Kits mailed out for ESRM 351.
Laura Prugh/University of Washington
Laura Prugh mailed each enrolled student a kit containing a camera trap (shown here in a camouflage lockbox), a python cable lock to lock the camera to a tree, an Audiomoth acoustic recorder, a pair of binoculars, a compass and a ziplock bag with other items such as batteries, SD cards, a card reader and usb connecting cable. Prugh included return mailers in each box so that students can easily return the equipment at the end of the quarter.

Every spring, Laura Prugh teaches a wildlife research techniques class at the University of Washington. Her students spend much of their time outside, complementing their lecture notes with actual experience. They learn to identify and properly handle animals — frogs, salamanders and bushy-tailed woodrats, for example — and they practice using equipment for tracking animals and estimating populations.

But when the UW announced it was moving its spring quarter 2020 classes entirely online to combat the novel coronavirus, Prugh and other instructors across campus faced a new, unchartered challenge.

“During our faculty meeting on Zoom to discuss what to do with field courses, I burst into tears, much to my surprise,” said Prugh, an associate professor of environmental and forest sciences. “I love teaching this course. It’s great getting the students out into the field and getting to know them really well.”

Prugh initially considered canceling the class, which is a requirement for some students majoring in environmental sciences and resource management.

“I had to go through a mourning period before I could readjust my expectations and accept that the students are going to need to learn about some of the techniques just in the lecture component,” Prugh said. “But then maybe we can come up with a plan for the rest of the content.”

Prugh decided to mail each enrolled student a kit that includes a camera trap, an acoustic recorder, a compass and binoculars. Students will use their kits to complete independent research projects from home. The class will also participate in timely citizen-science projects that aim to understand how stay-at-home orders across the world have affected urban wildlife.

Read more at UW News »