Winter Field Studies
Environmental Studies 395 - 3 credits, $750 (includes meals & lodging)

Studying pine marten tracks                                                               Application Procedure

2007 Dates

  January 11 - 20


Winter Field Studies Photo Gallery
Course Description
Equipment List
Registration and Financial Information



Course Description  
    Winter Field Studies is taught entirely in the Swan Valley, which is approximately 80 miles NE of Missoula, Montana nestled between the Mission Mountain and Bob Marshall Wilderness Areas.  Rustic lodging in a bunkhouse on a private homestead will allow us to work in the field during the day, then study and meet with guest speakers at night.

    Our field studies begin by focusing on the natural history of the area.  Among other things, you’ll practice winter tree and shrub identification and learn how to snow track ungulates, small mammals, and large carnivores.   We also explore environmental issues in the Swan Valley as they affect public land management agencies, corporations, and small private landowners.  We’ll pay particular attention to the interface between state and national environmental policies and small rural communities such as those in the Seeley and Swan Valleys.

    Northwest Connections (NwC) conducts a number of long-term ecological monitoring efforts in the Swan Valley and surrounding ecosystems.  As a student in Winter Field Studies you will be assisting us with one such effort, which involves snow tracking rare forest carnivores.  In order to accomplish one of NwC’s snow track surveys for lynx, fisher, wolverine and pine marten, we will spend  three days and two nights snow camping in the Mission Mountains.  This will provide a good opportunity to learn more about winter camping as well as wildlife ecology and conservation biology as they relate to these four species.  Plan on learning in a small, dynamic group of motivated students while working with naturalists, agency biologists, and local guides.

Instructors  Melanie Parker, Tom Parker, Steve Lamar

The Winter Field Studies reader includes segments of relevant Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service documents, articles in conservation biology, essays by early homesteaders and trappers, and natural history essays.  Authors include Wallace Stegner, Bernd Heinrich, Mary Hartwick, Bud Moore, Reed Noss, Barry Lopez, Howard Quigley, Paul Paquet, and Mary Oliver.


Pre-Assignment -- Wildlife in Winter

Self-directed journal assignments:  Natural history observations


Day 1 -- Orientation 

4pm    Arrive at Northwest Connections facility

5pm    Introductions -- students/staff 

6pm    Group Dinner

7pm    Discuss pre-assignment   


Day 2 -- Swan Valley Biogeography

Interpretive snowshoe/hike up on Swan-Clearwater divide  

Evening activity:  Mapping watershed/topographic features of the Swan Valley

Reading:  "The Rise and Fall of Natural History" by Robert Michael Pyle 


Day 3 -- Forested Habitats

Lecture:  W. Montana habitat types and land use patterns

Outdoor field session:   Winter tree/shrub identification    

Readings:  Selections from A Field Guide to Wildlife Habitats by Janine Benyus

Selections from the Wildlife Landscape Assessment, Swan Valley.  USDA Forest Service.


Day 4 -- Animal Tracks 

Lecture:  Animal tracking:  gate patterns, prints, habitat selection

Outdoor field session:  Track Identification

Speaker:  Jay Kolbe, USFS wildlife biologist: "Forest Service lynx research"

Evening activity:  "The Wild Bunch," a video on lynx, fisher, marten, wolverine

Readings:  Selections from The Scientific Basis for Conserving Forest Carnivores, USDA Forest Service

Day 5 -- Animal Behavior

Reading:  Selections from Of Wolves and Men by Barry Lopez

Outdoor field session:  Interpreting carnivore behavior via snow tracking

Evening speakers:  Joe Miller and Bud Moore, local trappers: "Trapper’s Perspectives on Carnivore Management"


Day 6  -- Winter Field Work

Conduct carnivore survey route up Jocko Ridge Trail near Lindbergh Lake

Track survey/ Documentation of carnivores

Establish winter camp on Jocko Ridge 

Readings:  Selections from Mountaineering Freedom of the Hills  

Day 7 -- Winter Field Work/Winter Safety

Lecture:  Avalanche safety

Practicum:  Analyzing the snow pack

Continued carnivore track survey into the Mission Mountains Wilderness

Speaker:  Scott Tomson, USFS wildlife biologist:  "Current Issues in Forest Carnivore Management"


Day 8 -- Conservation Strategies

Reading:  Draft Lynx Conservation Strategy, USDA Forest Service

Discussion:  Current status of forest carnivores

Return trip from Mission Mountains


Day 9 -- Social Dimensions of Carnivore Conservation

Visit with early residents of Swan Valley about carnivore conservation

Readings:  Selected articles from local authors, "Conservation Biology and Carnivore Conservation in the Rocky Mountains" by Reed Noss et al.

Day 10 -- Conclusion

Final Exam

Course evaluation  

Final Journals


Post Assignment -- Write a 5 -7 page paper referencing readers, speakers, field experiences, and at least 2 additional outside sources.  This assignment is an opportunity for you to focus on and gain a greater depth in a specific aspect of ecology, management or policy that interested you during the course. 

[Note:  All activities subject to change due to weather and availability of speakers]


Registration and Financial Information   

2007 Winter Field Studies Costs

Tuition:   $750

Course cost includes the following:
- 3 University of Montana credits
- Northwest Connections' Tuition
- Meals (you provide your own lunches and trail snacks)
- Reader
- Transportation during the course; you must provide transportation to and from the Northwest Connections facility in the Swan Valley.

All students must provide their own medical insurance while in residence at NwC.

Deadlines for Fee Payment
Non-Refundable Deposit $100 Due upon registration
Balance of Tuition $650
December 20th or by contacting our office to make other arrangements

If you would like to sign up for Winter Field Studies,  please fill out the accompanying health form and registration form and send them to Northwest Connections with your $100 non-refundable deposit. 

Fees are payable by personal check or money order to Northwest Connections. We do not accept credit cards at this time. NOTE: We accept Americorps education award vouchers. Please contact us if you would like to pay for Winter Field Studies with an Americorps voucher; we'll gladly guide you through this simple process.

Cancellation Policy
No refunds can be made for cancellations unless another student from our waiting list can fill your space. If we can fill your space a refund will be made less the registration deposit.

Northwest Connections cannot make exceptions to this cancellation policy for any reason, including, but not limited to, illness, travel delays, personal or family situations, emergencies or weather. We urge you to investigate accident, baggage, and trip cancellation insurance with a travel agent. Travel insurance helps protect you against financial loss if you must cancel or interrupt a trip because of illness or injuries to yourself, a family member, or traveling companion.

NwC reserves the right to cancel the course due to insufficient enrollment. In the unlikely event of such a cancellation, NwC will notify students by December 20 and students shall be entitled to a full refund of all monies paid.  NwC is not responsible for financial loss due to non-refundable airline tickets or other such expenses.

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