Happy summer everybody! My name’s Erin Toohey, and I’m going to tell you about my month at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory up near Okoboji, Iowa. From May 20-June 14 I was up at Lakeside taking Ecology, which is required for both my Biology and Animal Ecology majors.
I decided in April to take Ecology up at Lakeside because I thought that it would be a great class to take with a more hands-on approach. Lakeside not only gave me that, but also many other cool things that classes don’t always give you at Iowa State. For one thing, there were only nine people in my class. I can’t remember the last time my classes were so small! It was also really nice because you get to know a lot of really cool people, not just students but faculty as well (connections!). Finally, the class was really awesome because it was so hands-on. We lectured here and there, but there was so many more projects and outdoor fieldwork we got to do that helped reinforce what we learned in the classroom. We sampled plants in a prairie, took stream data to analyze runoff from rain, did bird sampling and also fish sampling. We also had a few longer field trips. One morning we went to a farm that raised and sold prairie plants, and we also took a day trip to the Loess hills!
The other awesome things about Lakeside are the “campus” and location! The “campus” is in quotations because it consists of probably 25ish buildings, including the housing, dining, and bathhouses. To me, it’s more like a camp than a campus, only because ISU is so big. There are cabins or motel-style rooms you stay in, and a mess hall right in the center of that area. It’s also a beautiful setting! Yes, it is on the side of the lake, as the name suggests. You’re pretty much living out in nature for a whole month! For someone like me, who absolutely loves nature, it was amazing! And because it’s on Lake Okoboji and the surrounding lakes, there’s a lot of outdoors-y stuff to do. Unfortunately most of the weekends I was there were rainy and miserable, but I did go canoeing a lot! There was also a lot of bonfires, Wal-Mart runs, some geocaching (if you don’t know what this is and want to know, watch the movie Splinterheads on Netflix), movie watching (we did watch Splinterheads among other movies), and I quite possibly rolled down a giant hill.
If you are majoring in any life sciences, I highly recommend taking a class at Lakeside Laboratory. They have two summer sessions and even a short winter session during winter break. The classes they offer vary every year and range from normal Ecology to Ecology and Systematics of Diatoms to Field Archaeology. The classes range from one week to four weeks long, but you still learn just as much as in a normal semester. It was more enjoyable for me because I’d rather be out learning in the wild than sitting in a lecture hall. You also get the chance to meet some pretty awesome people, including people who go to ISU that you might have never met otherwise. Overall, it was an absolute blast, and I’m so glad I did it! If you want more information, the website is http://lakesidelab.org/.