Students experience tundra firsthand in Canada

August 18, 2016
Class by the Ithica Shipwreck

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – A group of University of Wisconsin-Platteville students and faculty traveled north of the border for a unique educational experience. Dr. Jeff Huebschman, biology professor and Ryan Schmitz, biology lecturer, led seven students to the Churchill Northern Studies Centre on the Hudson Bay in Canada. The group was gone for 14 days in June.

Students earned credit for the class, ABC Ecology: Subarctic, Boreal and Coastal Ecology. “The students that we had did great,” said Huebschman. “They really got into it.”

The group drove from Platteville to Thompson, Manitoba, Canada, and continued to Churchill via train. The trip north included educational stops along the way, including at the Itaska State Park in Minnesota. They viewed the headwaters of the Mississippi River one day and the next day crossed into the Hudson Bay drainage, where the water flows north, into Canada.

En route, they stayed at the university in Winnipeg, Canada. While in Winnipeg they visited the Manitoba Museum, where they met with museum curators. They visited the Assiniboine Park Zoo, where Huebschman was able to arrange a unique behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo’s research lab, exclusively for the UW-Platteville students.

Because Churchill is not accessible by road, the final stage of the trip meant an overnight train ride for the group. “It was a new experience for many of the students,” said Huebschman.

Once at Churchill and the research station, the group had access to laboratory equipment, a vehicle to explore their surroundings, access to other researchers and use of the facility. They were able to schedule seminars with researchers as well.

Throughout their stay at Churchill, the students conducted four mini research projects, with student leaders taking charge of each project, giving them an opportunity to learn about the tundra landscape and wildlife in the area. A highlight for the students was taking a ride on a zodiac onto the bay and view beluga whales and other creatures, such as harbor seals.

The students tagged along with other researchers and saw how they caught and banded shorebirds, measure eggs and drew blood.

Huebschman and Schmitz led pre-trip planning sessions during the spring semester to prepare the students for the excursion. 

Student participants included Aubrey S. Berning, a biology and veterinary medicine major from Hazel Green, Wisconsin; Paige N Ehrecke, a biology and business administration major from Long Grove, Iowa; Nicholas Giefer, a biology major from Plainfield, Illinois; Scout Marie Harrison, a biology major from Brooklyn, Wisconsin; Molly Nicole Lingel, a biology major from Platteville; Samuel G. Simmons, a biology major from Williamsburg, Iowa and Anna K. Stuart, a biology major from Dubuque, Iowa.

As UW-Platteville pursues its vision of being recognized as the leading student-focused university for its success in achieving excellence, creating opportunities, and empowering each individual, it is guided by four strategic planning priorities. The trip aligns with the priorities of providing an outstanding education and fostering a community of achievement and respect.

Written by: Dan Wackershauser, Communications Specialist, University Information and Communications, 608-342-1194,


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