Student Blog: Ecology in the Real World

Doing real work in an outdoor classroom

Four years after taking Humans in the Natural World, I decided to jump back into studying ecology at Putney this fall through a class called “Physiological Ecology”. As it tends to do, Putney curriculum has taken us into the world of hands on experience. Most of our blocks are spent out in the woods “reading the landscape” or discussing various ecological disturbances and the marks that they leave behind on our ecosystems. However, more recently the class incorporated a community service component to these field investigations.

Recently, The Putney Mountain Association has been dealing with an ongoing issue of the invasive species Buckthorn on the Putney Mountain summit. With the intention of working to reduce the population of Buckthorn, the PMA uses sheep browsing each season. The results have been significant over the past several years, but they need to be documented. Since our ecology class is anticipating a unit on conducting transects and species documentations (through stem counts and percent coverage estimations) of our own, it makes sense that we be the ones to do the job! This way, when the time comes to conduct our individual field studies later in the term, we won’t need any introduction, allowing us to further hone our own observations.

Over the past several weeks, we have spent class periods out on the mountain collecting data through our transects and entering information into a comprehensive report. We have learned many skills commonly used by field ecologists: proper pacing techniques, compass use, and setting up transect points in the field. As a student primarily interested in Biology, I appreciate the experience that we are gaining and the real world applications that our work is serving.

Read more about life at Putney through the eyes of our students.