Normally, class does not begin with catching professors when they’ve just stepped out of the tub. But this is not a normal class. And the “tub” from which geology Prof. Richard Dunn has just emerged is actually a canoe on the Connecticut River, which is frigid and frothing here by a railroad-repair yard and freshly tilled cornfield in North
Shivering visibly while sipping from a plastic coffee mug, Dunn surveys his surroundings. Eight green tents line the riverbank while beige tarps protect the makeshift kitchen—Coleman stoves, cast-iron pots and canisters of Swiss Miss resting on a red overturned Old Town canoe—from the rain, which arrived yesterday and threatens to reappear today. Undergraduates in camouflage pants, nylon jackets and long johns clean up from their pancake breakfast while the smoldering embers of a campfire release the smell of wood smoke.
No, this is not a normal class. It’s Ecology and Geology of the Connecticut River Valley, an intensive, hands-on immersion in science that packs a semester’s worth of field study into two weeks in late May. Emphasis on immersion. In a few minutes on this Tuesday morning, the 21 students will break into groups and wade into the river to drag for plankton, take water samples and calculate the river’s width, depth and velocity. continue