Biology Field Courses

Each year the Department of Biology offers several field courses spanning an incredible diversity of themes including winter ecology, ecology of amphibians and reptiles, lake ecology, avian communication, environmental impacts on aquatic ecosystems, and ecotoxicology. Field courses offer small class size with opportunities to travel across the globe, from the Queen's University Biological Station, just 50km north of campus, to China, Mexico, Tanzania, and beyond. 

Field courses are numbered BIOL307/317/327 and are offered at various times of the year, primarily during the spring and summer, and also a few during the winter. These courses typically last 1-2 weeks and are led by various Queen's Biology faculty as well as our colleagues at Universities across Ontario, through the Ontario Universities Program for Field Biology (OUPFB) and other programs. 

What is a field course?

Biology offers 2-week, intensive courses that provide amazing opportunities to gain hands-on experience in one of ~ 20 different field sites. Class sizes are small (usually 10-20 students) and focus on sampling diverse habitats, identifying different kinds of organisms, understanding their ecology and evolution, conducting independent research studies, and developing strong science communication skills. Students are immersed in the study site for 12-14 days (including weekends), often sharing accommodation, meals, and working environment with fellow students, instructors, and researchers.

Although specific course requirements vary, students are generally graded on participation, field note-taking, seminar presentation, and independent research project report. Students are often expected to prepare for the course by reading assigned scientific literature and preparing a presentation on a selected topic related to the course.

Who can take a field course?

Courses are open to Biology students who have completed BIOL102 and BIOL013 and are registered in a BIOL Major, BIOL Science Minor/General, BIMA Specialization, BIPS Specialization, BTEC Specialization or EBIO Specialization Plan. Fourth year students can take field courses before they graduate.  Students must ALSO satisfy the prerequisites for the specific field course they will be taking.

What courses are available?

Biology students can choose from approximately 30 different field courses offered by 15 universities that participate in the Ontario Universities Program in Field Biology (OUPFB).  Many courses are offered a local field sites, including Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS), as well as further afield in Costa Rica, Mexico, Africa, China. Habitats include lakes, temperate and tropical forests, deserts, marine, arctic, alpine, and urban ecosystems. Courses offerings change each year and are listed on the OUPFB website (here).

Field Courses Available for 2019

OUPFB is offering 28 field courses next year.  See the OUPFB site for full course descriptions, dates, and locations.  Based on the number of courses that Queen’s faculty offer, we are able to reserve spots in other courses for Queen’s students. If you apply by Feb 1, 2019, you will have the best chance to get accepted into your top choices. Therefore, it is important to apply before Feb 1.  After this date, spaces not filled will become available to all students (i.e., Queen’s loses our reserved spots).  This means you may also have an opportunity to attend a course where Queen’s didn’t have reserved spots (assuming there are places still available after Feb 1).

Courses and the number of reserved places for Queen’s students.

Module

Course Name

Reserved

Module

Course Name

Reserved

2

Tropical Marine Environments

2

19

Field Ecology

2

3

Fish Ecology and Fisheries: The Science Behind Conservation and Management

2

21

Biodiversity in the Biosphere Reserve

1

5

Turtles: Ecology, Behaviour, and Conservation

1

22

Estuarine ecology

2

6

Dolphin and Whale Biology and Conservation in Tropical Asia

3

23

Field Ecology

2

8

Subtropical Ecology: Biodiversity and its Sustainable Utilization

2

24

Experimental Studies in Marine Biology Experimental Studies in Marine Biology

1

10

Adirondack Forest Ecology

2

25

Aquatic Ecology and Experimental Limnology

2

12

Biodiversity Conservation in Thailand

2

26

Restoration Ecology: From Microbes to Trees to Fish

2

14

Biodiversity Conservation in East Africa

4

27

Wildlife and Ecology in East African Ecosystems

3

15

Arctic Ecology

2

28

Ecology of Coral Reefs - Scuba Diving

2

17

Effects of human development on aquatic environments and biodiversity in Canada and China

4

29

Winter Field Ecology

3

 

How much do field courses cost?

Students pay a course fee associated with travel, housing, and meals during the two-week course. Fees range from $400 to $5500, depending on the course location.  Each course has a different fee, that may or may not include air travel to the site. Note that some courses (urban courses) require that you pay for accommodation separately. Be sure to check this on individual course descriptions available on the OUPFB website (here).

You must also register and pay course tuition fees at your local university.

How do I apply?

The applications process opens on the first day of classes in January each year.  The OUPFB site provides application forms that must be filled out and given to Laura Nagel (Bioscience Building room 2321) or Jan McGraa (Biology Office, room 3111).  Be sure to list 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices to ensure that you get a placement.

A deposit of $350 must accompany your application. Cash, cheques or money orders payable to Queen’s University, will be accepted by the Biology General Office, Biosciences Complex Room 3111.  You cannot use credit cards, debit, or your university account to pay the deposit.

All applications from Queen’s students, regardless of which university is hosting the field course, must be given to Laura Nagel or Jan McGraa.  ***Do not send applications or deposit to the university hosting the field course.

When are applications due?

 Applications are due February 1st. Queen’s will have some guaranteed spots in most courses, which will be filled by applicants who meet the deadline. Other positions will be filled based on availability. Be sure to indicate alternate choices to ensure a placement. 

Can I still apply after the deadline?

Yes, but after the application deadline, positions are filled on a first-come, first-served basis until courses are filled. The OUPFB site will periodically update the course listings, indicating which courses have spots available. Contact Laura Nagel if you want to apply for a course after the deadline. Note that courses may be cancelled if there are too few applicants by the deadline.

What if I don’t get into my first-choice course?

You will be placed in your second or third choice course, based on availability.  For some courses, you may be placed on a waiting list if the course has filled.  Positions in courses can come available, up to several weeks before the course.  If you don’t get accepted into a course, you will be refunded your deposit.

I have been accepted in a course.  Now what?

  1. We will register you for BIOL 307 (or 317 for your second course) in the term that coincides with the dates of your field course (e.g. if you sign up for a module for the summer of 2019 you will be registered for the course in the summer term). Contact Laura if your course does not appear on SOLUS in the term that you expect it to. 
  2. Wait for specific instructions from course instructor. They will contact you with further information for preparing for the course, including when and how to pay the remaining fee, what readings and other preparations you should do, and a list of items to bring.
  3. Fill out an Off Campus Activity Safety Policy (OCASP) form. You will receive detailed instructions from Laura Nagel to help you fill out the form.
  4. Pay remaining fees associated with the course (see #2). 

 

What if I have been accepted in a course and can no longer attend?

You MUST contact Laura Nagel to drop the course. You will NOT be refunded your $350 deposit unless another student can take your place.

When do I receive my grade?

Most courses have a research report due ~6 weeks after the end of the course.  Therefore, you may not receive a grade for 2 months after the course ends.  Instructors will submit your grade to Queen’s and it will be posted on SOLUS.

I’m an international exchange student.  Can I take a field course?

Yes, provided you are enrolled in a full time undergraduate program and have paid tuition for that term.

I’m a graduate student in Biology.  Can I take a field course?

No, graduate students are not eligible to enrol in OUPFB courses.  However, some instructors for Queen’s-led courses permit graduate students to participate by enrolling in BIOL848.  See Steve Lougheed or Yuxiang Wang for details.

Is there financial assistance available for field courses?

You can apply for Queen’s summer bursaries through SOLUS.
The Karen Huntley Memorial Award (here) can be used to cover some field course expenses.

Where can I get additional information?

You can contact Laura Nagel (nagell@queensu.ca; room 2322A) or Shelley Arnott (arnotts@queensu.ca; room 4230) for more information.

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