An important component of the major is independent research that enables the student to become familiar with the process of science by investigating a specific biological problem in the laboratory or field.
Most courses are extensive rather than intensive in content, thus providing the student with considerable breadth in the biological sciences as a whole. Such training may lead to more specifically focused work such as graduate or professional school, employment in government or industry, or teaching at the secondary or college level. Biologists who are graduates of liberal arts colleges often offer employers a broader, more flexible outlook in approaching problems.
The department of biology occupies the fourth floor of the Haldeman-Thiessen Science Center.
Laboratories include an introductory lab for zoology and botany, a multipurpose lab for ecology, comparative anatomy and other advanced electives, a physiology lab with computer work stations, a cell/genetics lab, and a molecular lab.
An additional lab is reserved exclusively for students working on research projects. Students working on research are given their own keys to labs so they can use them at any time.
Additionally, the department has a greenhouse, herbarium, animal lab, and aquatics lab, all of which are designed to maintain living organisms that can be used in courses or in research projects.
Ecological Field Station
The department maintains this field station on the banks of the Mississippi River, about a 30 minute drive from campus. The EFS is the focal point of the field work in ecology courses and some senior research projects. The station is set up as a classroom/laboratory, and is heated for winter use. Two boats, both with 20-h.p. motors, are stored at the station for use in aquatic work on the Mississippi and local lakes. The location of the station gives easy access to the river and to a variety of terrestrial habitats (e.g., deciduous forests, conifer plantation, agricultural). A variety of field sampling and collecting gear is stored at the station, including live-capture traps for birds and mammals.
LeSuer Nature Preserve
A recently acquired 16.5 acre plot of land within an easy 10-minute walk from campus provides new opportunities for field classes and research. Rolling hills bisected by a large stream offer upland grassland, forest, riparian, and aquatic habitats for study. Restoration of the entire area to pre-settlement conditions (including 5 acres of native tall grass prairie) provides abundant opportunities for student research. Water quality monitoring and aquatic ecology studies are also possible in the stream
The student who seeks certification for secondary education must complete the Biology major cited above, as well as a program of study in education. Their work in biology also qualifies the candidate to teach general science.