The reason for my hiatus from blogging is almost complete. I’ve been teaching a wildlife management field course for the University of Pittsburgh for the past 2 and a half weeks. The class concludes Friday, and it has been a whirlwind ride. Long hours and hard work, but great students and an excellent experience. For the foreseeable future, I’ll walk you day-by-day through the class curriculum by highlighting different species, different habitats, different field techniques, and different adventures that my students, my TA, and myself have experienced. All different facets, but all instrumental within wildlife management/science and conservation at large. The class has been a fire hydrant approach – information starts spraying and doesn’t slow until the final bell rings. My students have ranged in experience but clueless at best to intermediately familiar. A great range of knowledge, but all individuals eager and hard working in their own right…all relatively dry sponges to soak up as much of the skills, information, and experiences as possible.
Let’s get started.
Monday morning kicked off with orientation to the site – a beautiful housing site on the shores of Lake Pymatuning supplemented with a full complement of teaching facilities positioned near the state fish hatchery and famous “geese walking on fish [carp]” spillway (more on that later).
Once we delved into course material, I started in a logical place – explaining myself and how I got to where I am. After prodding the students for some of their background, we discussed much of the history of wildlife science and management.
to the interwoven web of politics, economics, special interests, culture, tradition, sociology, biology, ecology, and science that drives how management decisions are made…
to the corny titled “10 Steps to a Successful Wildlife Study” talk.
We stayed in the classroom until noon before taking on the task of learning compass, GPS, and basic orienteering skills. After marching through the various skills involved and discussing things like true north versus magnetic north, we set out on a “Where’s Waldo” mission to locate cover boards placed a month earlier for herp (reptiles and amphibians) sampling. I gave the students coordinates and it was up to them to navigate to that location and check under the cover boards for whatever they might find.
The students found several redback salamanders of multiple color morphs and a single juvenile northern slimy salamander.
With one round of navigation under their belts, we grabbed equipment to establish pitfall traps (a buried bucket strategically positioned to catch creeping and crawling critters) at a different field site.
With 25 cover boards checked, 16 pitfall traps dug, and lots of navigational frustration behind them, the students finished up activities before dinner. A brutal afternoon that would ultimately become the worst of the entire course’s field conditions. A good tone setter if I do say so myself.
The evening was left for scratching bug bites and wondering what in the world they had gotten themselves into.