The Department of Biology usually offers one or more field courses to get you out doing science in the real world. In 2015/16, the only field course offered was BI367: Field Botany (Medicinal Plants in the Flora of Ontario). This course will be offered again in Spring 2017; it is possible others will be offered as well.
You may also be able to take a field course for credit through another institution. Locations in 2015/16 ranged from Algonquin Provincial Park to Ecuador to China. Jump to Ontario Universities Program in Field Biology.
BI367: Field Botany (Medicinal Plants in the Flora of Ontario)
One-day field trips to various habitats from Southern Ontario, complemented by lectures and laboratory work. The lectures will be closely tied to the laboratory and field work. They will provide general and theoretical background to what you see in the field and the laboratory. During the laboratory you will identify those plants that require microscopes (the majority of them), and you will essentially learn how to create a herbarium collection.
Instructor: Associate Professor Mihai Costea.
Cost: $400 - additional cost on top of regular tuition.
Dates: May 15 - 26, 2017.
Location: Various locations in Southern Ontario; mostly day trips from Laurier's Waterloo campus.
Enrolment Limit: 12 students.
Detailed Course Description
Basic principles of field botany with emphasis on the identification and systematics of medicinal vascular plants (ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms) from Southern Ontario. The course will introduce you to field, herbarium, and laboratory methods used in plant systematics, biodiversity and pharmacognosy. Cultivated and native medicinal plants from diverse habitats will be covered.
Topics will include: plant collecting, plant identification and preparation of herbarium voucher specimens, documenting plant diversity in relation with ecological factors, observations on reproductive biology, natural history, and uses of plants by Aboriginal peoples.
Day trips will be arranged to various natural habitats from Southern Ontario, the Arboretum in Guelph and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton. Lectures and laboratory work will complement field instruction.
Disclaimer: Please note that although the botanical information presented may be useful for a future health career, the course is not intended to teach you how to become a practitioner of medicine, pharmacy or naturopathy. Furthermore, information from this course is not meant to substitute medical advice; as with all health issues, professional assistance should always be sought from a physician.
BI367 shares registration procedures with other OUPFB courses – see below for details.
Registration dates for BI367: Jan 30 - Feb 1, 2017.
Registration will open at 8:30 a.m. in the Biology office (BA401), Waterloo campus. Our office closes at 4:30 p.m.
You cannot register online.
Costs and Accommodation
Course expense fee = $400 ($350 deposit; $50 balance due at the beginning of the course).
Please note that you would also have to pay the tuition just like any other course at your home university. The course expense fee only includes:
- Transportation to various locations in Southern Ontario.
- Two nights in Bruce Peninsula.
- The consumables for laboratory work and herbarium mounting supplies.
- Travel expenses both to and from your residence if you live outside of Waterloo.
- Your own food (lunch bag during the field trips).
- Cost of accommodation if you are not from the area and don’t have family or friends with whom you can stay for two weeks.
If you do not already live in Waterloo, you will have to make accommodation arrangements for the two-week duration of the course. Here are some options:
- Summer accommodations at Laurier: $200/week or lower if you are willing to share a room. See rates.
- Arrange accommodations with the local students: probably the cheaper alternative but I (Mihai Costea) can neither guarantee I will find someone, nor am I responsible for any potential disagreements you may have with them.
In either case, please let me know as soon as possible which one of the two above options you prefer before you start making arrangements.
Field Trips (Tentative)
- Sudden Tract and Dickson wilderness: Forest, meadows, wetlands.
- Luther Marsh: Bogs and fens.
- Backus Woods and Long Point: Carolinian forest and sand dunes.
- Bognor Marsh: Wetlands and the Niagara escarpment.
- Bruce Peninsula: Various habitats; rare and endangered plants (we'll spend two nights there).
- Guelph Arboretum: Cultivated and native woody plants.
- Belgian Nurseries: Cultivated plants in Southern Ontario.
- Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton: Medicinal collections; Mediterranean plants.
- A disturbed, abandoned field in the Waterloo/Kitchener area for weeds and invasive plants.
- Dickinson, T., Metsger, D., Bull, J. & R. Dickinson. 2004. The ROM Field Guide to Wildflowers of Ontario. Toronto ON, Royal Ontario Museum and McClelland and Stewart Ltd.
- Farrar, J. L. 2000. Trees in Canada. Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited and Canadian Forest Service.
- Soper, J. H. & Heimburger, M. L. 1982. Shrubs of Ontario. Toronto ON, Royal Ontario Museum.
- Foster, S. and R. L. Johnson. 2008. Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine. National Geographic.
- Lewis, Walter H. and Memory R. F. Elvin-Lewis. 2003. Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Human Health. 2nd ed. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ.
- Rätsch, C. 2005. The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants. Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Park Stree Press.
Assignments and Evaluation
- A herbarium collection of 50 species (you have the option to keep it).
- An individual final project. You will prepare a final paper based on your field data. See "Resources for Final Project" below.
- Plant identification test: 25%
- Project paper: 45%
- Herbarium collection: 20%
- Participation: 10%
What to Bring to the Field
You will need to bring the following on all field trips.
- insect repellent
- water and food for one day (lunch bag)
- sturdy shoes or boots
- long pants
- rain gear
We will provide you with:
- Field guides.
- Plastic bags for collecting specimens, plant presses, cardboard and corrugated paper, mounting material.
- Clippers or pruning shears.
- GPS units.
- Hand lenses.
Attendance and Safety Policies
You are expected to fully attend on a daily basis for the entire two-week field course.
Most safety concerns are common sense but some are noted below:
Insects, snakes, etc.: If you are hyper-allergic to insect bites, please let me (Mihai Costea) know. Always look before you step.
Poisonous plants, poison ivy and mushrooms: Be careful; we are in poison ivy country and there are plenty of poisonous plants and mushrooms around.
Other health concerns: Let me know me if you are epileptic, diabetic or if you have a special condition so we will know how to deal with an emergency should one arise.
Resources for Final Project
1. Resources for the Identification Key
Check the correct spelling of Latin names. If names are not too distorted, Google will correct most of them. However, to make absolutely sure, use one of these resources:
- International Plant Names Index
- Tropicos: ‘Inspiration’ for characters that can be used to construct the identification key.
- Flora of Michigan: This is the most powerful resource for you because we have most of the plants in common. Don’t forget to cite it.
- Flora of North America: Includes more species because it covers the entire USA and Canada; however, not all the plant families have taxonomic treatments available.
- Field guides, such as the one that we have used (see "Field Guides" above).
- Scoggan, H.J. The Flora of Canada. 1978. National Museums of Canada, Publications in Botany, No. 7 (1-4).
- Gleason, H. A. and Cronquist, A. 1991. Manual of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, Second Edition
2. Resources for the Medicinal Plants
- Foster, S. and R. L. Johnson. 2008. Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine. National Geographic. (Very good material at an affordable price – I (Mihai Costea) recommend buying it if you are interested in the topic.)
- Native American Ethnobotany
- Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases
- Plants For A Future
Note: Try to make a distinction between “traditional” uses and verified, scientific medical applications. Although the distinction may seem easy, the modern findings are scattered in hundreds and hundreds of papers. Some books, like the Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine, show this difference, but most of them have only a selection of species. The level of detail/effort you put into compiling this information will determine your mark.
The Ontario Universities Program in Field Biology (OUPFB) provides students from participating universities with a tremendously broad and varied selection of field courses. If you are interested in the natural world and keen on gaining the experience and perspective uniquely offered through field-based learning and research, this is your opportunity.
There is a unique application process for all OUPFB courses, including BI367. Please note that you cannot apply online.
- Download and fill out the OUPFB Application Form (pdf).
- Apply for the course at the Laurier Biology Office (Bricker Academic Building, Room BA401, Waterloo Campus).
- In addition to the regular 0.5-credit tuition fee, you will be required to pay a deposit of $350 to Laurier at the time of application, and later, the balance of the course fee to the host university prior to departure. Attach a cheque made out to Wilfrid Laurier University to your application.
Descriptions of all field courses, including costs and prerequisites, are available on the OUPFB website.
Enrolment in each course is limited. Each university receives only a small number of guaranteed spots in certain courses. However, after the first round of applications, remaining available spots can be filled by students from any university. This is why it is important to have several course options on your application. Courses may be cancelled if there are too few early applications.
The $350 deposit will be refunded if a student does not get into the course of his/her choosing. However, students who drop a field course should not expect a refund of any field course-related costs.