In the spring of 2020 I had the privilege of co-teaching with Scott Semmens, a master wildlife tracker and adjunct faculty member in Environmental Studies, a course in Sustainable Wildlife Management. The wildlife conservation course was designed to include outings tracking mammals in NH and a post-semester trip with the students to Nepal. Before the spring break, and the onset of the global pandemic, we met twice each week. Following the spring break we met with students on Zoom once each week. Due to COVID, the field experiences were cancelled.
The course covers principles of wildlife conservation and management, stressing the application of ecological principles to achieve wildlife management objectives, and intensive preparation for two-weeks of field work in the Terai Arc lowland region of Nepal in May. The essential questions of the course included: How do species’ morphology, physiology, and behavioral changes in response to the changing seasons and evolving ecosystems? How should local species be managed? In what ways do you think our views on the natural world should change? Topics included conservation, management, and restoration of wildlife habitats; wildlife population assessment and management; human dimensions and human-wildlife interactions; management of wildlife in agricultural, range, and forested ecosystems; and wildlife policy at the local, state, national, and international level.
We covered hands-on techniques for developing naturalist skills, reflective activities designed to understand the destruction of habitats, the extinction of species and the advent of climate change that requires that a reassessment of our interaction to the ecosystems that sustains all living things, and cultivating ways of expressing thoughts about our changing relationship with the natural world. Students worked in groups to develop core skill sets needed during the stay in Nepal, including, camera traps, animal tracks, signs, and trails, photography, bird identification, and the use of GIS technology.
My contributions to the course began with a summer planning session with Scott. We developed the proposal and responded to the campus global education committee’s questions and feedback. I later attended a GEO workshop for faculty teaching field-based trips, and worked with Scott to blend our experiences and skills as outdoor educators.
The students conducted research and reflection for the first project in this course, a longer essay, “Developing a Frame of Mind,” designed to promote thinking about what it might mean to cultivate a sense of place—to express thoughts and reflections about our changing relationship with the natural world—and to consider how cultural attitudes and beliefs inform a sense of the common good.
The second project I developed for the course was inspired by a class I was taking concurrently, #Envision2030, a Wiki Scholars course hosted jointly by Keene State and Wiki Education. I guided each of the students in Sustainable Wildlife Management to become a member of a Wikipedia community dedicated to contributing content to the encyclopedia Wikipedia and collaborating with others who have chosen to volunteer their time and hard work to improving the online information. I focused the student work on contributing to WikiProject Nepal and Wikipedia’s coverage of Nepal related topics.
The students 1) worked in groups to learn more about the natural and cultural history of Nepal and 2) shared some of what they learned as a member of a global community of people who volunteer their time and hard work to provide one of the world’s most valuable digital resources. The wiki work was inspired by the UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development Goals , also known as the Global Goals, a shared agenda to end poverty, fight inequality & injustice, and protect the planet. The seventeen SDGs provided a framework for acting on our individual commitments to sustainability by engaging with others around the world who are working to end poverty, fight inequality & injustice, and protect the planet.
Our Sustainable Wildlife Management WikiEdu Course Page on WikiEdu allowed students to complete Wikiedu course modules and to learn to identify content gaps in existing articles, create new articles, and edit extant Wikipedia pages. The students set up sandboxes for writing, revising, editing.
The course was an experience that models the kinds of intellectual exchange we might do more of at the College. To this end, I met with the dean of the school of Sustainability, Sciences and Health to talk about how we might create more opportunities like this to work across disciplinary and school lines. I was able to bring in materials that enhanced the science-based curriculum and the ecological and anthropological expertise of my co-instructor in turn shaped the student’s experiences with reading and writing in the course. Reading the writings and viewing lectures and podcasts by the anthropologist Wade Davis, the ethologist Marc Bekoff, the literary and cultural historian Robert McFarlane, and the conservation biologist Jane Goodall, offered the students a remarkable experience—even though we were unable, due to the global pandemic, to travel together to work with the Nepal-based conservation organization, the Tiger Trust, and to help the people of Mughali develop naturalist curriculum in their schools.
I set up a domain and a course site, Sustainable Wildlife Management in Nepal, although we did not develop it due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scott and I hope to be able to offer the course when the global pandemic subsides.