Serious field biology students have a new reason to get excited. This year, just after spring semester, Castleton is dropping a new, 2-week-long course: Field Techniques and Current Topics in Wildlife Biology. The course, which meets on consecutive days from May 17-30th is at the undergraduate level, worth 3 credits, and will be open to 25 students. It is intended to provide students with practical, hands-on training in the tools and techniques of field biology and allow them to apply those skills in a variety of exercises, according to the instructor’s syllabus.
Teaching the class will be John E. MacDonald, who holds a PhD in Wildlife Biology from The University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Macdonald has taught similar courses at UMass, and has extensive experience in the field. He has worked professionally as a wildlife biologist, ecologist, and research specialist.
This class will be designed to give students the necessary skills to take their prior lessons into the field and put them into action. Students will learn how to use field equipment like traps, nets, dart guns and even global positioning system (GPS) units. Students will also become familiar with many field-based activities like: trapping small animals, using chemical immobilization techniques, habitat mapping, and telemetry.
In order to use some of the equipment such as dart guns, the students will have to complete an online hunter education program, at www.ihea.com before the course actually starts. This will allow the students to acquire the Vermont Hunter education certificate, another requirement for the course.
Students will also be able to network with many practicing biologists in the region, who will engage the class as special guest lecturers during certain classes. They will speak on theoretical and ethical topics – listed specifically in the syllabus is current wildlife conservation topics, and current wildlife management issues. The guests will also take the students on field trips that show them techniques in dealing with wildlife and habitat management.
The class does come with a cost – $750, however that covers all room and board. All classes will be held at the Kehoe Conservation Camp in Castleton, no more than four miles from Castleton State College, near Lake Bomoseen. Holding the class at this location gives students access to eight miles of three state Wildlife Management Areas. This totals 2,243 acres, according to The Northeast Section of The Wildlife Society’s website for the class.