What is the Biology 1B field section?
Each semester two laboratory sections are designated as "field sections." Students in these sections, in addition to regular lab content, learn how to conduct biological research in nature and contribute to new scientific knowledge. The amount of time in lab is similar to that for regular sections. Much of the field component of the class will take place outside of class time.
The main objective of the field section is to expose students to outdoor ecological research (aka, 'field work') early in their academic career.
conduct natural ecology observations
ask questions about the natural world
investigate primary literature for guidance
consult experts on how best to approach their study
design an experimental protocol
collect scientifically rigorous data in the field
report findings in a formal research paper
present findings at an end of the semester symposium
Students in the field section labs are responsible for the same material as students in regular Biology 1B lab sections. In addition, students will complete group research projects.To accommodate additional topics in field biology, some laboratory material will be covered in an abbreviated way. This is because field projects are a major undertaking in planning, execution and analysis. The field section requires a greater time commitment than a regular Biology 1B lab section and students receive additional credit. Students in the field section receive two units of IB 95 credit. Lab meets Tuesdays, 2-6 pm (sections 225 & 226) and the Research Methods Discussion meets Thursdays, 3-5 pm (IB 95).
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable parts of field biology are the unexpected challenges. Along the way, there can be equipment breakdowns, sudden changes in the weather, and numerous other unforeseen events inherent to studying plants and animals in their natural environments. In every way, the exposure to problem solving during this course is a direct lesson in how successful biologists conduct accurate field research. 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 Biology 1B to real life experiences.
What makes the field section a valuable opportunity?
The field section of Biology 1B has been offered for two semesters each year since 1996. It was initiated to provide undergraduates an opportunity to experience science outside of a classroom and expose them to research in the outdoor laboratory of nature. This early exposure to fieldwork is rich with prospects for students to enhance their academic and career interests – allowing them to capitalize on their remaining time at Berkeley as a way to prepare for their future scientific careers. Many students go on to excel in upper division field courses, conduct their own fieldwork studies, and work in ecology labs on campus.
California is bursting with rich habitats filled with diverse communities of flora and fauna. The first two weeks of the field section gives students first-hand exposure to these incredible environments. Past trips have included visits to the watersheds of Angelo Coast Range Reserve, coastal estuaries of Point Reyes, Sierra woodlands of Blodget Experimental Forest, rolling hills at Tilden Regional Park, and coastal bluffs of the Marin Headlands. These field excursions turn into important ecological brainstorming sessions, where many students plant the first seeds of their research questions.
What is required to be eligible for field course?
- Engagement: The field section requires a high level of maturity and responsibility. You must be excited about the prospect of:
◦ Contributing to group work
◦ Relying on others in collaborative research
◦ Learning more material than is presented in a regular Biology 1B section
- A significant time commitment: Conducting research requires flexibility and dedication. Depending on the methodology of your study, be prepared to conduct research:
◦ At any time of day – morning, noon, or night
◦ After traveling for several hours
◦ On the weekends
◦ During breaks when classes are not in session
- Some discomfort: Fieldwork can be dirty and often uncomfortable. This can also be what makes field research incredibly fun. Below are some fun things that students have done in the past. If the thought of handling specimens or working in these environments makes you squeamish, you may want to reconsider.
◦ Collecting decomposing leaves
◦ Hiking in the rain
◦ Handling live crayfish
◦ Wading in a lake or stream
◦ Surveying birds at 6 AM
◦ Shaking spiders out of trees
◦ Following bees around campus
What are the benefits of being in the field section?
There are multiple benefits of participating in Biology 1B's field section. They include but are not limited to:
1. A chance to plan, perform and report on their field research projects. This is a wonderful stepping-stone for those interested in pursuing a career in science.
2. Frequent interactions with GSIs and ULMs (Undergraduate Learning Mentors). Between weekend field trips, ongoing one-on-one meetings, and data collection assistance, the field section provides more opportunity than most courses to work closely with GSIs and ULMs who share interests in this area and who can help consider future academic directions.
3. Experience is helpful towards securing summer jobs and field assistantships. The field section offers a rigorous scientific experience that can be featured on your CVs and resumes.
4. Developing collaborative relationships with your peers. Working closely with other students can be the basis for forming study groups. Generally, group study positively affects exam scores.
5. An opportunity to really enjoy your coursework. Despite all the warnings listed earlier, most students thrived on the chance to work on real projects. In post course evaluations students often say the Biology 1B field section is one of the best academic experiences they have had at Berkeley.
How do I apply to the field section?
First enroll in a regular section of Biology 1B. Choose a regular section that fits into your schedule in case you do not get selected for the field section. Once enrolled, contact Brett Boltz to request a field section application. You may also contact Brett with any questions you have before applying. Spaces in the field sections are limited so please consider your application carefully.
Interested in being an Undergraduate Learning Mentor (ULM) for the field section? Please see the application instructions here.