A STUDENT'S PERSPECTIVE ON FIELD STUDIES

by Laura Luther (From former website of the former Concordia University)

I would not be enjoying my summer conducting wildlife observations and conservation at Glacier National Park if it wasn’t for the professors in the Math and Science Department of Concordia University. I have found my passion and career path thanks to the steady guidance of my practicum adviser, professor and colleague Dr. Polozov. With Dr. Polozov’s push for students to immerse themselves internationally and in the field I would not have been able to experience and better understand the intricacies and interconnectedness of the natural world. Dr. Polozov’s push for sustainability and attention to detail is impeccable and has molded me into the student and wildlife biologist that I thrive to become.

Many students in the Science Department remarked about an intimidating professor that you had to pay close attention to in order to pass his class. Upon arriving to class for Bio-212, we watched Untapped and calculated our carbon footprint. Dr. Polozov pushed professionalism and attention to detail, important skills necessary to thrive in any profession in the career world. Dr. Polozov’s love for wildlife and the avian world is remarkable. He is able to hear any bird call and know exactly what species and why it is making that particular sound, pitch or behavior. Dr. Polozov desires structure but is very flexible and open to student’s interests which allowed me the opportunity to perform research projects on topics of interest and to perform my practicum in Hawaii; a location of little cell service and control over outcomes of the project. It was a risk and Dr. Polozov had faith that I would be able to conclude with a project of importance and applicability. Upon returning from Hawaii, Dr. Polozov made sure to meet with me to instruct on what my next steps should be. Having faith in a student strengthens them and allows one to feel that ones dreams are possible and opportunities are endless, even if graduate school and the professional science world may seem daunting.

The Global Warming seminar is where I first encountered Dr. Polozov, who gave a guest lecture on the importance of species biodiversity and how it is diminishing due to climate change and human disturbance. This seminar and Dr. Polozov’s introductory level biology course served as the catalyst for my passion of conservation and field ecology. In Bio-212, our first field course was to Round Lake in Camas, Washington, also enjoyably on my birthday. It was a beautiful hike filled with a variety of fauna and flora I was unaware thrived so close to the city. I then pursued the opportunity to sign up with as many courses as possible with Dr. Polozov. His class was always my focus during the semester to succeed in and put diligent time towards. In Ecology, in the fall of 2014, students repeatedly visited Wind River area in the Columbia River Gorge near Carson, Washington. It was important that we continually returned to the same site to observe changes over time and the transition from summer, fall and winter. Dr. Polozov emphasized attention to detail and to observe the why of a species actions, recognize trends and how a species fits into the food web and its specific ecological niche. We often had time to do a solo observation to focus on one species or area for an hour. It is amazing the insight one gains when really focusing and analyzing on one particular species, whether it is the interaction of an ant colony collecting food or the distribution of ferns based on elevation. It is easy to sweep by things when hiking through a forest, but to really stop and pay attention to surrounding sounds and species interactions; it is incredible to realize how much is taking place. Dr. Polozov put his students first in deciding to return from the field course destined for Nepal. Unfortunate circumstances related to political elections caused a turn in our planned two-week biology trip. It took an immense amount of strength to choose to return from China after a day. A disappointment but an important decision related to safety for students and ensuring future participation of field courses. The amount of paperwork, details and deadlines Dr. Polozov completed in order to organize and plan this trip is overwhelming and he was able to not only cancel but also refund students money. Thankfully Dr. Polozov offered another opportunity to attend a field biology course offered in the late spring and I was able to explore Hawaii and Kauai for a total of two weeks.

Dr. Polozov inspired me to care about ecological restoration, conservation of species and to recognize the detriment we are causing to our planet. In the spring, I attended his Evolution course, this was my favorite course with him because he emphasized open communication. He treats his students as colleagues and holds all to high standards including himself. It was a very interesting and important class that often resulted in discussing different aspects and going on different tangents. It was enjoyable to take diligent notes and listen to his insights and observations of the many trips and field experiences he has had. After spring I was signed up for Hawaii tropical biology course unfortunately Dr. Polozov did not attend due to illness but Dr. Meissner and I talked about previous experiences on field courses and how much we missed his presence. After the course I remained in Hawaii to perform my practicum with Dr. Polozov as my adviser. I analyzed and worked on three different farms on the Big Island of Hawaii focusing on their sustainability and organic practices. Dr. Polozov really worked with me to ensure that I enjoyed my experience and stayed on top of my work and analyses. It was an eye-opening experience that further pushed my passions of performing field work outdoors.

Although I did not go to Belize during my undergraduate years I still plan on joining the class on a field trip there. All of the field courses offered at Concordia are very unique and special. Whether or not you plan on a career path in the science world it is a great opportunity and experience to appreciate and experience the natural world. There are so many professors in the Science Department that I had the opportunity to interact with. It is very unique to speak so highly of all your professors and experiences and to have had a positive relationship and for them to know and be interested in your well being. Overall, I must contribute my passions and strength to think unconventionally and pursue my dream of travelling and performing fieldwork to Dr. Polozov, Dr. Kunert and the Science Department. I am envious of Dr. Polozov’s profession, he is such a hardworking individual but has an amazing lifestyle of classroom teaching, field experiences and own field research in his free time. I am unsure of when he actually finds time to sleep. Thanks to my professors when I now hike I am constantly looking, observing and identifying species, all in appreciation of the natural world around us.