May Field Session 2020

All FWCB students complete the three-week Summer Field Session as part of their degree requirements. The summer field session will be held in May 2020. During the session, students are immersed in the study of Minnesota's flora and fauna in both aquatic and terrestrial settings. The field session is taken prior to the third year of a student's undergraduate program. Critical field skills developed during this summer session are used through the remainder of the undergraduate experience.

Registration will occur during Spring semester. Classes are scheduled for every day and evening. During the May session, students travel to Whitewater State Park, Itasca Biological Station, and the UMN Crookston campus.

Course Details



This program is a requirement in the Fisheries and Wildlife curriculum. Only students majoring in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology may register for these courses.

Prerequisites Sophomore standing in the FWCB major or instructor consent

FW 3104: Skills for Field Techniques (2cr; online course)

Instructors: Dawn Tanner (May)

In this field-preparation and application class, students develop skills required for the field session (FW 3106 + FW 3108) and future professional positions in fisheries, wildlife, and conservation biology. Students complete a series of online activities that prepare them to use analytical tools (e.g., tools for statistical analysis, GIS/GPS, spatial methodology, advanced lab- and field-based skills). This course is taken concurrently with the field session. 

FW 3106: Vegetation Sampling for Habitat Assessments (1cr)

Instructors: Julia Bohnen (May)

Students are introduced to common vegetation sampling methods used for habitat assessments. Students learn to identify approximately 75 vascular plant species typical of Minnesota terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems using taxonomic keys and readily observable traits. The importance of these plants for providing food, cover, and nesting is also covered.

FW 3108: Field Methods in Research and Conservation of Vertebrate Populations (3 cr)

Instructors: Dawn Tanner (May)

Planning and implementation of research and management projects, collecting and analyzing data in groups, group and individual oral and written reports; each student keeps a field journal.


May Session mandatory meeting: April 27, 100 Skok Hall, 6:30 - 7:30 pm

May field session: May 17 - June 5, 2020

Specific schedule, logistics, and course announcements will be made during spring semester

Locations Itasca Biological Station | Cloquet Forestry Center


2020 May Field Session Handbook (.pdf)

Course Supplies

Personal needs

  • Pillow cases, bed linen and blankets must be furnished by students; pillows and mattresses are provided at the station
  • Field clothes adequate for protection against cold and rain, as well as any other clothing deemed necessary for a 3.5-week field course
    • Waterproof hat, jacket, pants, and waterproofed boots are an absolute necessity because field work is carried out regardless of the weather.
  • Toiletries - including insect repellent and sunscreen
  • Any medications including kits for insect stings, bee stings, etc.

FW 3106 - Vegetation Sampling for Habitat Assessments

  • Hand lens -- Doublet 10x
  • Pocket knife or similar sharp tool
  • 3x5-inch ruled index cards, one or two packages of 100 each
  • Boots, water-proofed to the ankle for bog and wet area walks.
  • Clipboard
  • Protractor
  • Field notebook
  • Compass
  • Digital camera or phone with camera - strongly recommended
  • Recommended: one or more plant/wildflower field guide, such as:Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. Newcomb 1989.
    • Wetland Plants of Minnesota: a complete guide to the wetland and aquatic plants of the North Star State. Chadde 2012.
    • Wildflowers of Minnesota. Tekiela 1999.
    • Trees of Minnesota. Tekiela 2002.

FW 3108 -- Field Methods in Research and Conservation of Vertebrate Populations

  • Rain suit
  • Chest waders (must be nonbreathable)
  • One orange Elan E64-8x4 inch field notebook
  • One Silva or Suunto mirror-sighting compass
  • Binoculars (highly recommended)
  • Digital camera (optional)
  • Fish, mammal, and bird field guides (optional)
  • GPS (optional)

Student Health

The Summer Field Session involves sustained physical activity. A medical examination prior to the session is advised. Students who are required to complete the field session, but will not be able to do so due to medical reasons, should contact Dr. Susan Galatowitsch (612-624-3242) Department Head, Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology.

Immunization clearance is not required for the session; however, students attending the session should have had a tetanus booster vaccination within the last five years.

No medications will be stocked during either session. If you are susceptible to allergic reactions to pollen, insect bites, stings, etc. be sure to bring your own medication.

Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness, is present in northern Minnesota. Students should take precautions to avoid contracting the disease as well as understand symptoms of infection. Most Lyme infections come from nymphal and adult deer ticks. Nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed. Students should dress appropriately to limit tick access to skin, use insect repellent in the field, and conduct regular "tick checks" when changing clothes or bathing. Early symptoms may involve fever, headaches, and fatigue. In addition, a circular rash often (but not always) develops at the site of the tick bite. Lyme disease is easily treated with antibiotics but left untreated can cause serious, long-term, and irreversible health problems (joints, heart, central nervous system).

Additional references are:

student at itasca field session

Course Costs

***Subject to change for 2020***

The Summer Field Session costs are tuition (6 credits) in addition to fees covering transportation, food, lodging, & supplies. Scholarships are available –apply by March 1

  • Course fee with own health insurance: $1,050
  • Course fee w/o own health insurance: $1,597