ACM Wilderness Field Station

1997 Program

Field Study In One Of America's Outstanding Wilderness Areas

The Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) has operated its Wilderness Field Station since 1962, giving college students a unique opportunity to learn through field studies in one of America's outstanding wilderness areas.

Located on remote Low Lake in the Superior National Forest of Minnesota, the Station provides direct canoe access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) and the adjoining Quetico Provincial Park of Ontario. Together, these protected areas comprise several million acres of forests, lakes and streams, enabling close observation and study of numerous, diverse habitats and species.

Classes are small and personal, with no more than eight students per instructor. All courses integrate lectures and laboratory investigation with wilderness field work and a 10-day canoe trip. Most courses include an intensive individual research component and paper.

Students also have opportunities to hear guest speakers on topics such as bears and mustelids, forest ecology, biogeography and the history of philosophical attitudes toward the wilderness.

Please follow the following links for further information.


Academic program (courses offered)

Living arrangements


Application procedures

Application deadlines

Campus program advisors

Program directors



All students with an interest in the wilderness are encouraged to apply.

Except as noted, one college level biology course or its equivalent is required.

Academic program

First Session: June 16 - July 17, 1997
Second Session: July 17 - August 18,1997
A maximum of 8 students per class. Students may apply for one or both sessions, enrolling in one course each session.
Credit and grades
Recommended credit is four semester hours or the equivalent for each course. However, each college has its own policies, so students should consult the campus program advisor or off-campus studies officer for their college's credit and grading policies for this program. It is the student's responsibility to determined in advance the amount and distribution of credit.

First session courses

(Extended course descriptions available from ACM)

Behavioral Ecology of Vertebrates
Behavioral ecologists study behavioral strategies used by organisms to improve their evolutionary success. We begin by studying the plant communities and environmental forces in the boreal forest, then identify members of the major vertebrate groups by sight, sound and other cues. With this background we study such topics as interactions among members of the same and different species, habitat choice, foraging, reproduction, spacing, competition and predation with the goal of understanding the evolutionary significance of these behaviors. Harlo Hadow (Coe College)
Comparative Ecology of Lakes and Streams
The course will examine the biota of area lakes and streams and their physico-chemical milieu. A comparative ecosystem approach will be used to structure field and laboratory experiments. Readings, discussion and lectures will be used to enrich and enhance the experimental work. The course will include an overview of regional and North American lake and stream biodiversity, and the effects of introduced species and human intervention on aquatic ecosystems. Michael C. Swift (Carleton College)
Environmental History of North America
This course will examine major issues in environmental history by focusing on the Quetico-Superior region from the 17th century to the present, with an emphasis on the 20th century. Major themes will include the environmental aspects of European expansion, subsistence economies and their role in the cultures and dispossession of Indian peoples, the environmental effects of modern economies, different understandings of nature, and more recent local and national conflicts over environmentalism. We will use the area both to directly experience the wilderness and to interview local representatives of the environmental and wise-use movements who perceive the same wilderness in fundamentally different ways. No prerequisite. Benjamin H. Johnson (Yale University)
Landscape Ecology of the Boundary Waters Using CIS and GPS
In this course, students will use GPS (Global Positioning System) receiversand GIS (Geographic Information System) software to sample and map the mosaic of landscapes in the Boundary Waters and Quetico region. This will involve classification of communities based on field surveys of selected wetland and forest sites, analysis of biological and positional data, and the construction of coded maps. Canoe trips into Canada will furnish landscape comparisons that will improve the accuracy of the maps. The course combines traditional field research skills with new methods of ecological analysis. Students must be willing to enthusiastically engage the challenges of working with computers in a field setting.

Prerequisites: an introductory college biology course with an ecological component and familiarity with a word-processing program and spreadsheet or statistical software. Paula Sanchini (Coe College)

Independent Study
Students with previous experience at the Field Station may pursue individual or team projects. Staff.

Second session courses

(Extended course descriptions available from ACM)

Behavioral Ecology of Mammals
Students will study the ecology and behavior of mammals in the Quetico-Superior Region from an evolutional perspective. What do the local mammals eat and why? How do they get their food? How do they behave towards other members of their species? What are their relationships with other species? Students will also learn basic natural history and anatomy necessary to help them answer such questions. Roger Powell (North Carolina State University)
Environmental Issues of the Northwoods
The course examines environmental issues in northern Minnesota and neighboring Canada. Global impacts such as ozone depletion, acid rain and global climate change will be studied and discussed, along with local issues of deforestation, tourism, shoreline degradation, pollution and introduced species. Topics will be examined from biological, sociological, economic and political perspectives. No prerequisites. Neil Bernstein (Mount Mercy College)
Life of Insects
In championing insects for experimentation and study, the eminent physiological ecologist Bernd Heinrich, who has studied everything from weasels to ravens, states "For me, insects are a logical choice. There is no other group of animals that rivals them in diversity. They are found everywhere, often in astounding abundance. They can be observed at close range.... Also, they face many of the same problems we do." If you aspire to a research career in the fields of ecology or behavior, the study of insects as a model system or an insect as an experimental organism provides an excellent point of departure.

This course provides undergraduates a rare opportunity to study insects before graduate school. A major focus of the course will be the examination of ecology and behavior in the field. Students will learn to identify the various insect orders and families and contrast their physiological systems to our own. We will discover burying beetles that entomb dead organisms within crypts beneath the ground, scorpion flies that gain mates by raping and pillaging, and damsel flies whose males insure paternity by scooping out a rival's sperm from their mates with a copulatory scrub brush. The boundary waters of the Quetico-Superior provide an ideal location to learn about this important group of organisms. Kurt Redborg (Coe College)

Wetland Ecology
Wetlands are unique and mysterious ecosystems that present an array of biological, chemical and physical challenges to the organism that live within them. Students will study the wetlands in order to identify how plants and animals have adapted to these challenges. The role of wetlands in global climate change and paleo-ecological research will be introduced. History of wetland protection and exploitation will be discussed in the context of wetland policy. A canoe trip into Quetico Provincial Park and the BWCA will allow students to study a variety of wetland communities, such as bogs, fens and swamps. Field surveys and observations will emphasize plant communities, adaptations of plants and animals, and wetland succession and development. Students will design and conduct a field research project. Anne Capistrant
Independent Study
Students with previous experience at the held Station may pursue individual or team projects. Staff.

Living arrangements

Base camp facilities, while comfortable, are remote from town and purposely minimal to intensify contact with the wilderness. Buildings include laboratories, a dormitory and a kitchen/ mess hall. Students stay at the camp when not on field trips, and must bring the academic materials and personal effects needed for an extended stay in the woods.


Students are billed tuition and a program fee by their colleges. Students from non-ACM colleges should consult the ACM office in Chicago.


For students from ACM colleges, tuition for each course will equal approximately one-ninth of the Carleton college 1996-97 tuition, and is paid directly to Carleton.

Tuition refunds are made in accordance with the policy in effect on the home campus.

Program fee

The program fee for 1997 is tentatively set at $750 per session, but is subject to change. The fee covers room and board at the Field Station. No part of the program fee expended on a student's behalf is refunded if the student withdraws from the program. Students from non-ACM colleges are also charged a $125 administrative fee.

Other expenses

Because students cannot travel into town during the program, spending money is not necessary. Personal and academic supplies should be purchased before departure for the Field Station. Students are responsible for transportation costs to and from the Field Station. In the past, ACM has chartered a bus from Duluth to the Field Station and back and billed students at the end of the program.

How to apply

  1. Pick up application materials from the campus program advisor. Students from non-ACM colleges should contact the ACM office in Chicago.
  2. Check with the program advisor for the application deadlines on your campus.
  3. The program advisor can answer your questions about the program and perhaps put you in touch with past participants from your campus. Recent Carleton participants are Joe Short, Jason Fishbach, Sarah Davies, Emily Burton, Amy Moore, and Laura Saxton for the summer of '96, and Heater Kieweg, Smita Mehta, and Jim Crants for the summer of '95.
  4. Check with the program advisor and/or off-campus studies office about the amount and distribution of credit for the program.
  5. Return the completed application to the program advisor by your campus' deadline. ACM must receive completed applications (having gone through all on-campus procedures) by February 20. Decisions will be announced in early March.

    Applications received at the ACM office (having gone through all on-campus procedures) by April 15 are eligible for late acceptance on a space-available basis.

  6. If you're accepted, pay a non-refundable $300 deposit directly to the ACM office in Chicago to secure your place. The deposit will be applied to your program fee.

ACM Wilderness Field Station

Campus program advisors

For more information, contact:

Associated Colleges of the Midwest
205 W. Wacker Drive, Suite 1300, Chicago, Illinois 60606
Phone: 312/263-5000


For specific answers to questions about courses, prerequisites or independent study, contact either of the directors of the program:

First Session
Professor Harlo Hadow
Dept. of Biology, Coe College
1220 First Avenue NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402
Phone: 319/399-8704

Second Session
Professor Kurt Redborg
Dept. of Biology, Coe College
1220 First Avenue NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402
Phone: 319/399-8703



The Associated Colleges of the Midwest does not discriminate in the operation of its educational programs, activities or employment on the basis of sex, race, creed, national origin, age, sexual orientation or handicap.


Page built by Hans Landel with help from ACNS, Carleton College.