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Experiencing the Great Outdoors in the Adirondack Mountains

February 15, 2018 Tags: Academics , Research , STEAM

Some choose to stay inside during the winter season and look forward to sunnier days. Others embrace the cold season and pile into a van to take a nine hour trip north to the Adirondack Mountains to study winter Ecology. Thirteen students plus faculty and staff members from Saint Francis University and Juniata College took a four-day field trip as part of their semester-long experience living at the Raystown Field Station near Huntingdon, Pennsylvania studying Ecology and Environmental Science.

Adirondack Field StationSUNY ESF, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, manages the Adirondack Ecological Center in New York. The field station, an ideal location for the study of ecology and sustainable development, is situated on 15,000 acres in Newcomb, NY in the geographic center of the six million acre Adirondack Park. The field station’s Interpretive Center became the home base where students attended talks from faculty and the ESF staff. One highlight was Jim Stickles, a Big Game Biologist from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, who spoke about Moose Ecology, as well as careers available in the field of Wildlife Biology. 

Dr. Justin Merry, Associate Professor of Biology, accompanied the students from Saint Francis and said, “The only way to know if we have healthy populations of organisms in our forests or national parks is to be outside studying them.”

Adirondack Frozen LakeThe group took excursions through the woods and onto the frozen lake with ESF staff members. With a focus on small mammal ecology, the group looked at beaver lodges, set camera traps for fishers and martens, and practiced animal snow tracking. By way of a snowshoeing trek through the woods, the students also learned about winter dendrology to determine what trees were in the area.

On the return trip, the group stopped at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It’s the premier lab in the Western Hemisphere for studying Ornithology. The students received a behind the scenes tour of their extensive collection of fish, reptiles, mammals and many birds. This included birds alive today, as well as extinct birds such as the Ivory Billed Woodpecker.

Dr. Merry said “This trip was important for our students interested in careers in wildlife management and forestry because they not only got hands-on field experience in a new environment, but they also got to meet and learn from people who are living those careers right now.”

SFU Biology students can do a semester at Raystown Field Station for the same tuition and room/board costs as staying on campus, and participate in excursions such as this one. For more information about the program, visit:


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