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This page is under construction. Last modified 06/20/02.
Instructors: Steven Goldsmith, MS 314, ext 2204, email@example.com
Visit Dr. Goldsmith's home page
Wayne Meyer, MS 312, ext 2254, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandy Beach, MS 315, ext 2348, email@example.com
Course Content: This course is a detailed and first-hand experience with the biota, topography, geology, geography, and cultural history of the desert Southwest. The primary activity for the course is a 21 day field trip to several locations in the Southwest (see itinerary below). We will spend the first two days of JanTerm in preparation for the trip, then spend the last few days in debriefing and decompressing. The lessons on natural history will be supplemented by informal "lessons" on living in the wild, hiking rough country, and traveling cross-country. Each student will keep a field notebook (described below) where observations and interpretations will be recorded.
Sources of Information: The primary source of information will be your own observations of the natural history of the desert. We will primarily concerned with observations and interpretations of the ways the organisms of the southwest make their living, and how they came to be what and where they are. There are two required textbooks: The National Audubon Society's Nature Guide to Deserts (by James MacMahon) and the National Geographic Society's Field Guide to the Birds of North America. The Deserts guide provides much background information about desert habitats in general and about the plants and plant communities. The bird guide is required because we will be able to locate and observe birds more readily than other animal groups, and because the places we will visit are occupied by species that are rare elsewhere in the US. There is also a requirement of reading from a selection of environmental or biological books (not textbooks) such as Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle or On the Origin of Species, Leopold's Sand County Almanac, Abbey's Desert Solitaire, Wilson's Diversity of Life or Naturalist, Tinbergen's Curious Naturalists, or Alcock's Sonoran Desert Spring or Sonoran Desert Summer. Almost any other book of this sort that interests you would be acceptable.
You will record activities, observations, and impressions in a field notebook.
The format of the field notebook varies greatly among field biologists,
and takes on different forms in different specializations within field
biology. Traditionally, the field notebook consists of three sections:
the log, the species accounts, and the journal. Most biologists keep field
notes in a loose-leaf notebook (5.5" x 7.5" or 6" x 9") with the three
sections separated. In this course, loose-leaf binders are mandatory --
they allow you to rearrange your species accounts to keep them in proper
taxonomic order, and to add new ones as you make more observations. It
is useful to have pockets in your notebook to keep things like maps or
directions to field sites, pens and pencils, rulers, conversion tables,
receipts, etc. Notebook binders, dividers, and paper are available in the
AC Bookstore and in other places around town.
Grades: Grading in this course is S/U, and is based on the quality of your field notebook entries. We expect thorough, accurate, and legible records of your observations. We will record many observations as a group, so that you learn to be observant, and so that you learn what should be included in your entries. We will discuss and share our interpretations and impressions, but your journal should reflect your own ideas and biases. Your field notebook is your own record of the trip. It will be a permanent record of what you saw and what you did - it will only be as good as you make it. We will collect and evaluate your notebooks periodically during the trip, and will give you constructive feedback on your records. We will not make any marks in your notebook, and anything that you write will be held in strict confidence.
Things you must bring:
sleeping bag -- you will need one that is comfortable to at least 20oF; consider bringing a spare blanket as well
ground pad -- this is critical for comfortable sleeping, which is critical for an enjoyable trip. Self-inflating ones like those made by Thermarest are the best choice
pillow that is firm enough to give good support
good hiking boots with adequate ankle support, and that fit well. Plan on a break-in period before the trip.
good hiking socks -- at least 3 pairs of Thorlos or something equivalent, designed for hiking, and which are made with acrylic and wool
appropriate clothing -- be prepared for both warm and cold conditions. Hiking can usually be done in shorts and a light shirt, but long pants and warm clothes are necessary for night time. Convertible pants are a desirable item. Your clothing should include things like flannel shirts, wool sweaters, polarfleece garments, and polyester or cotton long underwear, with a windbreaker or other shell to cover the layers below. It really is better to layer your warm clothing, both because you stay warmer that way and because your clothing is more versatile. On some hikes you will want to bring something warm in case of cool weather at high elevations. Nights are potentially uncomfortably cold unless you are prepared.
rain gear that is lightweight and durable, not an umbrella nor a plastic disposable poncho
backpack -- a day-pack that is both comfortable and sturdy
field notebook (described above), pens for writing, and pencils for drawing
tennis shoes or other comfortable shoes for when we are not hiking
mittens or gloves for warmth
hat -- you may exercise your own preference here, but you will need something that protects your head from sun and rain, and one that is warm.
bottles for water while hiking -- you will need at least 2 liters for short hikes, and 3 or 4 for all-day hikes
insulated mug with your name on it (or that is recognizable in some way)
pocket knife (which goes in your field bag)
bathing suit (some of the hotels have pools and hot tubs, and there is a hot spring in Big Bend)
towel and washcloth -- some campgrounds have showers, and all will have bathrooms with running water for washing
flashlight with extra batteries; a headlamp is useful for working in the dark, which we will do occasionally
personal toiletry items including any prescription medicines. You should bring copies of essential prescriptions, including those for eyeglasses (if necessary).
passport or copy of birth certificate plus a picture ID for travel into Mexico
Things you should bring:
camera with plenty of film and extra batteries
spare glasses or contact lenses
plastic bags/mesh bag for dirty clothes
reading material for time in the vehicle (in addition to required reading material described above)
food knife (for cutting fruits, vegetables, meats)
field guides for mammals, herps, etc.
tent if you have one
Fri Jan 3: Logistic and academic preparation: meet at 9:00 in MS 301; field trip to Denison Dam
Sat Jan 4: Logistic and academic preparation: meet at 9:00 in MS 301; load trailer
Sun Jan 5: Depart campus at 8:00, drive to Fort Stockton, TX; this is about a 9 hour drive.
Lodging is at La Quinta Inn (phone: 915-336-9781; fax: 915-336-3634).
Mon Jan 6: Depart Ft. Stockton at 9:00 am, drive to Big Bend National Park; this is about a 3 hr drive
Set up camp at Rio Grande VillageTues Jan 7: Hike Lost Mine trail from Panther Pass, birding and botanizing;
Nature walk along Rio Grande, tour of Boquillas Canyon (about 4 miles round trip with minimal elevation change);
batwatching in the evening
this is about a 5 mile round trip with approximately 1000 ft elevation change (both ways)
Wed Jan 8: Tour western part of Big Bend for birding, botanizing, and geologizing:
Sotol Vista, Castolon, Tuff Canyon, Cottonwood campground, Santa Elena CanyonThurs Jan 9: Hike Chisos Mountains South Rim trail
we will depart the campground at 8:30 and return by 5:00;
howling for coyotes in the evening
Depart campground at 7:30 for this hike of approximately 15 mile round trip, with change in elevation of approximately 2200 ft; plan on a 8-9 hr walkFri Jan 10: Tour of Dagger Flats, Panther Junction area, other places for plants and birds
we will be at the trailhead by 9:00 and should return by 6:00
Sat Jan 11: Birding in the morning, tidying up our camp and beginning to pack in the afternoon
Sun Jan 12: Break camp early, drive to Las Cruces NM; we need to leave by 9:00
Lodging is at La Quinta Inn (phone: 505-524-0331, fax: 505-525-8360)Mon Jan 13: Depart about 10:00 for the 4 hour drive to Chiricahua National Monument, set up camp.
This is about a 9 hour drive, but there may be time for laundry after we arrive
Grocery shopping and laundry in the morning before departure;Tues Jan 14: Hike Heart of Rocks trail from Hailstone trailhead;
Hike short trails near campground for birding and botanizing, visit Visitor Center
this is a 10 mile round trip with elevation change of about 500 ftWed Jan 15: Birding in the Coronado National Forest, visit Cave Creek and the Portal area
Depart campground at 8:00, return by 5:00Thurs Jan 16: Break camp, drive to Tucson, AZ; we need to leave by about noon
lodging is at La Quinta on Speedway (phone: 520-622-6491, fax: 520-798-3669Fri Jan 17: Tour of Mount Lemmon with Gus Hall; depart lodging at 8:00 return by 6:00
This is about a 2 hour drive; the rest of the day is for laundry, resting, working on field notebooks
This is a driving tour with elevation change of about 6700 ft; the summit of Mt. Lemmon is usually snow-covered this time of year, so bring appropriate clothing.Sat Jan 18: Visit Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, Hike short trails in Saguaro National Park West;
Depart lodging at 8:00, return by 5:00Sun Jan 19: Drive to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument; this is about a 3 hour drive;
Grocery shopping and laundry in the morning; depart at 10:00Mon Jan 20: Hiking Bull Pasture/Estes Canyon trail;
set up camp; hike short nature trails near Visitor Center
this is a 5 mile hike with elevation change of 800 ft.Tues Jan 21: Day trip to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico;
(only gauchos with huevos muy grande go to Bull Pasture)
birding and botanizing as well as shopping and sight-seeingWed Jan 22: Driving tour of Organ Pipe;
birding and botanizing at Quitobaquito Springs, Senita campgroundThurs Jan 23: Break camp, drive to Las Cruces, stay at La Quinta Inn
Fri Jan 24: Depart Las Cruces, stop at White Sands National Monument, then on the Lubbock;
lodging is at La Quinta Inn (phone: 806-792-0065, fax: 806-792-0178)Sat Jan 25: Depart Lubbock at about 9:00, drive to Sherman; arrival by 5:00
Sun Jan 26: Collapse
Mon Jan 27: Debriefing; final version of field notebooks due. Meet at 10:00 in MS 301.
Tues Jan 28: JanTerm ends