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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA thinks ecology

Students can now take a three-week field ecology course in summer pre-session and learn by doing.

The course focuses on the ecology and natural history of the Arizona side of the Sonoran Desert, as well as the upper Gulf of Mexico and Puerto Peñasco, Sonora. Students work hands-on for three weeks with the Biosphere 2 and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

The course’s instructor, Kevin Bonine, an adjunct assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, took a four-week field ecology course when he was a UA undergraduate, something he calls a “”formative experience.””

“”There’s so many restrictions on a student’s time that it’s hard to get out in the field and experience places,”” Bonine said, “”I’m hoping that with this they can find the time and have a transformative experience similar to how I did 20 years ago.””

Bonine often conducts field trips in his classes, and said he hoped to take the best aspects of his current trips and use what he has learned in this class.

The group will spend five nights at UA’s Biosphere 2, five nights camping on Mount Lemmon, two nights in a residence hall working with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and other local resources, then a few days at Saguaro National Park, Tumamoc Hill, El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The final days will be spent at Puerto Peñasco at a lesser known lava plain before a dinner at El Charro Café in Tucson to conclude the trip.

Biosphere 2 Director of External Affairs Hassan Hijazi said that Bonine approached the institute’s director, Travis Huxman, on how to structure the course and house the students.

“”The research that Dr. Bonine does is a perfect fit for a lot of the research that we’re doing at Biosphere 2,”” Hijazi said, “”and we do have the facility that can house these students while they are doing their scientific research.””

Pacifica Sommers, a doctoral student in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, has worked as a teaching assistant with Bonine for several semesters and was approached to be a teaching assistant for this class as well.

“”The areas (the class will be traveling to), those are all some of the most significant area for biology and ecology for the region,”” Sommers said. “”Tucson is home to the Carnegie (Institution’s) Desert Laboratory and some of the founders of the field of ecology worked out of that lab and did a lot of sort of seminal thinking about the field.””

Although she hasn’t participated in a pre-session class, Sommers said the three-week intensive with plenty of overnight stay will provide the class with “”a much more intense experience, and hands-on experience is one of the best way to learn.””

Bonine said he’d love to have up to 20 students for the class, but the class can function with 10. Several students have expressed interest, according to Bonine.

“”But I think the dynamics and the learning among students would be enhanced if we were somewhere in the mid-teens,”” Bonine said.

Sommers, who has visited the areas the class is going to before, said the opportunity to talk to experts and is another important and interesting feature of the class.

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