The Luce Semester at Dickinson College

Watershed-Based Integrated Field Semester

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Frequently Asked Questions

The watershed-based integrated field semester is a new educational initiative to be offered by the Environmental Studies Department in the fall semesters of 2005, 2006 and 2007.  Analogous to the Mosaic program, participating students will take a single integrated course for the equivalent of an entire normal four-course load, combining classroom activities, community-based fieldwork research, independent study, and extensive travel and immersion in two comparative watershed regions: the Chesapeake Bay and the lower Mississippi river basin. The course will involve nine weeks of study in the Chesapeake Bay watershed region (including time on campus at Dickinson) and a three-week immersion experience in the lower Mississippi.  This new initiative is being funded by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.


            The following information is organized by questions you may have.  There are five sections:



If you think you may be interested in participating in this semester, now is the time to start planning.  Please read this information carefully, and feel free to seek further information through contacting Candie Wilderman (Professor of Environmental Science) or Michael Heiman (Professor of Environmental Studies and Geography).


Who is teaching this semester and how many other students will be in the program?

Profs. Heiman and Wilderman will be teaching the field semester in Fall, 2007.  In addition, Julie Vastine , the director of ALLARM, and the assistant director, will be working closely with students in the development of independent research projects and in arranging activities that involve affected communities.  There will also be numerous guest lecturers, and community leaders who will teach us. Other faculty may be involved in teaching as well.

There will be 10-20 students in the program. During the 2007-2008 academic year, ES 340 (Terrestrial) will be offered in the Fall semester and ES 330 (Policy) will be offered in the Spring semester (for those not participating in the Luce semester).

What kinds of topics will be covered in this semester?
Using the stream continuum as the unifying theme in the course, students will examine environmental systems and the communities dependent upon them from the mountain headwater streams, through the agricultural valleys and the urbanized higher order streams, to the estuaries, and finally on to the coastal marine environments.  Students will be trained in ecosystem analysis field techniques through extensive hands-on experience with study design, and in data collection, analysis, and interpretation.  Students will examine the cultural contexts wherein environmental problems are created and through which solutions are conceived and implemented, by interacting with a diversity of communities – from PA farmers to MD watermen to lower-income communities impacted by toxic waste and natural resource depletion in Louisiana. 

Students will be introduced to environmental disruption and the regulatory response in contemporary industrial nations, with a primary emphasis on U.S. regulation and case studies drawn from the watersheds under investigation.

What will be the weekly classroom schedule?
When we are on campus, classes (labs, field trips and lectures) will meet on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Monday will be the day devoted to independent research projects.  While there will be no regularly scheduled classes on Friday, some of these days might be used for taking extended field trips. For details on the schedule, click here. 
How will I be graded?
You will receive 4 grades, one for each of the courses for which you will receive credit (see below under “How will the credit count towards my major?” to see what those courses may be).  Grading will include an evaluation of your performance on exams and papers, as well as your engagement with, and contribution to, our field activities. 
Why would I want to participate in this program, rather than simply take courses in the more traditional way?
If you learn best through direct experience and hands-on activities, then this is the program for you!  In addition, your learning experience in this integrated semester will also be interdisciplinary – combining ways of knowing and knowledge from the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities.  We will approach environmental problems from a variety of perspectives, and will be connected directly with affected communities.  Such connections will lead to a deeper understanding of the cultural context for the problems and their solutions. And finally, while you may experience the local environment through field excursions in other courses, this course will widen that exposure to issues outside of our local watersheds, to prepare you more broadly for a professional career. For more information on why you would want to participate, click here.  
Why are we studying the Chesapeake Bay and lower Mississippi region? 

The Chesapeake Bay and lower Mississippi River basin watershed regions have been chosen as target areas for comparative study for social, cultural, political, ecological, and environmental reasons. They represent the two largest estuarine regions in the U.S. Both hold great economic, strategic, and environmental significance for the nation. Due to their location in different climatic zones, the two watersheds have a rich array of ecosystems that are similar in structure and function, yet vary in biological, physical, and chemical characteristics.  Moreover, both areas are experiencing a loss of biodiversity, as they are being threatened by resource mismanagement, agricultural runoff, and industrial pollution. Culturally, both regions have subpopulations that depend entirely on water resources for their livelihood, and those populations are threatened by a loss of cultural identity as the resource systems collapse. The threats to these ecosystems are being studied intensively by natural and social scientists, providing a wealth of material to inform this program.  


What are the pre-requisites for the program? 

You need to have completed ENVST 131 and ENVST 132, have equivalent training, or have special permission from the instructors.

Do I have to be an ES major?   

No.  We welcome students from other majors.

How will the credit count towards my major? 

ES majors (both BA and BS) will get credit for the following courses:

  • ES 335 (Aquatic Environment) or ES 375 (Advanced Analysis of Aquatic Systems)
  • ES 330 (Policy) or ES 370 (Science Policy)
  • ES 310 (Estuarine Management)
  • ES 501 (Independent Research)

If you have taken ES 335 before the field semester, you will get a credit for ES 375 (Advanced Analysis of Aquatic Systems) instead of ES 335.

If you have taken ES 330 before the field semester, you will get a credit for ES 370 (Science Policy) instead of ES 330.  However, if you are a BS major, ES 370 will not count towards your major, although it will definitely strengthen your transcript, provide you with important professional skills, and count towards graduation.

In addition all students will receive credit for the writing-intensive distribution requirement in the major.

If you are not an ES major, we will work with you and your academic advisor to determine how credit should be received.

If I plan to participate in the Integrated Field Semester, do I need to take Aquatics (ES 335) or Policy (ES 330)?

NO.  In fact, we would encourage you to wait to take these courses during the integrated field semester.  However, if you have already taken ES 335 and/or ES 330, the course material will be sufficiently enriched and customized for you so that extensive repetition will be avoided and so that you will receive a full 4 credits towards graduation (see also the section above on “How will the course credit count towards my major?”) 

Can my independent research during this semester be continued during the spring semester?  If so, and if I am a senior, would this research be eligible for departmental honors?

Yes, if you make proper arrangements for a research advisor, you can continue your independent research for a second semester.  If you are a senior, and make the appropriate arrangements with an advisor, your research (if continued for a second semester) could be eligible for departmental honors.  You need to seek details regarding these requirements from your advisor and the department chair. 
Can I take other courses during the semester?
NO.  If there are extenuating circumstances, we can discuss this further. 

Can I take this program if I work for ALLARM?

YES.  There will be no conflict.


How much time will we be off-campus and where will we be going? 

We will spend about 5 days in the Chesapeake Bay and coastal area of MD/VA.  We will spend 3 weeks in the lower Mississippi and coastal area of Louisiana.  We will spend 2 days canoeing on the Western Branch of the Susquehanna River in northcentral PA. We will also take a number of day trips in the local area.  During this time, we will be visiting a variety of communities, industrial facilities, and natural areas; and speaking with scientists; decision-makers; impacted residents; resource management professionals; state, federal, and local agency employees; farmers; business managers; and other stakeholders on a variety of environmental issues, ranging from environmental justice to old growth forest protection.

When will we be going to Louisiana?             

We will go to Louisiana during the first three weeks of November, returning in time for Thanksgiving break. 
When will we be going to the Chesapeake?

We will go to the Chesapeake for about 5 days in late September.

How will we travel to Louisiana and the Chesapeake, and where will we stay?

We will travel in vans and stay at motels, campsites, and field stations. During extended field trips, room, board, and transportation will be covered. 



Will I still be able to hold down a job during the semester? 

Yes, but you will need to be sure that your employer is aware of your scheduled time off-campus, and is willing to accommodate this.

How will this impact my extra-curricular activities?
You should be able to participate in your usual extra-curricular activities, but you will need to plan ahead and be sure that you do not make commitments during the periods when you will be off campus, traveling to the Chesapeake and to Louisiana. 


What should I do if I am interested? 

Contact either Prof. Heiman (Kaufman 110, 245-1338) or Prof. Wilderman (Kaufman 112, 245-1573) before classes begin this fall to receive help in planning for this experience.  It is particularly important that you start planning now, as there are some courses you may wish to postpone, and others you may want to take sooner rather than later. There will be further information sessions this fall – keep an eye out for them, and for the call for applications.