ENVS 108: Ecology of Rivers and Streams

Ecology of Rivers and Streams This year, biology professor Tom Coote introduced a new course to campus, a first-base field study open to anyone interested in aquatic ecology.  Ecology of Rivers and Streams gives students a chance to get their feet wet - literally.  While our in-class hours are spent researching about environmental systems—what types of life grow and live where, from the size of the body of water to how much runoff it gets—we then put it all into practice in our ‘labs’. So far, we’ve waded into the Lower Pond on campus, and will soon explore deeper systems like Lake Mansfield and the Hudson River.  A few weeks into the semester, I spoke with Tom about his reasons for offering this course. 

What made you want to offer an introductory class on this topic?

We have upper level ecology and environmental courses, but this class is meant to bring up ecology as a field while keeping it simple and fun.

Ecology of Rivers and Streams
Ecology of Rivers and Streams

What is it about this course - say, over another - that makes it fun to teach?

In general, field courses are always fun to teach. But when you’re helping the entire class go waist-deep into the campus pond and pointing out what lives next to the algae, it gets that much better. And then there are the boats… but that’s later in the semester.

There are other field study classes, but have there been any courses like this one before?

There are similar courses but at higher levels, but they focus more on the limnology and principles of ecology. It’s not as much base and field study.

What outside influences impact or help shape or change this class?

The class as a whole is dictated by what we’re available to do. In pairs, the class takes care of a number of aquariums that they use to take samples, record aquatic life, and see practical responses to their research. On a bigger scale, climate change, major news stories on pollution, drought, etc., will work into the course, to supplement the applied uses from the course.

Anything else we should know?

If you want to visit the lab class and see what we do… you should probably bring clothes appropriate to get wet/muddy. We get into our field. Literally.


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