From New Jersey to Vermont: It’s not a world apart!
Today we hear from Rutgers University student Tesia Lin who recently embarked on a road trip to take part in a class offered by The Wildlife Society introducing students to on-the-ground, hands-on science and learning. What she discovered by the end of her adventure went beyond what she imagined the trip would be.
Anticipating my six hour drive to Castleton, Vermont, with some trepidation, it dawned on me that maybe taking a field course in wildlife techniques was not the best idea. Several times I contemplated turning my car around and heading back towards my “all too familiar New Jersey.”
I attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick and feared that I would be the only person from a suburban college with limited access to conservation areas and natural parks. Furthermore, I’d only been an ecology major for one semester, having made a sudden change from attending medical school.
Upon my arrival in Vermont, my fears were soon realized as I ate lunch with my peers on that first day of class: everyone had a strong background in ecological sciences and extensive practical experience offered by their colleges or internships.
I dreaded the first couple of days of class, guessing that I may be unable to answer any questions. It was not until we began setting transect lines to study wildlife that I actually started to feel more comfortable with participating in the class (I realized that reading a compass and using measuring tapes was not that difficult after all).
At the top of our transect line was a steep, muddy slope. I watched one of the course instructors scale the terrain with ease, looking for signs of wildlife. We scored! Under the foliage lay a red eft, which is an eastern newt in its juvenile stage. Unbelievably, this was my first time seeing any form of wildlife in an undisturbed, natural habitat. Witnessing the scene in front of me gave me a new found appreciation for what I would be doing in this two-week field course.
Over the next few days I discovered a passion for each of the subjects introduced to us. Identifying bird calls, catching fish, and looking for herps all became fun. It was thrilling to encounter animals in settings mostly undisturbed by humans.
Interacting with professionals in the field of wildlife biology and ecology made me realize that, although a biologist or ecologist may ‘specialize’ in one particular area, ecology and wildlife are so interconnected that he or she is not limited to one field of study.
As I crossed back over the border into New Jersey, my heart dropped a bit. However, I knew that what I learned while in Vermont is applicable anywhere in the world. I am now more aware of what exists within my surroundings, and I understand that each animal I see has a relationship with its environment. I finished the course, complete with a Project Wild certification and a hunting certificate from the State of Vermont, both of which were unexpected.
For ecology students like me, limited by their locations, The Wildlife Society field course offered much more experience for me than three courses could have at college. It helped me realize that I chose the right major for myself: one that is not limited to a concentration within one field, but is rather a dynamic field with opportunities for change (which I find very appealing). The possibilities of learning, teaching and discovering new things in the field of ecology and wildlife biology are, therefore, endless.
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Visit us again tomorrow, when we hear the other perspective: a guest instructor in the Wildlife Techniques course discovers what his true reasons are for teaching the class.