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What's New at the Wilderness Field Station





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What’s New At the Field Station, 2013

In the summer of 2011 a wilderness field station alumnus from the mid-1980s visited the field station at the start of a family canoe trip and after a walk around commented, “ How nice! Nothing has changed! Everything is just like I remember it!”  That is one of the things that makes the field station so comfortable – most changes occur gradually at the speed of succession, so an alumnus from a couple decades ago might notice that young trees have narrowed trails that were wide open after construction of the field station in 1976, and that there are now Blackburnian Warblers singing around the immediate field station while Mourning Warblers no longer find early-successional habitat suitable for nesting. But the buildings look very much the same, the generator still goes off at 10:30 p.m., and long and short canoe trips are still an integral part of the each student’s experience.  That said, while the physical field station has changed little, a number of important changes have occurred “behind the scenes.”

  Anniversaries. First, the summer of 2012 was a summer of several anniversaries.  It was the 50th anniversary of college classes at a wilderness field station. (Classes were first offered at the original field station in Basswood Lake in the summer of 1962.)  It was also the 35th year of classes at the “new” field station on Low Lake, Harlo Hadow’s 25th year of directing at least part of the summer, and the 10th year of Coe’s operation of the field station. We celebrated these anniversaries with a reunion in mid-summer, which filled the dining hall with about 55 celebrants, including a dozen descendants of the late first field-station director Prof. Robert V. Drexler, and Prof. Bill Muir’s widow Libby and two offspring and spouses. The earliest alumna was from 1963, and the most recent was from 2011, so we created a common history and fun experience that almost spanned the life of the field station. Because we had contact information for so few on the long list of W.F.S. alums, we plan to have another reunion in the summer of 2014 when we have a larger alumni list. In the meantime, if you weren’t invited to the 2012 reunion, you’re not on our list, so send us an e-mail or a letter and get your name and contact information to us so we don’t miss you next time! 

2012 Reunion

So we begin the second decade of the Coe College Wilderness field station, building on the 40 year legacy that the Associated Colleges of the Midwest created. An A.C.M.W.F.S. alumnus would fit right into the student-body of today, because although Coe continued the field station after A.C.M. gave it up in 2002, we still accept qualified applicants from other colleges and the alumnus would find himself or herself in the company of students from Carleton, Grinnell, Lawrence, Beloit, St. Norbert, St. Olaf, Ripon and other colleges in addition to Coe. So we begin a new decade as the current stewards of the field station, but retain its tried and true concept: scholarship for the fun and satisfaction of learning, deeply-learned course content, a first rate wilderness experience, and a holistic understanding of the ecology of the Near-Boreal ecosystem in which we live, study and play.

  Girl with martenFirst time classes and Instructor. This summer we inaugurate two new classes: Advanced Mammalian Ecology (taught by long-term field station family member Roger Powell) and Comparative Environmental Politics: United States and Canada taught by Beloit College’s Pablo Toral who will be teaching for his first time at the field station in 2013.  Advanced Mammalian Ecology establishes a “progressive concept” for the first time at the field station, where students who have developed the canoeing and wilderness skills and knowledge of Near-Boreal Ecology that comes from studying at the field station can apply what they have learned as the foundation for a capstone class taught by North Carolina State University Professor-Emeritus Roger Powell.  Roger has developed his computational and mathematical modeling skills throughout his career as a black bear and mustelid ecologist, leading to numerous scientific papers and two books: The Fisher, and The Ecology of Black Bears. Having taught mammalogy in one form or another at the field station over the past two decades, having done much canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and adjacent Quetico Provincial Park, and having supervised many Ph.D. and Masters students and their theses and dissertations,  Roger has premier credentials for this new progressive course.

 I (Harlo Hadow) am very excited about welcoming Pablo Toral as a new addition to the wilderness field station instructors.  Born in Spain, and with a Ph.D. from Florida International University, Pablo is a Political Scientist and true internationalist. Pablo has often invited me to give brief cameo presentations on the field station program to his political science classes during my visits to Beloit, and the excitement of the students in his classes is “electric”. We felt it last summer at the field station when Pablo led us through an hour-long introduction to international environmental politics.  With the field station located truly on the boundary between the U.S. and Canada, his class is a natural for the field station. Pablo and Comparative Environmental Politics: the U.S. and Canada are fine additions to our program. Pablo joins 2013 veteran field station instructors Roarke Donnelly (Ornithology), Harlo Hadow (Animal Behavior), David Hayes (Law and the Wilderness: The Fight for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness), Bob Marrs (Nature Writing) and Stephen Pugh (Boreal Mammalogy).  Welcome Pablo!

 Capital Fund Campaign. Finally, our land-lease fees continue to escalate, challenging the financial condition of the field station. A.C.M. leased 40 acres from Potlatch Paper Company, and 10 acres of lake front property (where most of our buildings are located) from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources through 2002.  In 2006 Coe College purchased the 40 acres plus an additional 80 acres (part of a package deal) from Potlatch Paper Company, as it morphed into a land and timber company and put its lands adjacent to our Cloquet Line up for sale. The 10 acres we lease from the State of Minnesota have jumped from $2,000+ per year when the A.C.M. leased it to $27,500 in March, 2012. In order to regain financial stability for the program, we need to purchase the State of Minnesota property. At this moment we are beginning a campaign for the field station which we intend will raise the $400,000 which the State estimates is necessary for us to gain title to the property and lose the lease fee.

 As always, then, there are challenges to the future of the field station, but much that is new and exciting. We are grateful to the loyalty of our alums, to those of you who will be future alums, and to the insight and wisdom of those who picked Low Lake for the site of what is now the Coe College Wilderness Field Station. My understanding and appreciation of the beauty and biological diversity of this site grows each year. I am thrilled and happy that we have been able to keep this program alive for everyone past, present and future who will know and live it!     

 Dr. Harlo Hadow would be happy
to talk more about the Field Station,
just give him a call at (319) 399-8704 or
send him an email !

This could be the learning adventure of your life!

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Last Modified on December 1, 2009
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