UMF students in Prof. Doni Schwalm's Mammalogy course experience what it is like to conduct a professional field research project from start to finish. They begin by developing a research proposal and budget, and then implement each stage of the project from data collection and analysis to the preparation of a manuscript formatted for publication in a scientific journal and formal present their results at UMF's Michael D. Wilson Symposium. Projects are conducted throughout the spring semester, which often means that data collection involves hours in the field on snowshoes, just like a “real world” biologists.
UMF students collecting data for their final projects in their Mammalogy course.
First Year Fusion:
Mapping out Communities
Beginning their week in Monson, students in this First Year Fusion course were shown by UMF alumni Esther Butler (‘14) how to navigate Monson’s sidewalks using a cane and while wearing modified goggles to simulate a range of visual impairments. After understanding the challenges various community members face, students mapped sidewalk hazards and public water infrastructure using mobile GIS applications on tablets. Students then traveled to Isleford where they met with Kaitlyn Damon, the head of Islesford's public safety department. After discussing the challenges posed by public safety on an unabridged island, students set out to map every structure on the island using mobile GIS software and create maps of home addresses and road names for the public safety department to use.
Students navigate sidewalks to understand their hazards before mapping them with GIS software
Putting a historical spin on Marine Biology, students in Prof. Nancy Prentiss’s Honors course studied the connection between migratory fish and those of Ancient Greece. Using the Atlantic Salmon as a model to learn about migratory fish and other migratory species, Prof. Prentiss arranged for UMF students to collaborate with the Maine Department of Marine Resources to plant approximately 10,000 Atlantic salmon eggs in nearby Temple Stream. Reese Mertz ('23), a student who participated in this field experience, described how “there was something about being out there, in the water, that brought a certain understanding to the spawning of salmon that a textbook or lecture fails to do. We were able to feel the struggle and lengths to which the salmon go through just to keep living. (These projects) allowed us to do something good for the environment, learn in a new way, and gain an experience that other students may miss out on if they only work in labs” on campus.
UMF Students working with the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources to plant salmon eggs in Temple Stream.
In Prof. Doni Schwalm's Landscape Ecology course, UMF students have a variety of opportunities for field research. They then take the data they have collected to analyze it through spatial data analysis programs. This gives them first hand experience of what a career in conservation might look like. One fun example of their field research is a Fall canoeing trip on Flying Pond, about 20 minutes southeast of Farmington, where they research island bio-geography.
Landscape Ecology students conducting field work on Flying Pond in their Landscape Ecology course.
Beaver Brook Salinity
After realizing the high amount of road salt usage during the winter, students in Prof. Jesse Minor’s Physical Geography course set out to discover if road salts had any effect on nearby Beaver Brook stream. Students begin this process by traveling to various locations within the stream to collect data such as day/time, air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, and the temperature of water and snow. With this information, students were able to conclude that there was a higher salinity level downstream compared to the salinity level upstream, meaning that road salt most likely affects nearby vegetation and wildlife. Zack Laflamme ('23), one of the students in the course, said the fieldwork they performed “definitely enhanced the class because we were going outside and learning about things you didn’t think of about Farmington. Our labs pieced with our class discussion. It all flowed together.”
Students set out to discover if road salts were impacting the Beaver Brook stream's salinity