New Summer Field Camp Kicks Off in McCall
At the University Of Idaho College of Natural Resources, students regularly get out and into their subject, learning and working in forests, rangelands and wilderness. Now, they have another great opportunity to engage with the outdoors through a new summer field camp in McCall.
This summer, 11 undergraduates enrolled in a pilot session of the camp focused on forest ecology and forest measurements. Based at the U of I’s McCall Field Campus, the camp allows students immediate access the forests and mountains of central Idaho.
The camp is intense. Students take two courses in the space of three weeks.
Their days are split between subjects – including numerous field trips – followed by evening reading and writing assignments, often from primary sources.
“ I like the teachers and learning in the field – and the environment is fantastic.” Dylan Alexander,
Junior, Fire Ecology
Ryan McGuire, a sophomore in conservation science, likes the challenge.
“It’s a lot more work, but you come out of it with a greater skill set,” he said. “It’s fun, too. You get to be outside rather than confined to a classroom.”
While students could study the pros and cons of leaving behind debris after a timber harvest in a classroom, at field camp, they watched a giant “masticator” at work, as the construction-like machine broke up logs to add woody debris to the soil. Students also talked directly with an Idaho Department of Lands forester who has to make real-world decisions about how to manage forested land to meet long-term goals.
This is just one example of many field experiences during the summer session. Students also toured an active timber mill and saw the entire process that turns a log into finished product. They had a geology lesson from an Idaho Geological Survey geologist on Osprey Point – overlooking the very mountains being discussed in class. They learned soil science by working with two U.S. Department of Agriculture soil scientists. The undergrads even dug pits in the forest themselves to examine the soil and identify its horizons.
Dylan Alexander, a junior in fire ecology, said the program offers a chance for students to learn about the outdoors while working outside.
“It’s more hands-on, interactive learning,” he said. “I like the teachers and learning in the field –and the environment is fantastic.”
The small group also worked closely with U of I research assistant professor Mark Kimsey and tree ecophysiology doctoral candidate Kathryn Baker, as well as three teaching assistants.
“ Rather than just lecturing before a big group in a classroom, here at camp, I can say ‘come on, let’s go do it.” Mark Kimsey,
Research Assistant Professor,
Department of Forest, Rangeland and Fire Sciences
“I love how small it is. The teachers know who you are,” said Daria Paxton, a sophomore in environmental science.
Teaching is more effective in the field environment, Kimsey said.
“One-on-one interaction with students is so important,” he said. “Rather than just lecturing before a big group in a classroom here at camp, I can say ‘come on, let’s go do it.’ And they are so much more engaged.”
While the coursework is intense, summer field camp also includes downtime for hiking and Sunday evening bonfires where students roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.
It is still camp, after all.
Article by Sara Zaske, College of Natural Resources
Published in June 2018.