The courses BIOS 23233, Ecology & Evolution in the Southwest: Field School and BIOS 13112, Natural History of North American Deserts: Field School, are intended for the student that wants to gain insight into the natural history, ecology, and evolution of organisms in an arid environment and see the landscapes and observe the organisms first hand. The courses involve lecture and lab during the spring quarter, plus a 17-day field trip immediately following spring quarter finals.
The lecture portion of the course focuses on the ecological communities of the Southwest, primarily on the four subdivisions of the North American Desert, the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Mohave, and Great Basin Deserts. Lecture topics include climate change and the impact on the flora and fauna of the region; adaptations to arid landscapes; evolutionary, ecological, and conservation issues in the arid Southwest, especially relating to isolated mountain ranges; human impacts on the biota, land, and water; and how geological and climatic forces shape deserts.
The laboratory portion of the course is where students familiarize themselves with the itinerary of the field trip, learn the nature of the group projects that will be conducted in Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts, and plan their own independent projects, either on their own or in collaboration with fellow students.
The group projects will be conducted at two locations by the class. The first location will be in the Chihuahuan Desert (Chiricahua Mts) and the second will be in the Sonoran Desert (Organ Pipe Cactus NM or Saguaro NP), where the objective is to compare the biota of these two distinctly different desert enviornments. Individual projects will be conducted in the Sonoran Desert. The primary focus of the laboratory sessions during the quarter is to determine what individual projects will be conducted, where each group will write a project proposal and present the objectives and methods for data collection and analysis to the lab class prior to the field trip.
You can see a map of our route here.
You can see a gallery of past trips here.
Itinerary of the trip: The specifics may change from year to year, but the following was the itinerary for Spring quarter, 2010. The proposed itinerary for the current year will be similar, altered by the vagaries of nature, weather, and unforeseen circumstances.
Itinerary, Spring 2010
1 13 depart Chicago, camp near Tulsa, OK
2 14 depart OK, arrive Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM
3 15 visit museum, pre-dinosaur fossil dig, depart for southern NM
4 16 arrive Chiricahua Mts, set up camp, begin group projects
5 17 Chihuahuan Desert—Group Projects 6 18 Tucson, Sta. Catalina Mts, camp in Gilbert Ray Campground
7 19 am: AZ-Sonoran Desert Museum, pm: Organ Pipe Cactus NM
8 20 Sonoran Desert—Projects
9 21 Sonoran Desert—Projects
10 22 Sonoran Desert--Projects
11 23 Mohave Desert, Death Valley
12 24 Great Basin Desert, Zion NP, Bryce Canyon
13 25 Grand Canyon NP, DeMotte NF campground
14 26 Mesa Verde NP
15 27 Mesa Verde NP
16 28 LV Mesa Verde, camp or motel near Salina, KS
17 29 Chicago
Cost of the field trip involves a lab fee and $250 per student for food and camping/motel fees during the field trip. Students are responsible for food costs as we travel from Chicago to Abiquiu, NM, usually at fast food restaurants along the way, and after we depart Mesa Verde NP, CO until we return to Chicago at the end of the trip. The $250 fee will be used for purchasing communal food from Abiquiu to Mesa Verde NP.
Science majors are encouraged to enroll in BIOS 23233. This course fulfills the requirement for a 200-level course with lab.
Non-science majors are encouraged to enroll in BIOS 13112. It fulfills the requirement of two quarters of core biology with lab.