News & Resources

Courses that Change Your Life: Wildlife Ecology (BIOL 345)

Posted by Paul Wiemerslage in College Program | Jan 12, 2016

Last year, the Institute received a letter from a recent alumnus. He told us that “…I wanted to pursue a career in wildlife ecology. [My home college] did not, and still does not, offer a single course in wildlife ecology. I was able to fill this gap through…Au Sable. I was immersed in field-based learning developing skills which led directly to my acceptance into graduate school…When I decided to attend graduate school, it was an Au Sable professor who accepted me as an advisee to the University of Wisconsin. My Au Sable experiences were more extensive than most students, but even if the wildlife class was the only one I took it was hugely influential, leading directly to my MS research. The opening of that door ultimately led to a PhD and the launching of my career.” The author was Dr. David MacFarland (see photo, right), currently the top carnivore biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and head of the programs for managing wolves and black bears. The course Dr. MacFarland is referring to is Wildlife Ecology.

Immersed in the forests of northern Michigan at Au Sable’s Great Lakes Campus, Wildlife Ecology has been one of the Institute’s best offerings in preparing students for graduate programs and professional employment in wildlife management and conservation. The course instructor has much to do with it.  Wildlife Ecology is taught by Tim Van Deelen (University of Wisconsin-Madison, see photo right), one of North America’s foremost wildlife ecologists and a specialist in wolf ecology, deer management, and predator-prey relations. Under Van Deelen's instruction, Wildlife Ecology provides a seamless integration of scientific theories of population management, habitat management, hands-on application, experience and skills needed for field research , and practical understanding of the paths to further education and employment, all undergirded with careful and studied understanding of Christian environmental ethics and the biblical principles essential to inform the care of creation in the discipline of wildlife management.

Students are often transformed in Wildlife Ecology from individuals with casual interests in wildlife to people with a clear and focused understanding of real needs and problems that now face many wildlife species, brought together by a skillful teacher who is at the forefront of achieving solutions in these dilemmas. As one student noted, “Tim's expertise and enthusiasm for the subject matter of this course was possibly the best I have encountered. Readings, field trips, the project and the lectures were all very helpful in increasing my knowledge of the subject.”

Today, David MacFarland not only has a PhD, more importantly, he has critical responsibilities in the care of God’s creation in the area of wildlife conservation, now guiding the development of research and management for top carnivores in the state of Wisconsin, and his publications in journals like Ecological Modeling, Journal of Mammalogy and Forest Ecology and Management aid and influence scientists all over the world. BIOL 345, Wildlife Ecology, changed David MacFarland’s life. Discover how it can change yours.