During this past May’s short summer session, Associate Professor Greg Buckley took eight students on an amazing field trip–a 9-day excursion to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Here’s what Mary Beth Radeck, a Sustainability Studies major, had to say about it:
Visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park with other Sustainability Studies majors during Sustainability of the National Parks (SUST 390) this summer was the perfect way to experience the rugged beauty of our national heritage, and witness the stressors facing national parks across the country. Professor Gregory Buckley lent his considerable knowledge on sustainability issues affecting this park and served as our teacher, geologist, and expert guide. Providing excellent leadership and logistics, Professor Buckley led wilderness hikes, entertained us with geo-caching, introduced us to key personnel at the park and even faced down a bison on our behalf!
The total class time investment was short at only four weeks, but surprisingly rich. During the 9-day trip, we had ample opportunity for reading, discussion and first-hand experience of the park’s wildlife riches and the impacts of area development. We saw exactly what park policy protects and how it sometimes hinders efforts at long-term sustainability. Learning seemed effortless and varied. We talked en-route or over coffee at the picnic table. Some days we hiked or toured by van and saw bison, mule deer, prairie dogs and the occasional wild turkey and horses, and surveyed the geology of the place. Other days we met park rangers, the park’s resource manager, witnessed and discussed oil development activities threatening the parks natural resources. We camped most nights and gained a healthy respect for the elements of nature. It was a rugged, enjoyable immersion experience which left us with an insider’s view of America’s natural wealth—something worth protecting.
Over nine days together, our class developed unusually strong bonds, even though our majors, ages and backgrounds were dissimilar. Perhaps it was from sharing food or helping each other set up tents as first time campers. Maybe it was the awe of finding bison in camp the very first morning. Could it be how we learned to stick together on a back country hike? Or was it the persistent positive attitude while battling to keep our tents in the face of the North Dakota wind? For me, it became obvious that this trip exemplified the essence of sustainability itself. In the face of adversity, together we can adapt, change and preserve our most valuable resources against the odds. And we can have a great time doing it!
The class will run again in May 2012–sign up early!–as all the spots were taken within 24 hours of registration opening this past Spring.