It's dusty, and it's halfway through three intense weeks for 84 environmental conservation science (ENCS) and forestry students in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Alberta.
The Environmental and Conservation Sciences and Forestry Field School, informally known as a spring field school, is a required part of their undergraduate program that is run every spring in the boreal forest about 200 kilometres north of Edmonton and is an important part of the students’ curriculum.
It’s an invaluable hands-on introduction to what they will face in their respective careers.
Also invaluable is the support for this annual event provided by Portage College, the local post-secondary institution just south of the field school sites in Lac La Biche. On May 5, the students, faculty and staff from ALES, as well as members of the community of Lac La Biche and of Portage College, gathered together to celebrate 20 years of the partnership that allows the students the infrastructure support needed to concentrate on their studies during spring field school.
“Being in the spring field school gives me the foundation to test the concepts I’ve learned in the classroom,” says ENCS student Sean Bishop. “Portage College has provided us students with a place to relax and enjoy our time in Lac La Biche, which has been a wonderful community that has really embraced our group.”
"We have been lucky to have a relationship like the one that exists to support the Environmental & Conservation Sciences and Forestry Field School," says Stan Blade, dean of the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences. "Knowing that we have such great support from one of our northern academic partner institutions reassures me that our students are well taken care of when they're in the field."
“ 'The spring field school' is an integral part of preparing our students in forestry and environmental and conservation sciences for their careers," says Ellen Macdonald, chair of the Department of Renewable Resources in the faculty. "The skills they learn in the classroom build upon those learned in the field and the support that Portage College provides every year to our 100-plus students and academics is immeasurable.
"We are very grateful to the college and the community of Lac La Biche."
The ALES students arrived April 29 and remain in Lac La Biche until May 20. A total of 20 instructors will also come and go throughout this period.
Trent Keough, president and CEO of Portage College, says, “We pride ourselves in our supporting other institutions. We strive to provide exceptional learning experiences for students. We’re very appreciative of the enthusiasm the students of the U of A brings to our campus and community.”