Study away provides an opportunity to broaden the educational experience while at Luther. Biology students often take a semester or a full year to study abroad in a variety of programs. January term offers an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in another environment for a shorter period of time. Hardy souls who find Decorah winters too mild head north to study winter biology in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. Those seeking warmer climes can seek the blue waters of San Salvador Island in the Bahamas to learn marine biology, trek to Ecuador to study evolution in the Galapagos Islands and ecology of the Amazon, or explore desert ecology in the American Southwest. The biology department has a tradition of offering at least one study away course every January.
Students also use January term to explore career interests through internships related to biology and the health sciences. A few recent examples include research at the University of Arizona, shadowing physicians at Gundersen Lutheran Clinic in La Crosse, and assisting a local veterinarian. Students usually arrange their own internships, although the department coordinates several.
Winter Biology - A field study of the natural history of the southern boreal forest ecosystem in northern Minnesota, including the physiological and behavioral adaptations of organisms to extreme cold. Course activities include skiing and snowshoeing excursions in remote natural areas, assigned readings, observations of natural history, and research projects.
Subtropical and Marine Biology - Based at the Gerace Research Centre on San Salvador Island of the Bahamas, this course is an introduction to the ecology and taxonomy of coral reef, tide pool, tidal creek, high and low energy beach, hypersaline lake, mangrove, and upland organisms and ecosystems. Organisms emphasized include marine and terrestrial invertebrates, fish, birds, and common plants of the northern West Indies. In addition to professor-led field excursions including extensive snorkeling on coral reefs, students develop and complete independent research projects. Several days will be spent on the Luther campus for pre-trip orientation and post-trip completion of projects. Offered approximately every other year.
Ecology of the Desert Southwest - (see image at top of page) This course introduces the history and biology of the Southwest desert and the effects of human activity, especially the use of water. Activities include hikes in mountains, deserts, and riparian areas; readings on archaeology, ecology, and policy; meeting with ranchers, archaeologists, miners, activists, and biologists; and study of ecophysiological adaptations of plants and animals to the desert environment. The last week will include student-designed research projects carried out at the University of Arizona Santa Rita Experiment Station.
Ecology of Ecuador - This trip, offered once every 3-4 years, is an introduction to the ecology, evolution, and natural history of the Amazon rainforest, Andean cloud forest, and Galapagos Islands; at the same time it exposes students to some of the customs and cultures of the Ecuadorian people. We review basic principles of evolution, ecology, and natural history as they pertain to both the rainforest (e.g., productivity, nutrient cycling, succession, and coevolution) and Galapagos islands (e.g., natural selection, speciation, colonization, and island biogeography). Link to video of 2012 trip
Shoals Marine Lab (summer & semester programs)
Audubon Center of the North Woods (wolf ecology)