Once we had a good look around, we loaded up in the LMU van and made our way down the winding road to Davis Branch. When we arrived, we were absolutely awestruck. I can’t even put into words how beautiful it was there. The park ranger took us about halfway down the trail to a small bridge over a stream. Here she told us about the recent decline in the blackside dace (a common fish in the area) due to the presence of beaver populations. Honestly, I was really excited to hear this, not that I have anything against the blackside dace, but I have never seen a beaver in my entire life. Granted, we had gone on this field trip with the hopes of viewing some ducks or other waterfowl within the wetlands, but I certainly wasn’t going to be upset by seeing a beaver, too.
I never thought that I would take field trips in college, much less ones I would enjoy. I suppose I never considered their usefulness to collegiate courses. To my surprise, I went on one of the best field trips of my entire school career a few Thursdays ago.
My Management of Wild Game Birds class recently went on a field trip to the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Our professor told us about two weeks in advance that we were going to be taking a series of field trips during our lab sections in order to gain some crucial field experience looking for and viewing specimens we’ve discussed in class. This particular trip was both fun and educational. What more could you ask for?!
We visited a portion of the park which is, literally, five minutes from campus. One of the reasons I chose to come to LMU in the first place was the strong ecology and wildlife program and the exceptional location of the school to the National Park only strengthened my decision. The close proximity to the park offers excellent opportunities, several walking and hiking trails, and breathtaking views.
When my class arrived at the park, we were met by a park ranger and she told us a little about the game bird populations in the park, as well as a few of the management techniques they use. Then she told us that we would be visiting one of the wetland conservation areas of the park, called Davis Branch. Before we left we were able to look around the gorgeous visitor center there. If any of you guys are in the LMU area, I would definitely recommend checking it out.
So we began walking through the trails in search of ducks, and in less than a few minutes, we saw a group of three wood ducks. These ducks (pictured above) are so beautiful! It was incredible to see them out in their natural habitat as opposed to a “duck pond” in the middle of a city. We watched them circle the wetland a few times with our binoculars, and then continued down the path, in search of more ducks.
A few more minutes down the trail led us to some peculiar markings on the trees. At first the trees just seemed to be a little scratched, but the further we traveled into the woods, the more apparent the peculiarity of the damaged trees became. They were damaged because of beavers!
All my life I had seen beavers effortlessly gnawing through large trees in cartoons and movies. This in no way prepared me for how cool it was in real life. Seeing a huge tree supported by less than half of its entire width is amazing, especially when you take into account the actual size of a beaver. It was truly unbelievable. I was so much in shock from seeing it that I went up to the tree and touched it, in some sort of effort to prove to myself it was real.
Everyday spent as a wildlife major is an adventure. I absolutely love what I do, and I sincerely hope that everyone can find something they love as much as I love wildlife. With all the majors LMU has to offer, it certainly wouldn’t be hard to find one at this school, you can browse the majors here. Each major offered here also has some sort of field trip opportunities as well. Whether you’re shadowing an elementary school class as an education major, or investigating a mock crime scene as a criminal justice major, you’ll always have real life application of your major at this university.
We have other field trips planned to a wildlife reserve, and maybe a game farm. Please follow my blog and let me know if you’ve been on any college field trips! I would love to hear all about it!