Matter of Course: Applied Biomonitoring Course Creating Foundational Community Relationships in Environmental Science
Students use knowledge to contribute toward scientific biomonitoring
Trent School of the Environment is a leader in environmental research and innovation, and the Applied Biomonitoring (ERSC-BIOL 3260H) course is pushing that leadership even further. The course, taught by Dr. Kaitlyn Fleming, offers an exceptional opportunity for hands-on learning experiences through working with environmental community partnerships.
"What stands out with Applied Biomonitoring is that the course was developed with the community. We are working with two different community groups, Halls and Hawks Lakes Property Owners Association (HHPOA) and the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust (HHLT), to help answer questions or concerns they have about their lakes (HHPOA) and set up permanent sampling plots on their properties (HHLT), so we can continue the health monitoring the forest."
Building connections with community partners
Through these partnerships, students in Applied Biomonitoring learn and build foundational connections in the field, learning how community groups protect the environment. This year, in collaboration with the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust, students are learning how they manage and protect 1,200 acres of forest, wetlands, and open areas.
"Last year, we set up permanent sampling plots in Dahl Forest, and this year, we set up permanent sampling plots in Barnum Creek Nature Preserve. Being able to spend the day walking through the forest, and helping students set up permanent sampling plots, is incredible," says Prof. Fleming.
The course is comprised of two major projects, where students create reports for their community partners. Prof. Fleming says the desired outcome for the student's project is to understand how the field functions outside of the classroom.
"By having this unique relationship, it is easier to understand the' so what' and 'now what' of the work."
Real world skills in the great outdoors
Dorothy Travis, a fourth-year Biology student, is excited about how her projects have enabled her to explore her knowledge of benthic invertebrates outside the classroom with.
Benthic invertebrates are organisms that live in or on the bottom sediments of rivers, streams, and lakes. Dorothy’s research for the community partners provided benthic invertebrate community data which will be used in a long-term study tracking the condition of the lakes for future studies.
"I was able to complete the Applied Biomonitoring project and have my work contribute toward real-world scientific monitoring and conservation efforts outside of Trent's classrooms."