educate Wild!
Thomas L. Fleischner, Prescott College; and Erika S. Zavaleta, University of California, Santa Cruz
Field studies provide inspiring, authentic experiences for ecology students because they spark students’ curiosity about the natural world, allow students to collect data in all types of weather, and facilitate conversations with locals who are knowledgeable about natural history and culture and building community and mentorship. Field studies (e.g., field biology courses, environmental and cultural immersion programs, service-learning projects, ecological field research) provide opportunities for students to live and work outdoors and allow them to make observations that form the basis of a theoretical and practical understanding of ecology.   However, field studies require more faculty time, logistical support, and energy than classroom courses. If we want the next generation of ecologists to include competent naturalists who are comfortable working outdoors and prepared to address the sustainability challenges of the future, we need them to have field experiences throughout their undergraduate and graduate training.  We also need these experiences to appeal and be accessible to students from a wide range of backgrounds.

Speakers in this session will summarize the benefits of field studies to individual students, the field of ecology, and society at large.  They will also describe reasons for the decline of field-based learning opportunities (e.g., institutional support, risk management concerns, student interest in nature) and steps being taken to counteract that trend.  A facilitated discussion about how we can more clearly articulate the value of field studies and what can be done to increase these opportunities for students and faculty will follow the presentations.

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