Fast-paced field ecology class draws students to Texas Tech at Junction
By: Norman Martin
A special group of Davis College students recently completed an intensive two-week, three-classes per day field ecology class at Texas Tech University at Junction, home of the Llano River Field Station and Outdoor Learning Center. The 400-acre field station, located some 140 miles west of Austin, is the largest inland field station in Texas.
Led by Richard Stevens, a professor of ecology and conservation biology within Texas Tech's Department of Natural Resources Management, the session is hands-on and field-oriented. In one field ecology class – NRM 4311/BIOL 3301 – students used the scientific method to better understand important ecological concepts as applied to different kinds of organisms.
Through the process of posing a hypothesis, collecting actual data, statistically analyzing those data, and writing up mock publications, class participants were led through the entire scientific enterprise – multiple times.
One session called for travel to the El Carmen Land & Conservation Co., a private land holding adjacent to Big Bend National Park in the Chihuahuan Desert. While there students surveyed and inventoried bats and rodents to characterize their communities.
“This allows them to subsequently compare numerous aspects of biodiversity between sites in the Chihuahuan desert to a number of other sites on the Edwards Plateau in and around the Junction Campus,” Stevens said.
“Comparisons help to describe differences between these two ecoregions in terms of species composition, and highlight the much greater biodiversity found in the Trans-Pecos relative to other ecoregions in the state," he said. "These lessons use the exact same methods as professional biologists working in academia, state and federal agencies, as well as in the private sector, to provide tangible, real-life experiences."
Several Davis College faculty members have close ties to the Junction campus, including Blake Grisham, an associate professor in Tech's Department of Natural Resources Management. He was recently named Director of the Llano River Field Station in Junction. His duties focus on facilitating and coordinating research on the Junction campus in and outside of the Texas Tech System, in addition to overseeing the outdoor education program.
CONTACT: Warren Conway, Bricker Endowed Chair in Wildlife Management and Chairperson, Department of Natural Resources Management, Texas Tech University at (806) 834-6579 or firstname.lastname@example.org
0606NM22 / Editor's Note: A video titled “The Junction Experience, 50 years in the Texas Hill Country” is available here