The NRS is often said to be a "classroom without walls." The description is apt; NRS reserves are an integral part of the curriculum for than 150 undergraduate courses across the UC system. Other institutions in California as well as these hailing from other states and countries also bring classes to the NRS to learn.
Courses taught at reserves span an extraordinary breadth of disciplines. These range from botany to zoology, archaeology to environmental planning, and public health to the performing and visual arts. Virtually all topics of study are welcomed; photography and outdoor writing are considered as valid as the natural sciences.
Taking measurements along a transect at Bodega Marine Reserve
Image credit: Lobsang Wangdu.
Instructional programs conducted outdoors emphasize education through direct observation. In the field, students learn by doing. They readily absorb concepts difficult to teach in a traditional classroom, such as how to set up a transect, obtain tissue samples from wildlife, or observe animal behavior using professional standards. They experience what the land smells and feels like — characteristics that provide clues to the workings of an ecosystem. Being outdoors lets students witness for themselves the importance of evolutionary relationships, and the interconnectedness of species. Insights such as these are unforgettable.
A class visiting Sweeney Granite Mountains Reserve meetsa gopher snake.
Image credit: John Rotenberry
"It's important for scientists and students who work at lab benches to go out into the field and observe animals in their environment. You can make all kinds of statements about development and evolution, but you need to put them in context with the animals' reality. And NRS reserves offer that experience."
Postdoctoral researcher, UC Berkeley
"Every site we visit is unique and filled with interesting things to observe. These students are bright, but they have very little field experience. They've mostly been in classrooms, studying policy or theory. Now they get to actually do science, and every bit of success they experience really encourages them. They realize they can figure things out."
Instructor, Natural History Field Quarter, UC Santa Cruz
Link to report, UC Courses Hosted by UC Natural Reserves