Now its researchers are teaching environmental science to RPI undergraduates who are living and working at the Bolton Landing facility.
It’s the first time since RPI opened the field station on Lake George in the 1980s that the university has offered a full semester of course work to undergraduates at the site.
According to Chuck Boylen, the Darrin Fresh Water Institute’s associate director, the Institute’s mission has always included education, but a lack of dormitory space made it impossible to accommodate undergraduate programs.
That defect was remedied in 2003, when RPI converted a 19th century summer cottage on the property into a year-round education and research facility, with a state-of-the art computing center, space for lectures and films and rooms for visiting scholars and students.
While some of the undergraduates participating in the semester on Lake George are commuting to Bolton Landing from RPI’s Troy campus, others are now occupying those rooms.
“We’ve expanded the RPI campus to include Bolton Landing,” said Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, the institute’s executive director.
The rooms’ rustic décor is certainly a departure from that of the usual dorm rooms, said Nicole Nolan. “Mine is moose-themed,” she said.
As on any campus, the students spend a significant amount of time in the laboratories and classrooms. But they also spend equal amounts of time on Lake George.
That’s one of the aspects of the program that attracted Kelsey Cote. “I had intended to be a cell biologist, but I realized that spending my life in a lab was not something I wanted to do,” she said.
“The students do field work, work with graduate students on individual research projects , do lab work with sophisticated technology and get exposed to environmental conservation organizations and agencies,” said Nierzwicki-Bauer. “That’s what we offer. It’s a great opportunity for the kids.”
The program’s blend of theory and practice makes it an especially strong one, said Chuck Boylen.
This year’s semester is essentially a pilot project for what Boylen and Nierzwicki-Bauer hopes will become a multi-disciplinary program serving large numbers of students every year.
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