Field Studies Curriculum


Who should take this course?

A student taking field notes on alpine vegetation in the Wrangell Mountains

The program, offered in partnership with The Evergreen State College, is suitable for students of widely varying experience. We expect that applicants will have completed at least their first year of college. We have also had upper-level undergraduate students enrolled in the program who returned to complete theses on research topics first initiated in our curriculum.

How many credits are offered?

Evergreen State College awards 16 quarter (=10 semester) units of upper- division (junior-senior) credit for successful participation, including for Evergreen students up to 8 units of upper division credit in the natural sciences, depending on field projects selected. Students from other campuses can consult with their advisors regarding application of field studies credits toward their majors. A number of students developed their term project data and reports into capstone projects and theses, after their return to campus.

How long is the course?

The course runs from June 22 – August 9th, 2019.

Transfer of credit:

Students receive an Evergreen transcript showing the credits earned, with narrative evaluation of academic achievement. Staff at Evergreen will work with students regarding transfer of credits to institutions requiring letter grades.


Field Studies Program Structure

The first part of the program is quite structured, with a progression of lectures, discussions of academic readings, workshops and field exercises providing a foundation in local physical and biological processes, culture and policy. Emphasis is on the natural history field journal, which participants keep throughout the program. We teach all skills required for hiking and camping in Alaskan wilderness. Students then each participate in a small-group team, carrying out a term project largely in the field during a three-week backpacking expedition, on routes structured to facilitate project observations and data collection. Faculty define project topics, though students have considerable latitude deciding on their choice of project and their emphasis within the project group. Results of field work are synthesized during the last week of the summer, culminating with oral and written project presentations to our group, National Park Service staff, and local residents interested in our topics.


Credit is granted for the following courses:


Students learn alpine plant ecology at a high mountain campsite in the back-country of the park.

Natural History of Alaska (4 credits)

Survey of natural history of Wrangell-St. Elias ecosystems, including an introduction to scientific, social-scientific and arts-based research methods for field studies. Introduction to Wrangell-St. Elias species identification, ecosystem characteristics (including geologic formations), and critical field skills such as generating and refining inquiry questions from on-site observations, optimizing methods, interpreting data, and presenting findings and placing research in a broader context, such as through field journaling and scientific writing.


College students learn about the history, management, and politics of Wrangell-St.Elias National Park and Preserve.

People and Protected Areas (4 credits)

Field study, using social science research, of relationships among cultural groups and the environment and issues of sustainability. Writing creatively about protected areas, the imaginative process integrates literary, social and natural sciences. Employing regional case studies, students assess historical and contemporary thought and use of protected lands, and outcomes of different environmental policies and land/wildlife management, including human and natural consequences.


A student and faculty member measure a stream cross-section.

Applied Field Research on Dynamic Landscapes (8 credits)

Field investigation, using the scientific method, of environmental problems including human- environment interactions affecting Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. Extended field research on flora, fauna, biotic communities and ecological relationships, and glaciology, hydrology, geomorphology, and landscape evolution at selected sites within the park. Climate change and disturbance will be a theme throughout the various research projects.


Students and faculty gather in a classroom at the Wrangell Mountain Center for a discussion.

Students are expected to:

  • Assume responsibility for themselves

  • Work collaboratively and contribute to a supportive community

  • Communicate creatively and effectively

  • Synthesize information and think critically

  • Apply theory to practice across disciplines

  • Challenge themselves