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  —Our Mission

Intro to Field Research and Conservation

Intro to Field Research and Conservation

NR200 Special Projects Course

(2 units)

We are looking for students interested in taking 2-unit, largely, outdoor-based courses this spring. This course is a joint course between Cal Poly SLO and UC Santa Cruz. This is a course primarily based on three weekend outdoor field experiences staying at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Swanton Pacific Ranch as well as surrounding lands managed for conservation including state, federal, non-profit, and private lands. This course will explore applied land management and conservation field research across the Central California Coast.


Intro to field research and conservation – NR200

Course Description

Learn about how land managers are actively managing their lands in order to enhance and monitor local animals, plants, and ecosystems. Participate in field sampling (plants and animals) methods and field research in general, talk with professionals about their careers working to manage and enhance natural lands, work with peers to conduct field observational studies, camp out, and get to know your colleagues. We will meet for three weekend overnight camping trips (Friday evenings through midday Sunday) throughout the spring academic period, as well as have periodic check-ins on in between weeks via zoom. For overnight camping weekends, we will be staying at Cal Poly SLO Swanton Pacific Ranch just north of Santa Cruz and exploring the surrounding partner lands of the UC Santa Cruz Mountains Reserve. No experience (science or camping) is necessary, and we encourage you to apply regardless of your major or your experience spending time in nature. The course is open to any UCSC or Cal Poly SLO student - you do not need to be a science major. You will receive 2-units of credit. If you have questions, please contact us (see contact info below).


This course serves as an introductory class that focuses entirely on exposing freshmen, sophomore & transfer students to local habitats and land management throughout the Central Coast of California and how to conduct field-based studies. To facilitate immersive field-based teaching, the course will include three weekend camping trips. Lectures will be scheduled as online evening sessions to discuss field trips and provide background information, as well as introductory material in field research and land management.


What you need

Nothing. If you are interested in this experience, you are qualified. There will be three weekend overnight field trips to Swanton Pacific Ranch and surrounding UC Natural Reserves and partnering lands (weather dependent). If you do not have camping gear, we will provide it.


What is included?

Everything! Food, on-site transportation, and camping equipment if needed (you don’t need to have your own).


The preliminary (likely but could change slightly) schedule for lectures will be in the evenings on online (via zoom or otherwise) from approximately 5:30 – 7:00 pm. Lectures will not be held every week, they will be held on off weeks between field trip weeks.

PLEASE NOTE – This course is targeting students in their first year (freshman and transfers); however, some spots may be available for other years.

PLEASE NOTE – One session will likely be for transfer students while the other will be freshman and sophomores.

 Overnight Field Trips
4/12-4/14        Intro to Applied Land Management
4/26-4/28        Intro to Field Research Methodologies
5/10-5/12        Rapid Research Project

Cal Poly SLO students will meet on campus around 4:30pm on Friday afternoons and return Sunday early evening. See dates above. Transportation is not provided, but students may arrange carpools between themselves. There is a slight chance that van transportation will be available.

How to enroll:

Enroll by emailing NRES Professor Jeremy James

If you have questions about the course, please contact Grey Hayes (Swanton Pacific Ranch Education and Research Programs Manager) at

Space is limited, so enroll soon if you want a spot!

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