A unique teaching and learning opportunity in the coastal salt marshes along B.C.’s North Coast is about to begin for University of Northern British Columbia students.
Delivered in Terrace and Prince Rupert and set amongst the Skeena River estuary, students enrolled in the summer 2017 Systematic Botany field camp will learn skills in plant identification and understand the ecological processes that shape major habitat types in the northwest.
Students are involved in all stages of the scientific process, from hypothesis generation, to data collection, synthesis of information, and preparation of written and oral presentations.
Besides course work in the classroom and lab, the third-year Biology 301 course is an Undergraduate Experiential Service Learning (UESL) course, designed to take students out of the classroom and into practical, real-life situations.
It includes a four-day/three-night visit in August to the Cassiar Cannery in Port Edward for field work that allows students the opportunity to enhance their skills in an applied setting.
“They’ll experience hands-on learning opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have,” said Dr. Darwyn Coxson, UNBC’s Ecosystem Science and Management professor who is teaching the course.
The Innovation Fund in Experiential Learning is an area of focus for the Northern Leadership Campaign. Through the support of donors, UNBC is inspiring next-generation leaders by providing opportunities for students to learn by doing, outside of a traditional classroom setting.
Funding this year came from companies such as Pacific NorthWest LNG.
“Pacific NorthWest LNG is pleased to support the important research being undertaken by the University of Northern British Columbia faculty and students in the Inverness Channel,” said Brian Clark, Environmental Studies Advisor for Pacific NorthWest LNG. “Through hands-on learning and field studies that will further enhance the educational experience of each student, these studies will also provide more information about the soil, environmental conditions, and plant composition of Inverness Channel.”
“The contribution from PNW-LNG will allow UNBC to offer an important experiential learning opportunity to our students, learning first-hand about the diversity and importance of plant communities in the Skeena River estuary,” added Dr. Coxson.
Since its inception, UNBC has maintained a significant presence in the B.C.’s northwest region, including partnerships with First Nation communities and Northwest Community College.
The Skeena River estuary provides a vital connection between terrestrial and marine ecosystems in the Skeena River watershed.
The opportunities for students in the northwest expanded in 2011 when UNBC first offered the Systematic Botany course in Terrace, using facilities at NWCC. It was delivered by Dr. Coxson as a part of the Bachelor of Science Integrated degree, a series of courses offered in conjunction with NWCC. It has also been taken by students from the Wildlife and Fisheries, Biology, Environmental Science and Geography majors at UNBC.
The course has received rave reviews from students who have enrolled in it.
“It’s great being in the field instead of the classroom,” said UNBC graduate Reilly Walker, who took the course in 2015. “We get the hands-on experience, as if we were actually working for an employer, instead of sitting in a lecture hall.”