Studying on Blue Mountains and in Blue Streams

By: 
Ethan Collins
Class of: 
2018

At St. Lawrence, there are numerous opportunities to get outside - whether it be an afternoon walk down the Avenue of the Elms or a wilder adventure into the Adirondacks. However, time to do so can only occur if you take care of all your academics first. But what if…..What if you can just combine the two?!?

Though some fields of study are more conducive to taking your work outdoors, there are numerous courses where a large component of your learning takes place there. During the fall of 2017, I was lucky enough to take two courses where we spent most of our time outside.

The first course was Water Pollution where our lecture material focused on aquatic ecology, sources and cycles of pollution, and policy surrounding water rights. To supplement our lectures, and to solidify our understanding, our labs were often field trips to places throughout the North Country. Our very first trip we were out on rowboats taking water column samples in Upper Saranac Lake to be later analyzed in the lab. We then had several days where we adventured to local streams to sample and compare the invertebrates in order to assess stream health. Towards the end of the semester, we travelled north to view an old manufacturing complex that was a heavy polluter of the local water systems. All the travelling and field studies during that coursed solidified the course topics and provided hands on experience that could potentially be used in a future career!

The second course was much more dependent on the field work rather than just using it to supplement the class. The course was an advance research seminar in Environmental Studies focusing on recreation and land use. We worked closely with the NYS D.E.C. on a 52,000-acre conservation easement about 30 minutes away from campus. We were focusing on a little peak with a gorgeous view that is not very well known, and might soon become a more popular destination. From the nearest paved road it took about 30 minutes of driving on logging roads and then 30 minutes of hiking just to get to the summit where we could start our research. We would often not get back onto campus until well after dark. The coolest thing about our work there is that it will be directly utilized by the D.E.C. in their future land planning.

The best part about these courses is that I was able to combine a ton of activities I love doing all while getting credit! Being able to take class, learn new topics and research techniques, all well spending time outside is all I could ask for from a course here at SLU.