Last week I spent in the woods with a bunch of first-year college students….and now I’m going to travel to the University of Minnesota Field Station in Itasca and do it again.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the programs didn’t run from 7am in the morning to 9pm at night for multiple days. That’s fine if you are 18. I’m not. (I know! You’re all Shocked! Shocked that I’m not 18!)

I’m traveling around looking at how different universities get their incoming students excited about biology, and especially field biology.

About 80-90% of incoming biology students say they want to be a doctor. That’s a bit of a problem.
If you are a smart kid, “doctor” is the default setting in a parent’s mind.

The other major problem is that there is a huge drop-out of students in the first year from the big intro survey courses. Too boring, too competitive, not enough hands-on stuff.

The first year of college is recognized as critical to a student’s success–so much so there is now a National Center on the First Year Experience.

So, I’m going to spend the next 4 days in a place where there is no cell service, and will probably not have much time to post. And, I’ll see if what UMinn is doing can be adapted to my university.

In the meantime, enjoy the lovely photo (nice shot of proboscis!) from Gafoto.

Depending on just how spotty my internet access is, I may enable comment moderation, just to keep the spam/trolls under control.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. I LIKE field biology! Except for the ticks. And the chiggers. And the no-see-ums that have a mysterious passion for serenading my earwax. But aside from those minor annoyances, it’s great stuff! Who wouldn’t enjoy spending all day surrounded by scenery, observing the wildlife and counting things?

    Now, don’t get carried off by the black flies and giant Minnesotan skeeters!


  2. One of our students recently said: “I don’t like field work. You can never wear cute shoes.”

    :D I am trying to fit that into a post somewhere….

  3. I was in the UP two weeks ago and had to retreat inside when the mosquitoes were so thick that they were between my glasses and my eyes. :-p

    The long days don’t sound like fun, but everything else does. Hope you bring lots of good ideas back home with you.

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