Research Training in Wildlife Biology

Instructor: Dr. Ross R. Conover, Paul Smith’s College

Course description: Wildlife biological research applies a broad range of field and academic skills such as making keen observations, safely capturing and handling wildlife, properly analyzing data and writing technically. This course will provide students with several field-based, hands-on experiences to learn how to identify and survey vertebrate animal communities (e.g., radio-tracking, bird capture). Emphasis will be placed on using museum specimens to learn mammal and bird identification, as well as identifying birds using visual and audible characteristics in the field (yes, some early mornings). Field trips will include visiting various ecosystems, including an all-day field trip to the Gunnison Basin to learn radio telemetry and an all-day field trip to The Mexican Cut to learn about the interactive effects of ecosystem quality and tiger salamander populations.

2013 Wildlife Biology Class - photo by Dr. Ross Conover
Wildlife Biology Class – photo by Dr. Ross Conover

Course objectives:

  1. Appreciation for the wildlife diversity of a Rocky Mountain ecosystem
  2. Ability to identify common wildlife species with field emphasis on birds
  3. Skilled use of a field guide, binoculars, and other wildlife survey tools
  4. Understand wildlife adaptations for survival in mountain ecosystems
  5. Understand and be able to apply wildlife survey techniques to estimate populations

Assessment: Student proficiency will be based on a diversity of assessments, including short writing assignments, field quizzes, participation, student-led discussions, a field journal, and a final practical exam.

Textbooks: There is no formal textbook for this class, but students should purchase the Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, or a comparable bird field guide. Digital field guides are acceptable. Other required readings will include selected articles and/or chapters that will be provided.

Required equipment: Binoculars (there will be a few to loan out, but please bring your own or try to buy/borrow a pair), field journal, pencils, daypack, water bottle, snacks, sweater/fleece and waterproof shell, , spare hiking socks, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, hiking boots. You are responsible for making yourself comfortable in the outdoors.

Prerequisites: None

RMBL Community Members may sit in on any given course session, with advance permission from the instructor and space permitting.  Van space may be limiting for some sessions.

RMBL is an equal opportunity service provider and employer and operates under permit from

the USDA Forest Service, Gunnison National Forest.