Education & Outreach


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Work in an Outdoor Lab Setting

Swenson College faculty members teach courses that use field sites at the Center, also known as the Land Lab or UMD Farm.

The security and convenience of the Center creates excellent opportunities for instructors to conduct field-based learning activities for laboratory courses. During a typical fall semester, hundreds of students visit the farm. 

Here are examples of lab exercises designed for the Center:

Biol 2802: Ecology Lab

Comparing populations of Cryptozoa. Cryptozoa is a term used to refer to animals that preferentially position themselves under objects on the soil surface. The class studies populations of cryptozoa at the farm by counting and comparing populations in different habitats. This requires forest floors that have long been influenced by dead pine/spruce needles as contrast to the litter in the fields. Deciduous forested sites would not be as good. This course requires space for 32 transects, each about 25 meters long - half of these transects are in the fields, the others in the conifers.

Biol 4764: Mammalogy

Mammalogy uses the Farm area every year for radiotelemetry and small mammal trapping labs. Trap line locations have been used over the past 5 years, and are indicated with the yellow fisheyes in the figure below. Various trap lines are used to sample small mammal populations in a mix of cover types: old field, conifer plantation, mature mixed conifer and deciduous. Additionally, trap lines have been used at varying distances from Amity Creek. Over the years we have caught several species, including deer mice, brown rats, flying squirrels, short-tailed shrew, and a probable arctic shrew (Peromyscus sp., Rattus norvegicusGlaucomys sabrinusBlarina brevicauda, and Sorex arcticus).

Biol 5401: Coevolution of Plants, Animals, and Microbes

  • Coevolution of plants and pollinators lab. The class studies the interaction of pollinators with Tansy, Tanacetum vulgare, (Compositae), Tall goldenrod, Solidago altissima, (Compositae) and Butter and eggs, Linaria vulgaris, (Scrophulariaceae) and aster Aster puniceus (Asteraceae).
  • Coevolution of gall-makers and their natural enemies. The class studies the interaction of the gall-inducing sawfly found on Solidago altissima and its natural enemies the parasitic wasp, Eurytoma gigantea and birds. The students measure attack rates by these natural enemies and calculate their influence on the evolution of gall size. Additionally, the class calculates the variation in predation rates by birds as the distance from tree cover increases.
  • Coevolution of plant-aphid-ant interactions. The class studies the interaction of these three species on plants at the farm depending on the availability of such interactions at the farm which varies from year to year.

Outreach Efforts

Farm Fest Poster

The Center host events to highlight the work being done here and every year faculty, staff and students produce tons (literally) of organically grown vegetables that are used in the campus Residence Dining Center. To learn more about what's happening at the UMD Farm, check out the News & Events page.