California's DNA: Field Course

Description: Lecture, one hour; fieldwork, four hours (every other week). Limited to freshmen. Students join CALeDNA community science program and do fieldwork to sample soil and sediments in California. Familiarization with University of California natural reserves spanning coast to woodland, and desert to mountains. Analysis of samples for DNA to capture snapshot of local biodiversity. Prepares students for more intensive, related upper-division science course. Guided Saturday field trips or independent trips. Letter grading.

Units: 1.0
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Overall Rating N/A
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Overall Rating 4.0
Easiness 5.0/ 5
Clarity 4.0/ 5
Workload 4.0/ 5
Helpfulness 4.0/ 5
Most Helpful Review
Fall 2019 - Pretty chill weekly lectures, many people from Wayne Lab as well as guest speakers are present in the class giving information on their involvement in biodiversity studies and ecology so this could be a great way to make connections if you're interested in the field. However, the main focus of the class was the weekly field trips on almost every Saturday morning (the first and last of which are mandatory, and you're required to go to at least one other field trip) where we got to go to interesting natural habitats around LA, hike around, collect some environmental DNA, and take pictures using the iNaturalist app to record what biodiversity we saw. The field trips are absolutely FREE, and honestly I would have gone to almost all of them if I could, as they were all extremely interesting and sometimes let you go some cool natural areas that you wouldn't be able to access individually (like the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve, which has a really nice beach). If you don't know what you would do on Saturdays as a freshman otherwise, and you're interested in biology and nature, this class is definitely worth a shot. There are some slight downsides, and that includes the weekly assignments, which often require you to watch some videos or read articles, sometimes followed by creating a doc to record some information about what you learned (one week we learned about ecosystems, the other about geology, etc.) I personally felt that these could be somewhat tedious for a 1 unit class, and often the lectures that were supposed to follow up on them felt slightly disorganized, even if you did do the assignment. An iClicker is required for participation during class. Since it's a pass-fail, there's almost no danger of you getting a bad grade, but it did lead to some awkward moments during lecture when the professor asked us about what we learned. Plus, it's initially a bit confusing to understand how exactly to collect the environmental DNA and record the samples on the field trips, so you kind of have to figure things out on the spot in the first field trip (and have the TAs lowkey carry you). Also there's a lab notebook entry and trip survey you have to work on after every field trip so it's not all fun and games. All things considered though, the overall workload is relatively light, the professors are eager to chat if you want to learn more, and you'll get to enjoy some interesting trips. At worst, at least there are no tests/final.
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