A WINTER RESEARCH/FIELD-BASED COURSE ON LIMNOLOGY AND PALEOLIMNOLOGY
We developed our course Lakes and Environmental Change because: 1- it provides our students with an opportunity to do a non-traditional form of field work during the winter term, 2- it takes advantage of the abundance of small lakes near campus, one of which is meromictic, that are typically safely frozen during the Winter trimester, and 3- it is fundamentally interdisciplinary and research based. The main objective of this course is to introduce students to limnology and paleolimnology using an approach that resembles an authentic research project rather than a contrived series of unrelated lab exercises. Each year two lakes are chosen for study, and students research evolves through the term in a logical manner from drainage basin analyses to water column measurements to surface sediment properties to sediment core acquisition and analysis.
All students are required to actively participate in collecting data and samples in the field, and in processing these data and samples in the laboratory. As with any research project, students are introduced to the primary published literature so that they can both critique papers in class, and integrate these papers into the interpretation of their own data sets. Finally, the course emphasizes scientific writing so that students become aware of what it takes to present the results of scientific research in a concise and clear fashion, and to use this understanding in the preparation of their lab reports. The course has spawned numerous senior thesis projects, and several graduates of this course have gone on to graduate programs in paleolimnology.