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Cornell Wilderness Term - 2007

Low Lake from the Wilderness Field Station (credit: David Kesler)
Banner photo: Hegman Pictographs (credit: Heather Axen)

The Cornell Wilderness Term (CWT) is an off-campus program comprising courses in the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities. Courses are taught during the first term of the academic year at the Wilderness Field Station on Low Lake in the Superior National Forest. The Field Station is within walking distance of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, described by National Geographic Traveler as "paradise found" and one of the "50 greatest places of a lifetime."

CWT provides students with unique opportunities for field, laboratory and other creative work, and for reading, writing and reflecting in a wilderness setting. Co-curricular activities--such as camping, canoeing and evening seminars--enable cross-disciplinary sharing of ideas. CWT courses are advertised each year in the TERM TABLE. Participation in the program entails additional costs that are not covered by regular tuition or financial aid, and include transportation, room and board, and use of Wilderness Field Station facilities. Click on details for further information about expenses, weather, and what to bring.

Courses Offered in September 2007

Note: All classes begin on campus. Students and faculty will travel together to the Wilderness Field Station at the end of the first week of Term I and return at the end of the third week.

BIO 1-321


Bob Black

Ecology is the study of interactions between organisms and their environment, which of course includes other organisms. We will examine a broad array of topics ranging from ecological genetics and the evolution of adaptations through population growth, life history parameters, patterns of reproduction, and interactions between individuals of different species, to community ecology and biogeography. Our investigation of these topics will include consideration of important ecological theories and mathematical models as well as natural history exercises near the Wilderness Field Station. Students will gain hands-on experience with many of the plants and animals of both terrestrial and aquatic habitats.

Our class will examine the applicability of an important ecological theory, Island Biogeography Theory (IBT), to island tree communities in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We will embark upon a 6 day canoe trip into the BWCAW during which we gather data from the many islands of the Lake 1-4 chain and Insula Lake. We will then use this data to test the predictions of IBT with respect to the number of tree species found in island communities. This project will require both that we learn about canoeing and canoe camping in the wilderness as well as working together for a common goal. Our canoe trip also will provide us the opportunity to observe and interact with a wide range of organisms including white cedar, black spruce, jackpine, pitcher plants, northern pike, loons, bald eagles, river otters, moose, wolves and bear. (Laboratory Science)

Prerequisites: BIO 141, 142, and permission of the instructor.

BIO 1-230

Conservation Biology

Andy McCollum

Ecological, evolutionary, and other biological principles and their application to the maintenance of global and local biodiversity.

Prerequisite: BIO 142 and permission of the instructor.

ENG 1-350

American Nature Writers

Glenn Freeman

When Europeans first arrived on the shores of North America, the continent was seen as a “New Eden,” a vast, bountiful wilderness of endless riches inhabited by wild, savage primitives. Even as the wilderness has been tamed (or erased?), images of wilderness have remained a defining element of the American ethos, serving as a spiritual, religious, and aesthetic metaphor for the American character. Wilderness is at the heart of the American mythology. At the same time, America has had a long, troubled relationship with its wilderness as environmental concerns clash inevitably with economic/political concerns. In the terms of a predominant Judeo-Christian heritage, what does it mean to have “dominion” over the wilderness and its inhabitants? This course will trace both a historical/political and a literary relationship with “nature.” We will read influential writers such as Aldo Leopold, Gary Snyder, Terry Tempest Williams, Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard, and Pattiann Rogers. We will also explore a Native literary/environmental tradition, looking especially at works by people indigenous to the area, the Anishinaabe. We will read creation myths, tales of the great trickster Nanaboozhoo, and contemporary poems.

We will be fortunate to engage in this study in the midst of one of America’s most important wilderness areas, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northern Minnesota. As we study an historical tradition, then, we will be offered a unique opportunity to examine and write about our own relationship with nature and wilderness. We will learn about canoeing, portaging, and surviving in the wilderness, and the class will spend several days canoeing into the heart of the BWCWA which will allow us to encounter nature in a way that the contemporary world with its electronic “conveniences” all too frequently neglects. We will read, we will write, we will listen, we will swim and play, and we will experience our selves and our world in a new and challenging way. Whether you are an avid outdoorsperson or a neophyte, this course will offer you room to challenge yourself and to grow. Be prepared to return to your day-to-day lives with a new set of eyes. (Humanities)

Prerequisites: Writing-designated course and permission of the instructor.


The Cornell
Wilderness Term

The Boundary Waters
Canoe Area Wilderness


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