“It’s tracking week in NR 2, and we’re really excited to take our first-year students out to Jericho Research Forest to take advantage of the great snow and wildlife habitat,” said Senior Lecturer Walter Poleman, who instructs the NR 2 course, Natural History and Human Ecology, which all Rubenstein School first-year students take in the spring semester.
"I'm really pleased that we have my friend and colleague Mike Kessler as our guide," said Poleman. "Mike's a tracker, and he's taught many courses to UVM students over the years. He was willing to come out this February to take a look and see what stories are written in the snow."
Over the course of the week, more than 100 students had the opportunity to learn about animal activity in the winter by using the snow as a template for recording movements of creatures. This was also their first time visiting Jericho Research Forest. While practicing COVID-safe protocols, students participating in the live field labs met up with Kessler. He led them off the beaten path while following animal tracks and other signs that told stories of fox, fisher, squirrel, and more.
“As a scientist, you are deconstructing something but you’re also, as an artist, constructing a story—a narrative—and it becomes rather poetic at times,” said Kessler. “By becoming familiar with the habits and the activities of the creatures here, you become so close, you develop an affinity with them—a relationship.”
For those students learning remotely this semester, videographer Vic Guadagno of Bright Blue Ecomedia produced the accompanying video, which features Kessler and Poleman on a tracking expedition at the research forest.