Field Ornithology

Summer 2023 Second Session
Day, Evening and Weekend
Freshman - Graduate
Class Size: 15
4 8 Credits per quarter
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Birds undertake a suite of distinct activities over the course of their annual cycle, including breeding, molt, and migration. Understanding variation in these activities by different species offers important conservation-related insights and may reveal constraints birds face in an environment changing with advancing climate disruption. The variety of habitats in the Washington Cascade Mountains offers an opportunity to explore avian ecology and variations in life history strategies through intensive field ornithology. This class provides an opportunity to develop ornithological field skills while collecting and contributing to a long-term dataset focused on avian breeding, molting and migration ecology. We will apply observational and hands-on ornithological techniques, including intensive bird-netting and banding at a variety of elevations from riparian scrub to montane meadows. Learning in this program will occur primarily in the field during two multi-day camping trips to the Washington Cascades and at field locations in and around the Olympia campus.

Advance readings and class meetings will provide the background needed to make the most of our field time. Learning in the field will be complemented with readings and discussions focused on the scientific process and the role of scientists in society. Independent projects offer students who have completed the pre-requisite work the opportunity to complete upper-division credit. The program will culminate in a final presentation session in which students share their learning from the program.

Students enrolling for 4-credits will participate in three weeks of the program. This includes (1) on-campus classes and associated coursework during the first week, (2) one of the two week-long field trips, and (3) class meetings during the third week of the program. Upper division science credit and Graduate credit are not available to students taking enrolling for four credits.

Note regarding field trip: The multi-day field trip portion of the class will involve camping in remote areas of the Cascades. Cool nights, hot days, field cooking, camp chores and the usual array of field conditions, such as occasional thunderstorms, bugs and snakes, mosquitoes, etc., will be part of the experience. Facilities are generally pit or vault toilets and taps with drinking water, though some field excursions may require bringing water along. Living outside helps to expand our understanding of the conditions the birds are dealing with, but it may not be for everyone!

Graduate Credit Option:  Graduate credit is available to graduate students enrolled for 8-credits. To be awarded graduate credit, the student must be enrolled in a graduate program and must complete an independent research project.  Near the beginning of the program, students will be introduced to a series of potential field project topics from which to choose.  Projects will involve formation of testable hypotheses, study design, field data collection, analysis, interpretation and completion of a final report and presentation


Find additional details about the program here:



There are no prerequisites required to enroll. If a student wants to attempt upper division science credit, they must have completed the prerequisite worked described in the "Upper Division Science Credit" section of this description.

Summer 2023 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

Second Session (8): 40037
Second Session (4): 40130
GR Second Session (8): 40131

Academic details

Preparatory for studies and careers in

Ornithology, Ecology, Wildlife Conservation

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing

8 Credit Students: $800 required fee covers entrance fees ($70), van and gas fees ($330), food and camping fees ($380), and a printed reader from the bookstore ($20).

4 Credit Students: $400 required fee covers entrance fees ($30), van and gas fees ($160), food and camping fees ($190), and a printed reader from the bookstore ($20)

Upper Division Science Credit

Upper division science credit is available to students enrolled for 8-credits. To be awarded upper-division science credit, the student must:

1. Have completed the following pre-requisite coursework: General Biology with Lab (12 credits), College-level Math such as Precalculus, Calculus I, Statistics 1 (4 credits).

2. Complete an independent project. Near the beginning of the program students will be introduced to a series of potential field project topics from which to choose.  There will also be an overview of commonly-used statistical analyses. Interested students will choose a project topic, formulate a testable hypothesis, design a study to test the hypothesis, implement the study design and collect data in the field, conduct statistical analysis, and interpret and communicate study results via a scientific report and presentation.


In Person or Remote
In Person
Time Offered
Day, Evening, and Weekend
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

LAB 1 1050 - Class Lab