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Freshwater lake sturgeon have long, scaleless bodies with ridges along their spines.
A teen drips water quality testing solution into a beaker of beach water.

Program overview

Freshwater Ecology is an upper-level undergraduate course offered to students enrolled in an ACCA school. Offered annually in the fall semester, this class introduces students to aquatic ecology with a special focus on local waterways and human-environment interactions. In this class, students will investigate and research the roles that water, animals, plants and humans play in freshwater ecosystems. Classes are held in Shedd’s classrooms and exhibits, and include field trips in the greater Chicago area.

Program description

Classes are held at Shedd on six Saturdays in September and October. Classes consist of a combination of lecture and hands-on activities utilizing Shedd’s collections and expertise. Students will actively gain an appreciation for the diversity in form and function of aquatic animals, and an understanding of some of the techniques used to study animal behavior. Immersive activities on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River provide hands-on experience in field research and will reiterate concepts from lectures and readings.

Program outcomes

  • Have a basic grasp of key ecological terms and the importance of the discipline of ecology of freshwater systems
  • Identify key taxonomic groups inhabiting freshwater ecosystems
  • Understand how anthropogenic stressors impact freshwater ecosystems
  • Gain an appreciation of the scientific method as it pertains to freshwater ecology- including collection and analysis of scientific data, and publishing of the results
  • Become familiar with reading primary literature- what information is contained in the various sections, how to navigate through statistical content, how to effectively critique and discuss a manuscript with their peers