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Nature's classroom — Professor Hermanutz brings final class to Terra Nova National Park

GLOVERTOWN, N.L. – Technically they have the weekend off, but they do not expect a lot of free time. Every minute counts when you squeeze a full credit university course (normally 13 weeks) into just two weeks.

Fourteen undergraduate biology students from Memorial University joined MUN professor Dr. Luise Hermanutz and teaching assistant Travis Heckford in Terra Nova National Park at the end of April and beginning of May for a hands-on boreal ecology field course.

Students spend the first week of the course completing labs with the group. They study the impact of fires and moose, hare and moose density, and owls. Week two is spent on more focused research into topics chosen by the students. Students try to choose topics relevant to park staff and Dr. Hermanutz ensures their results are passed on to scientists in the park. She has been bringing students to the park since 1997 and passing on research findings ever since.

“We can’t invest the time and energy to answer those big questions that we need answered.” says park ecologist Janet Feltham. “Luise’s data along with the data that we collect provides us with a lot of information about how we manage our forest. Their work has been invaluable to us here at the park.”

The benefits go both ways:

“Field courses are really good to give students the knowledge they need to get a job” says Dr. Hermanutz.  “There’s a lot of teachable moments out there. The understanding is much better in the field”

“I really enjoy the diversity,” said student Jack Hutton.  “I’ve grown up seeing it but not paying attention.”

The course is well-received. The future of the biology students at Terra Nova National Park is unknown right now, however. This is Dr. Hermanutz’s last year teaching the class and it’s uncertain if a new professor will keep bringing students here.

“It’s a really great course” said teaching assistant Travis Heckford. “We hope it will continue.”

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