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.
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