Field Biology: BIOL-27500
Fall 2011

Leann Kanda

(CNS 159)

(office) 274-3986

(cell) 379-1165 

Office Hours:

Monday 11 a.m. - 1 p.m., or by appointment. 
I am also often in at other times. I keep an open-door policy, feel free to stop in.  Email is also generally a good way to reach me.

Times: Tuesday lab
10:50 – 3:50, CNS 202

Thursday lecture

10:50 - 12:05, CNS 202

Course Schedule

Course description:

This course aims to introduce students to the terrestrial ecosystems in the Ithaca area, and the basic sampling designs and census methods used in wildlife and habitat research.  This is a small, experientially-based course, and I hope it will be a collaborative experience.  Your contributions are important and valuable.  Each lab is structured to provide experience with particular species and techniques, but the context will be shaped by our immediate interactions with the natural environment and each other.


Learning Objectives:  The Biology Department has identified seven Student Learning Objectives to be mastered by students in our majors, of which six are explicitly addressed in this course.

1.  demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental concepts and principles in biology, specifically learning field methods used to census plant and animal populations, developing skills in identification and observation of species, becoming familiar with the common species of the Finger Lakes habitats, and recognizing the underlying principles of experimental design for ecological research.

2.  demonstrate an understanding of the application of biological concepts to everyday life, specifically in the context of using field research to inform conservation and management.

4.  critically analyze biological information, including analysis of the effectiveness of methods, the meaning of observational and experimental data, and the appropriateness of conclusions, specifically practicing interpretation of ecological primary literature.

5.  carry out scientific investigations to answer questions about the natural world, specifically designing and implementing an original field research project.

6.  effectively communicate scientific works in both oral and written form,

      through writing a research paper and presenting on original research.

7.  carry out work in a way that demonstrates a professional standard of ethics, collaboration, and respect for nature, especially the ability to work as research teams in an engaged and respectful manner.

Required Text: 

Petrides, G.A. and J. Wehr. 1998. Eastern Trees. Peterson Field Guide Series.  Houghton Mifflin, New York.



These are available on loan for the term.  If you sign one out, you are responsible for returning it in correct working order, or paying $85 for its replacement.  A course grade will not be assigned (or will be left at failure!) if binoculars are not returned or replaced.  You are welcome to use your own pair if you prefer.


Field Notebook:        

Please bring $6.50 to the first lab for your notebook (these are outdoor specialty notebooks, that we have ordered in advance).  You will need a pencil or a waterproof ink pen for writing in the book.



            Please note that the Tuesday standard “lecture” and “lab” times are merged for a continuous lab.   Bring a bag lunch; we will eat in the field.  I also recommend always bringing water.  


The labs for this course involve easy to moderate hiking and moving across uneven natural terrain. Please wear appropriate clothing, particularly shoes!  Flip-flops are NOT safe footwear for the field. Poison ivy, and thorny plants such as multiflora rose are also common and not fun against bare skin.


Lyme disease is now in Ithaca, so I strongly recommend wearing pants in the field no matter how warm it is, and doing a tick-check when you get home.  Also, mosquito-borne illnesses are on the rise again.  Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) and West Nile virus are known diseases carried by mosquitoes in this area.  I have DEET-free insect repellant that will be available to all, or you may use your own.  All three of these diseases can be very serious.  Lyme disease is often (but not always) signalled with a "bulls-eye" rash around the tick bite.  All these diseases cause symptoms similar to a bad flu, including fever, headaches, stiff neck, and fatigue.  If you get sick, consult your doctor and inform your doctor of your increased exposure risk.


Labs are held outside regardless of weather; watch the forecast and plan accordingly. Students with any physical condition that may affect their participation in lab should discuss this with me at the start of the term and we will work out an accommodation. If you have any known medical condition that may arise in the field (for example, bee allergies), please let me know at the start of term.  Expect the unexpected!



            Attendance is extremely important.  Students are expected to participate in all classes with the exception of health emergencies, religious holidays, court appearances, or college-authorized extracurricular events.  If one of these cases arises, it is the student’s responsibility to contact me before the class.  Lab practicals cannot be made up unless they have been missed for one of these legitimate reasons and I know about it beforehand.  Attendance at the Arnot Weekend trip is mandatory.  Because Tuesday labs are often off-campus, you must be prompt or we may leave without you.  Each unexcused absence from a lab will reduce your total course grade by 5%.



My general attitude is that we are all adults and you are responsible for yourself. However, reckless behavior while in the field can be dangerous as well as disruptive. If need be, I reserve the right to ban anyone from the field who deliberately fails to follow safe and responsible conduct. 


Cell phones:

            Cell phones are to be turned off during lecture periods.  However, they can be useful during labs for keeping in touch with other members of the class in the field.  During labs, they are to be used only for class-related purposes.


Late Policy:

            Assignments will be marked down 5% from the total points possible for every day they are late (weekend days included). The final project will not be accepted late. 


Academic Honesty:

            Scientific fraud: Integrity in scientific research is essential.  Scientific fraud (fabrication or falsifying data) is a serious ethical misconduct.  In the professional world, it ends one’s career.  It is also a breach of the Academic Honesty Policy, and will absolutely not be tolerated. 


Plagiarism: As is stated in the Student Handbook “Academic honesty is a cornerstone of the mission of the College. Unless it is otherwise stipulated, students may submit for evaluation only that work that is their own and that is submitted originally for a specific course.” Please make yourself familiar with plagiarism as it is defined in the Student Handbook. Note that using someone else’s ideas in your writing, either copied or paraphrased without appropriate citation, is plagiarism. 


Familiarize yourself with the college's policies on academic conduct (visit the Judicial Affairs Office Web Site ( I take academic dishonesty seriously and will pursue full measures.  Confirmed cases of fraud or rampant plagiarism are an automatic failure of the course and referral to judicial affairs. 


Students with Disabilities:

Students that need special accommodations should contact the Office of Academic Support Services for Students with Disabilities, 322A Smiddy Hall (274-1005, TDD 274-7319).



            Field Notebook Midterm                    20

            Field Notebook Final                          20

            Lab Practical 1                                    60

            Lab Practical 2                                    60

            Lab Assignments

                        Succession                               20       

                        Lick Brook                              20

                        Wildlife Figures                      20

                        Population                               30

                        Invasives                                 20

                        Landscapes                             10


                        Proposal Idea                          5

                        Proposal                                  20

                        Project Update                        10

                        Intro/Method draft                 20

                        Final                                      100

                        Presentation                            25

            Participation                                        20

            Total                                                    480


Grading scale:

























59 or below



Field Notebook:

Careful observation and the note-keeping habit are important skills.  Every time you go into the field, you should make an entry in the notebook. There should be an entry for every lab, noting the method as well as the collected data.  If one person is designated as recorder for a particular exercise, others should note who has the detailed data.  Do not scatter data among people for a lab - either put it all in one book, or copy parts so that the complete record is present in each book.  I strongly suggest that these notes include notes on what species you have seen, under what circumstances, and how you identify them.  These are your class notes; they are supposed to be useful!


All fieldbook entries should begin with Date and Time (24 hr), Location, and Weather (temperature, wind, sun).  Complete sentences are not necessary (these are field notes!) but they should be legible (to me as well as to you) and interpretable.


Lab Practicals:

These in-lecture practicals will test your skills in identifying species and using research equipment.  As we progress through the term, we will identify species to add to a Master List.  For these species you should know both the common and scientific names and be able to recognize them without aid.     


Lab Assignments:

For most labs, there will be an associated analysis of the collected data.  You MAY work together on these analyses.  Graphs and tables may be produced as a single product from multiple people.  You MAY work together to discuss interpretations of analyses.  For write-up, I will specify for each assignment whether you may or may not submit shared writing.  Assume for default that anything longer than a figure or table legend must be written individually in your own words.   



You will complete a small independent research project as the final for this course.  The project must be field-oriented research.  You will develop a research question, design and implement an appropriate sampling design, and interpret the results.  I do not expect you to be able to gather sample sizes large enough to have statistical power, but you should have data that is of the right kind to address the question at hand.  You will write up your results in the format of a scientific paper, including an introduction with background information drawn from the primary literature.  You will present your findings to your classmates at the end of the term (the format, whether oral presentation or poster, and open to the campus community or not, will be determined by the class.)  This project will be done in small groups, with a single paper and presentation submitted by the group.

Course Schedule:
This is a tentative schedule; the vagaries of nature may cause us to rearrange as we go.














South Hill: Orientation


Sampling design




McGowan: Tree succession




Proposal Idea




Lick Brook: Vegetative Community



Animal Research

Succession Results



South Hill: Wildlife community





Trap checks

Oct 1-2 Arnot


South Hill: Telemetry and focal observation



Visualization (I)

Lick Brook Methods&Results



Six Mile Creek: Invertebrates




Practical 1



Newfield: Amphibians

Field Book

Wildlife Figures





Newfield: Amphibians


Project Update



Mark-Recapture Analysis



McLean Bog



Mark-Recapture Analysis



Newfield IRR: Invasives

Population Lab


Visualization (II)




Lindsay-Parsons: Ecosystem Engineers

Invasives Report


Field Forensics









Smith Woods: Old Growth

Intro/Methods Draft



Practical 2



South Hill: Snow tracking




Landscape Discussion



Lab of O: Bird watching





Final: Project Paper and Presentation



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Last modified:  9/13/11