Enroll in a regular section of Biology 1B on Tele-BEARS. Pick a section you can take in case you do not get into the field section.

What it Entails

The main objective of the field section is to give students a chance to conduct a semester long field project early in their academic career. The content and principles of the labs will be discussed in the field section to ensure students do not miss important concepts. Students are responsible for this matieral, but the labs will not be done in the same manner as the regular lab sections. This is because the field project is a major undertaking. Student groups are given a specific topic to study in the field during the semester. With some guidance, the students conduct a thorough literature search about this topic to guide the design of their experiment. They develop an experimental protocol to answer their question. Once a reasonable protocol is developed, the field work begins. This is a time consuming, but enjoyable part of the semester. Following data collection, students analyze and write-up a formal research paper, and orally present their results to the class at an end of the semester. Along the way, there are problems of various types, from vehicle breakdowns to how to analyze the data once it's collected. We anticipate this, and the ability to solve problems encountered in the field is often the difference between successful field projects (and field biologists) and failures. The purpose of this section is to teach students how to do science, how to problem solve during research, and how to relate the principles learned in Bio 1B to real life experiences. Students in this section recieve one unit of IB 95 credit.


The field section of Biology 1B was initiated in the fall semester of 1996. It was clear that many students wanted the opportunity to learn how science really works and what field biology is like. This field section gives freshman and sophomore students an early chance to conduct their own fieldwork studies and directs them into taking other field study courses, which are often only offered every other year. Many of the students who have taken the course so far have been strongly influenced by the experience, and have changed their future plans as a result.


  • Engagement: Definitely not for everyone, this field section requires a high level of maturity and responsibility. Almost all work is done in groups and group members rely heavily on one another. Your grade will reflect your level of participation.
  • A significant time commitment: The time you will invest in the field section is less predictable and more demanding than a regular Bio 1B section. Some work must be done at night and on weekends. In some cases, students conduct research requiring around the clock shifts, or travel of several hours.
  • Some discomfort: Fieldwork can be dirty and often uncomfortable. Each semester, there are four to five projects. If a project involves animal trapping, traps must be checked regardless of the weather, or any other engagement. Lack of responsibility on the part of students would lead to the death of study animals. And some students may find the whole process of capturing and handling wild animals unpleasant.


The advantages of this section are many. It gives students a chance to plan, perform and report on their field research projects. For those interested in a career in science, this is very important learning opportunity. Most undergraduate science majors finish their degree without ever understanding how conduct scientific research. Second, it is an opportunity to interact with the GSI and UGSI at a level no other section offers. Students take field trips with the instructors at least once or twice during the semester. These weekend trips may be to diverse areas such as the coastal redwood forests in Mendocino County or the Mojave Desert of southern California. Additionally, the field projects will require frequent meetings with GSI and UGSI throughout the semester. This level of interaction is important for future recommendations for research positions at Berkeley, for graduate programs and for jobs. Third, it is a chance to gain valuable field experience that will help qualify you for summer jobs and field assistantships. The intensive field project students conduct will, in most cases, be the most rigorous scientific experience of their undergraduate careers, and will feature prominently on CV's and resumes. In the first year of this section, most students who were interested in field assistant jobs in the summer got them and we have placed students in a variety of jobs in the US, Central America, and Africa. Fourth, working so closely with other students has facilitated formation of study groups and has shown positively on exam scores. Fifth, students in this section receive an extra IB 95 unit for the added work involved. And lastly, virtually all the students really enjoyed the work. To our knowledge no one who has taken this course has regretted it, although many who did not take it wished they had. Despite all the warnings we listed earlier, most students thrived on the chance to work on real projects with a lot of input from their GSI, but without their continuous monitoring. In many cases, evaluations said this was the best experience students had had at Berkeley.


Further Information and Application

Contact Brett Boltz to request an Application. Please remember that you must be enrolled in the class before applying to be in the Field Section.


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