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Michigan Tech’s Integrated Field Practicum

Most of the Michigan Tech community probably pass Michigan Tech’s Ford Forestry Center on their drives to and from Tech, however few outside of the Forestry department seem to be aware of what goes on there. The Ford Forestry Center hosts the Forestry department’s Integrated Field Practicum, colloquially known as either ‘Fall camp’ or ‘Summer camp’ depending on when it is taken. A semester of classes is taken here for students majoring in forestry, applied ecology & environmental science, wildlife ecology & management, or natural resources management. This typically takes place in the summer or fall semester after a student has completed 2 years of coursework for their degree (graduate students in certain programs go to camp as well). 

Michigan Tech is the only university that has a semester-long natural resources camp program like this. During camp, students take classes such as forest health, wildlife habitat, silviculture, and insect ecology, along with other courses focused on developing more specific skills in natural resources depending on a student’s major. While there is an option to commute, most students choose to live in the dorms at the Ford Center during the camp semester. 

The Lode spoke with forestry major and current fall camp student Evin Koeppe about camp life. When asked what he liked most about Fall camp so far he replied “Communal living, everyone on the same mindset and same page… Field work is pretty fun too, being outside every day is a blast.” Classes start at 8 a.m. each morning and consist of about an hour of lecture followed by field work for the rest of the day, typically until around 2 or 3 p.m. The midterm and final projects for camp are large reports focused on surveying a plot of land (40 acres for the midterm, 80 acres for the final) and synthesizing a management plan that considers factors such as forest health concerns, silvicultural prescriptions, wildlife habitat, and cost-effectiveness from a forestry/timber harvesting perspective. Students perform all of their own data collection and analysis using skills taught in the ‘Land measurement and GPS’ and ‘Multiple-resources assessment’ courses. 

Altogether fall camp coursework allows students to combine skills from each course and create a professional-quality report and management plan. Fall camp involves rigorous coursework for the students involved, however it allows them to learn about and practice making management plans which is very relevant to those working in natural resources.

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