Summer Courses for 2018

"The best courses I've ever taken at Pitt!" 

- PLE student evaluation

In 2018, we have an amazing collection of top-quality field courses that are sure to pique your interest. Courses span 3 weeks and they run in sessions from mid-May through the end of July.  Click on the PDF thumbnails below to check out the syllabi for the courses.


Session 1 : 14 May - 1 June 2018


Ecology & Lab

(Biosc 0370/0390)

Dr. Matthew Venesky
Allegheny College
4 Credits

What better way to learn ecology than to be outdoors seeing it for yourself! Lectures and laboratory exercises emphasize environmental factors, populations, communities, ecosystems, and biodiversity. Outdoor experiments and field trips are a great way to help understand the lecture material. Pitt students should enroll in both the lecture (BioSc 0370) and the Lab (Biosc 0390).


Conservation Biology

(Biosc 1610)

Dr. Steve Latta
National Aviary
3 Credits

To protect and conserve the diversity of plants and animals in nature we need to understand how to integrate ecology, management, and public policy. Dr. Latta uses activities such as bird banding, camera-trapping, mark-recapture experiments, and multi-taxa censuses, as well as field trips, to offer hands-on demonstrations of conservation principles.

Behavioral Ecology

(Biosc 1140)

Dr. Nina Thumser
Edinboro Univ.
3 Credits

Why do animals do what they do? This course covers the principles of animal behavior with an emphasis on observing animals in nature. Through lectures, reading, experiments, and field observations, you'll learn about how animals make decisions related to feeding, mating, territoriality, predator defense, habitat selection, and parental care.

Aquatic Entomology

(Biosc 1190)

Dr. Ryan Utz
Chatham Univ.
3 Credits

Aquatic insects represent a highly diverse assemblage of fascinating organisms: what other type of creature spends the vast majority of its life underwater and takes flight in air for its final days? These organisms are also are frequently used as important bioindicators of pollution by environmental regulatory agencies. The labs. lectures, and field trips offered by Dr. Utz will help you gain familiarity with the taxonomy and ecology of this incredible assemblage of insects.

Session 2 : 4 June - 22 June 2018

Ecology & Lab

(Biosc 0370/0390)


Dr. Rickey Cothran
Southwestern Oklahoma State Univ.
4 Credits

Through the use of field and laboratory exercises, Dr. Cothran brings the main concepts of ecology to life!  You will be exposed to the study of ecology from organisms to ecosystems, highlighting some ecological problems that we face as a society all while developing your ability to think scientifically about problems, interpret scientific data, and communicate science to others.  Pitt students should enroll in both the lecture (BioSc 0370) and the Lab (Biosc 0390).

Ecology of Amphibians and Reptiles

(Biosc 1180)

Dr. Kurt Regester
Clarion Univ.
3 Credits

What is the difference between a salamander and a lizard?  You will learn this and much more on just the first day of class!  You will canoe in rivers and cruise in a pontoon boat on Pymatuning Lake in search of amphibians and reptiles while learning about their identification, ecology, and conservation.


Ecology of Birds (Ornithology)

(Biosc 1230)

Dr. Stephanie Strickler
Murray State University
3 Credits

Have you ever wished you could learn the birds of PA and distinguish among bird calls? Then this class is for you! Learn all about the biology of birds, with an emphasis on bird anatomy, physiology, behavior, reproduction, and ecology. This course combines lectures and laboratory experiences with superb field trips to Presque Isle, Powdermill Nature Reserve, and the Allegheny National Forest.


(Biosc 1430)

Dr. Randy Layne
Slippery Rock Univ.
3 Credits

Earths creatures inhabit nearly all its varied habitats.  Deserts, rainforests, grasslands, and tundra all present unique challenges to organisms to survive.  The Ecophysiology course taught at PLE will cover the adaptations of animals to deal with specialized environmental situations across a spectrum of biological levels (biochemical to the organismal).  How does the wood frog survive in the arctic circle?  How does that mouse survive without water?  Thermal relations, water balance, and bioenergetics are all major topics covered in the course. 

Session 3 : 25 June - 13 July 2018

Disease Ecology

(Biosc 1400)



Dr. Shane Hanlon
American Geophysical Union
3 Credits

This course is designed to introduce you to some of the major plant and animal diseases, including diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Through a combination of lectures and fun field trips, you will build on your knowledge of ecology and apply it to the fascinating world of diseases.  (Please note that this course has a pre-requisite of Ecology)


Ecology of Fish

(Biosc 1270)

Dr. Andy Turner
Clarion Univ.
3 Credits

The Pymatuning area’s lakes, ponds and streams are perfect for studying fish! Learn about population and community ecology of freshwater fishes, including identification, age and growth, life history differences, trophic interactions, and the biogeography of fish. Daily trips to various aquatic habitats will provide valuable field experience.

Session 4 : 16 July - 3 August 2018

Field Techniques in Ecology and Conservation

(Biosc 1390)

Dr. Josiah Townsend
Indiana Univ. of PA
3 Credits

The course is designed to give practical, hands-on experience in a variety of field techniques used in aquatic and terrestrial ecology and conservation. Topics include orienteering, vegetation sampling, GIS & GPS, animal population sampling, aquatic insect surveying, and the design of research studies.