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Environment / Sustainability

Students spend unforgettable summer at Pingree Park

June 17, 2013

More than 200 natural resource students in the Warner College of Natural Resources at CSU will spend four weeks of their summer living together in rustic cabins and immersed in ecology education at 9,000 feet.

Warner College of Natural Resource students learning about alpine vegetation during NR 220. Unlike anywhere else

Surrounded by two National Forests and Rocky Mountain National Park, CSU’s Pingree Park Mountain Campus is home to historic and outstanding natural resources field courses unlike anywhere else.

Natural Resources Ecology and Measurements (NR 220) is a comprehensive, multi-discipline field course that provides hands-on learning experiences in a broad spectrum of ecology topics, including: environmental field skills, fish and wildlife biology, forestry, human dimensions of natural resources, rangeland ecology, and watershed science. Because of Pingree Park’s unique location, students also have the opportunity to learn about and experience a range of ecosystems including mountain shrub land; Ponderosa, Lodgepole and Spruce / Fir forests, and alpine tundra.

Students learn about fishery biology techniques and species identification.Solving complex problems

Students are outside learning in the field every day - hiking up to 11,000 feet to learn about the alpine ecosystems and traveling to grasslands for classes on grazing management. The rigorous, 5-credit course pushes students to advance their studies in their chosen major, and also to learn about other natural resource concentrations, understand how they are intertwined, and collaborate with students from different majors to solve complex natural resource problems.

“NR 220 at Pingree Park gives students the opportunity to understand how different ecosystem elements are connected and about the different perspectives and stakeholders that are often involved in natural resource issues,” said NR 220 Director Paul Doherty. “Having a dynamic group of students and professors learn and teach together in a bio-diverse outdoor classroom sets a solid foundation of integrated, cooperative natural resource thinking that helps students to be better natural resource professionals.”

A tradition

Students analyze data and work on ecology report projects in between field lessons. Pingree Park has been a field-course tradition for CSU Warner College of Natural Resources students for nearly 100 years, and started as a forestry field camp in 1916. Staying true to its forestry roots, the College also offers a specialized two-week summer field course at Pingree Park in Forestry Field Measurements (NR 230) which is required for forestry majors in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship. In this course, forestry students learn important field data collection and analysis skills they will need as professionals to develop sustainable forest management plans.

Through the years, the programs at Pingree Park have evolved to remain at the forefront of natural resource education while maintaining the priceless “Pingree Experience.” Students share intense learning challenges and live in rustic cabins with wood-burning fireplaces and no cellphone and little internet service. They also partake in team-building exercises, and spend free-time hiking, fishing, and wildlife watching. In both NR 220 and NR 230, many students form strong bonds and leave with lifelong friends and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Students hike to a field lesson location in the mountains around Pingree Park.'Amazing learning experience'

“Pingree Park provides an amazing learning experience that imbeds students in the natural world and creates a bond between everyone – it reaffirmed why I wanted to study natural resources and gave me a chance to really reflect on my studies and what I wanted to do,” said former NR 220 student and TA and recent master’s graduate Karina Mullen. Her advice to students headed to Pingree Park this summer: “Enjoy the break from the internet. Our generation is so used to instant gratification and multitasking, but it is awesome just to have face-to-face communication and hang out on the porch with the other students.”

This summer’s NR 230 forestry field course is taking place June 3-14 and NR 220 will have two sessions taking place June 17 – July 12 and July 15 – August 9. For more information about the natural resource field courses at Pingree Park, visit the website.