Reflections on a field course (Pymatuning Wetlands 2015, Day 15)

The Pymatuning wetlanders demonstrated their knowledge of wetland ecosystems this morning on the final exam.

The end of this course is always a bit bittersweet for me. Teaching a field course like this is intense, high-energy, all-consuming, and by the end…. exhausting.  However, without a doubt the experience has once again been the highlight of my professional activities for the year.  Each time I teach this class, I get to learn something new about wetland ecosystems and sharpen my natural history and plant identification skills.  I have the opportunity to get to know a bunch of  interesting students, much better than I would in a typical classroom setting. And it is extremely satisfying to share my knowledge and passion for natural ecosystems with a group of interested students. The Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology is an ideal place to do this.

They came a long way.  Walking in a wetland during week one one top.  Week three on bottoms.

They came a long way. Walking in a wetland during week one and then in week three.

Field courses are transformative experiences. For me, it was a fantastic course in field botany nearly 20 years ago.  We were in the field every day, collecting plants and learning about their biology, evolution, distribution, and natural history. I was amazed at the depth of knowledge of the professor, and his passion for plants was contagious. I knew that I wanted to do science before that course, but after it I knew that I wanted to be an ecologist. Sadly, while teaching here at Pymatuning this year I found out that the instructor of that field botany course passed away in late May.  Professor Don Drapalik, RIP. He was on my mind a lot during the past few weeks, particularly as I watched the students build their wetland plant collections.  I still have my plant collection from Don Drapalik’s field botany course, and I am pleased that a large percentage of students this year want to keep their collections.

I sincerely wish the best for this great group of “wetlanders.”  It was a really fun-loving group, and there was lots of good-natured humor along with the learning.  I wish them all good luck with wherever life takes them from here.

Keep in touch….and stay peaty.  #PLEwetlands

Drawing by Ellie Johnson, a student in the wetlands class. I think this is her vision of how I should spend the rest of my summer.

Drawing by Ellie Johnson, a student in the wetlands class. I think this is her vision of how I should spend the rest of my summer.

 

 

 

 

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Posted on June 19, 2015, in Teaching, Wetland Ecology & Management (PLE). Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Bob, I’ve really enjoyed reading these posts. Thanks for making the effort to write such a great log.

    • Thanks for the comment Andy. And thanks for suggesting my course to so many great Clarion students! I hope your course goes well next session. -Bob

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