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Field Methods: Special Topics,

in Nova Scotia, Summer 2014

Course numbers

  • Bio 4940 Topics in Biology, 2 credits (undergraduate). Does not count as a lab course; credits count as elective toward the major or minor.
  • Bio 7970 Special Topics in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology (graduate), 2 credits


  • Summer Session III (June & July): hybrid format, combining Distance Learning pre- and post-trip work with field trip
  • Distance Learning elements will concentrate on ...
    • Assignments prior to the field trip focusing on preparation for travel and field activities that will take place in Nova Scotia. Readings will be administered through Blackboard using online sources; the course will not involve required purchase of a major textbook
    • Assignments after the trip will involve write-up of field observations and exercises
  • The required field trip--which constitutes the central element of the course as a whole--will involve ...
    • Travel by University van from Villanova to southwestern Nova Scotia, using the new ferry Nova Star between Portland, ME, and Yarmouth, NS. It probably will be possible for us to pick up students between Philadelphia and Portland en route (it would not be necessary for students to ever come to the Villanova campus).
    • Departure and return dates to be arranged, but tentatively targeting a 14 day span (includes travel days) in the interval ≈ 28 June through 14 July. Could be later (e.g., 5 - 20 July) depending on student demand/availability.
    • Most activities in Nova Scotia (10-11 days) will take place in Yarmouth County, or in adjacent Digby and Shelburne Counties
    • While in Nova Scotia, we will camp using tents and equipment provided by Villanova, or stay in cottages owned by the Curry family
  • Students in 4940 and 7970 will carry out all course activities jointly, but the courses will differ in the sophistication of the assignments and evaluation criteria used for grading, with appropriately enhanced expectations for graduate students & advanced undergraduates enrolling in 7970

Note: This course pair, offered in summer 2013 using the hybrid format described above, was very successful. Contact information for students who completed that offering of the class (and are willing to answer questions) is available from Dr. Curry on request.


  • Bio 4940: coursework equivalent to General Biology I & II or equivalent to Environmental Science 1 & 2, or permission of instructor
  • Bio 7970: Some prior course background in ecology, or permission of instructor


  • Summer Session III tuition
  • Approximately $400 additional, which will cover the per capita cost of Nova Star ferry passage, accommodations, food, and all required course activities (e.g., whale-watch trip). Precise cost remains to be determined, contingent on student discounts for ferry passage. Villanova will subsidize costs associated with van rental, fuel, and tolls.


Field trip activities planned

  • Bird-banding and field identification
  • Forest ecology and natural history
  • Salt marsh ecology
  • Intertidal and rocky shore ecology
  • Fisheries ecology and survey of fishing technologies
  • Whale watching: boat trip from Brier Island, Digby Co.
  • Lake and stream ecology

Student equipment needed


  • Clothing appropriate for fieldwork in wet/buggy/muddy conditions (long pants, long-sleeved shirts)
  • Hiking boots and/or rubber boots ("wellies" recommended)
  • Day pack
  • Field notebook, writing implements
  • Raincoat or poncho
  • Binoculars (pairs available to borrow from Villanova with security deposit, but own binoculars preferable as long as good quality)
  • Sleeping bag


  • Camera
  • Bathing suit(s)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Rain pants
  • Fishing rod (no license required for saltwater fishing; non-resident license required [extra cost] for freshwater fishing)


Page last updated: Wednesday, 05 February 2014