June 13, 2002
Whether you're a weekend naturalist interested in discovering California's wildlife or a student who'd like to earn college credits while exploring high mountain meadows, San Francisco State's Sierra Nevada Field Campus (SNFC) offers a spectrum of down-to-earth summer courses for both current students and the general public.
"There is no better way to learn than when all your senses are involved," says Jim Steele, SNFC's director of 18 years. "Our classes immerse you in the subject matter."
Located on a pristine swatch of land in the Tahoe National Forest, the nine-acre campus offers an ideal mountain setting to learn about the natural environment. The glacial lakes, snow-capped Sierra Buttes, fresh-water marshes, mountain meadows and the nearby Yuba River provide an array of wildlife, plants and geological features unique to this region, making the field courses as personally enriching as they are educational.
The campus includes a two-story dining hall and lodge where attendees can find three full meals a day and indoor labs and classrooms. Sleeping quarters are camp-style, with large, platform tents and beds, but those who prefer to save a few dollars can pitch their own tent at the numerous campsites located within the campus perimeter. Flush toilets and hot water showers make the experience rustic but comfortable, and despite snowy winters the summer temperatures can reach into the 70s and 80s.
"Usually, there is plenty of sunshine," says Steele. "Beginning in late June, there are several beautiful glacial lakes in which to swim. Even while hiking in the high country, where you can get into an occasional snowball fight, it's still jeans and t-shirt weather."
Classes, limited to 15 students, begin in early June and run through the middle of August. They range from four to nine days and cost between $185 and $580. Taught by experts in the field, the classes cover a variety of topics that reflect the richness of this well-preserved ecosystem.
Participants can learn to identify native bird species by sound, field observation and mist-netting in classes such as "Bird Song Recording and Analysis," "Birds of the Sierra Nevada," and "Sierran Bird Banding."
The life of insects is brought alive through "Butterflies of the Sierra Nevada," "Sierran Spiders and Their Allies," and "Insect Biology and Identification."
For those interested in plants and other rooted organisms, there's "World of Plants," the ever-popular "Fungi of the Sierra Nevada," "Flora of the Northern Sierra Nevada," and "Medicinal and Edible Plants."
With no light pollution from urban centers, the night sky creates a dazzling blackboard for novice stargazers to enjoy "Beginning Astronomy."
In "Mammals of the Sierra Nevada," students search for the elusive mountain beaver, learn to identify animal prints and scout for other four-legged denizens unique to the region.
Additional classes cover fly fishing, geology, bat ecology and conservation and more. A few of the classes also offer the chance to participate in habitat restoration and watershed analysis, while others offer skills courses in ecology and nature study.
Steele says that while many of the classes fill early -- such as the bird courses and the fungi course -- there are many others where students can enroll the first day of class.
"You don't need to be an expert to have fun here," says Steele. "The range of knowledge between participants lends itself to a wonderful synergy. The more advanced are always willing to help, while the less experienced provide new eyes and new perspectives. It's a beautiful setting, it's fun, and it's educational."
For detailed course descriptions or to register, contact Steele at (530) 862-1230 or email@example.com or visit SNFC's Web site.
1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132 (415) 338-1111