January 09, 2015,
This past summer, 17 students joined assistant professor Logan Park on the “mother of all field trips” – also known as Forestry 422: Park and Wildlands Management Camp.
They toured half a dozen sites, each with a different set of land use and conservation challenges. Their itinerary included Lusk Creek Wilderness Area in Southern Illinois, Land between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky, several sites in Washington, D.C., Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, Acadia National Park in coastal Maine, and White Mountain National Forest along the Appalachian Trail.
At each destination, students learned different – and often challenging – aspects of management. At Lusk Creek, the emphasis was equestrian recreation and trail erosion, while at Land between the Lakes, it was public hunting and relationships with landowners. At Gettysburg and Arlington, they learned to understand military and historic interpretation of sites. At Acadia, it was rock climbing, sea kayaking, marine recreation management, and learning the difference between recreation, tourism and sports. And at White Mountains, they learned “leave no trace” backcountry ethics.
Evan Coulson, a doctoral student, said the course far exceeded his expectations. “When you try to picture the experience of spending a few days meeting with professionals in your field in some place like Acadia National Park, you envision circling around for another lecture,” he said. “You do not expect the smell of salt water in the air, crisp ocean breezes, or the warm and welcome handshakes of colleagues eager to help demystify the next-steps of transitioning from student life to the role of the professional. The conversations are real, the management problems we've been studying become real and the stories we now have to draw from are real.”
That, Park said, is the whole point of the course. “Students experience all the concepts we’ve been talking about for the previous three years,” he said. “It is an intense series of networking opportunities as well – we visit Salukis working at interesting places from the Grand Canyon to Maine.”
Park noted another benefit: personal growth. “Contemplative solitude is a structural component of this class in a way that it never can be in the classroom,” he said.
The summer field camp touches on many of the areas of specialization available within the forestry department: forest resources management, urban forest management, wildlife habitat management and conservation, forest hydrology, watershed management, ecological restoration, fire science, recreation ecology, and human dimensions of natural resource management.