-- Winter Ecology --

A Field Course at CU's Mountain Research Station
EBIO 4100 or 5100, Sec 570

Spring 2022 - 3 Credits

Meets ENVS’s Application requirement – Meets EBIO’s Field/Lab & 4000 requirements

Enrollment open to students from all US colleges and universities  

6 Weekends – At the Mountain Research Station
*  Saturday and Sunday Field Days
   *   Evening guest lectures Saturdays
*  Wednesday Lectures, Main Campus  *


Slide 1

Mountain Research Station – 6 Weekends.  Sat/Sun 22/23 Jan –  Sat 26 Feb 2022
Times: Sat – 8:30a-5p & 7:30-8.30p, Sun – 8:30a-5p

Boulder campus –  Lecture Weds 5-6p – Ketchum 1B20
Course Intro/Orientation meeting (mandatory) 12 Jan 2022
6 Lectures: 19 Jan 23 Feb 2022

* * *    * * *

* This page has recently been moved - Updating of links is in progress

mrs logo

* * * Course Syllabus  * * *

Course Description
Syllabus for printing
Course Mechanics
Location (also: Getting There)
Dates & Times
Reservations (hold a spot in the course)
   Financial Aid Questions

Course Format
   Projects (also: Guidelines)

Schedule-at-Glance (see right fame on this page ->>)
Getting There

Course Flyer
Instructor's Goals
Words from Previous Years' Students

Health Matters
Required Personal Equipment (also: What to Bring)
University Course Policies

Photo Gallery:

    2018 class pix (4M) - click on image for full res
18 class pix

2017 class pix (12 & 9M) - click on image for full res

2017 Winter Ecology (photos: (c) T Kittel, with thanks to Kris Hess)

2016 class pix (7M) - click on image for full res16
2016 Winter Ecology (photo: (c) T Kittel)

2015 class pix (8M) - click on image for full res2015 class photo
2015 Winter Ecology (photo: (c) T Kittel)

2014 class pix (2.4M)14

2014 Winter Ecology (photo: (c) Fernando Lima)

2013 class pix (5.4M)
2013 Winter Ecology (photo: Kelly Matheson)

2012 class pix (4.8M)
2012 Class Photo
2012 Winter Ecology (photo: Kelly Matheson)

2011 class pix (4.5M) (photo originals: Kelly Matheson, T Kittel - composite by Justin Burman)
2010 class pix (2.5M)
2009 Collage (2M)
2008 Collage


* * * Announcements * * *

New pages/files/links -

1/23/19 -

field ecology rap video --

* * * Schedule and Assignments * * *

2022 Schedule forthcoming -
Below is FYI: 2019
Calendar-at-a-glance (and daily start times)
- Links » Schedule, Readings, Gear notes!
(schedule subject to modification - see Announcements for changes)


Links » Schedule, Readings
Wednesday (5 p)

Ketchum 1B20
Saturday (8.30a)

MRS Science Lodge
Sunday (8:30a)

Science Lodge
0 16 Jan:
Course Intro, Weekend Logistics



23 Jan:

Lecture - Physical Setting

Lecture - Climate

Assignments for Weekend
> Readings 4 Questions
    > Project Initial Idea
26 Jan - day:
Getting There - directions and driving time

A Guide for being Prepared for Weekends at MRS

Arrive by 8am.

8:30a: Welcome -
Site Orientation

   > extra gear notes!

Guest Lecture - Spencer Logan, CAIC
- Avalanche!
27 Jan - 

Soil Biology
   > specific gear

Walk-about: Biological Setting

Geologic History of Colorado

Project Initial Idea due


30 Jan:

Lecture - Winter Plant Adaptations - I: Physiology
Lecture -
Winter Mammal Adaptations
2 Feb - day:

Winter Vegetation Ecology
specific gear

   > special note re weekend

Guest Lecture: Prof. Tim Seastedt
Environmental Change on Niwot Ridge
3 Feb -

early start 7:25a:

Winter Ornithology
  > specific gear
   > special note re weekend


6 Feb:

Lab - Winter Plant Adaptations - II: Morphology 

Lecture - Guide to Research Design

Projects - Design
    > Instructor consultation before & after class (see Doodle invite)
9 Feb - day: 

Winter Limnology

   > specific gear

Guest Lecture: Dr. Barry Rosenbaum,
Executive Director, Altai Institute for Research and Conservation
"Winter Feeding Strategy of a Mongolian Argali (Ovis ammon) in an Extreme Environment"

10 Feb:

Winter Mammalogy
specific gear

Project Proposal due

13 Feb:

Guide to Research Design (con't)

Projects - Design:
Instructor consultation
16 Feb:

Project field day -

no class meeting
17 Feb:

Project field day -

no class meeting

20 Feb:

Lecture - Decoupled Climate Change on Niwot Ridge

Guide to Research Analysis & Presentation

Projects - Analysis Workshop: Instructor consultation

Info on Field Exam (Exam study guide)
23 Feb - day: 

Lecture -
Invertebrate & Herptile Ecology

Field day & Analysis

Analysis consultation with Instructor (
mandatory) - sign up for time slot.

Study time for exam

Guest Lecture: Dr. Lee Stanish -
Antarctic Microbial Ecology
24 Feb: 

Study session

Field exam
(study guide)

Draft Project Write-up due Monday eve (2/25)
Final presentation guidelines

25 Feb:
Draft Project Write-up due Monday eve

27 Feb:

Lecture - Conservation and Climate Uncertainty

Projects -
Analysis & Presentation consultation with Instructor (mandatory)
2 March:

Project presentations due

eve: film (The Eagle Huntress)

Course Description
Syllabus for printing

Wintertime offers insights into the natural history of organisms and function of ecosystems that are not often appreciated in summer visits to the field.  Winter Ecology is a survey of physical and biological processes and their interaction in wintertime snow-covered environments.  Through classwork, fieldwork, and individual projects, we will focus on the dynamics of high-elevation ecosystems in the western US.  Based out of the CU Mountain Research Station's year-round Science Lodge, we will spend 6 weekends exploring the ecology of upper montane, subalpine, and alpine landscapes in winter. We will study plant, vertebrate, and microbial adaptations to winter and the dynamics of terrestrial, aquatic, and snowpack environments.  We will consider how winter processes play a role in “growing season” dynamics, shape landscapes, and are important factors in conservation and management of natural resources of the Rocky Mountains.

Course Specifics

Course Description
Location (also: Getting There)
Dates & Times
   Financial Aid Questions
Course Format
University Course Policies
Schedule-at-Glance (right fame, top of this page)
Getting There

Course Flyer (downloads)
Instructor's Goals
Words from Previous Years' Students
Health Matters
Required Personal Equipment (Details:
What to Bring)

-- By Week, By Topic, By Project deadline -- Course at a Glance

Instructor: Dr. Timothy Kittel, INSTAAR
Locations & Times:
              Times -
    • Saturdays – 8:30a-5:00p and 7:30-8:30p
      • 1st Sat - Arrive at 8am for check-in
    • Sundays – 8:30a-5:00p (some days may start earlier or go longer)
  • One weekday lecture meeting per week - Main Campus, Wednesday
    • Orientation: 16 Jan. 2019 –  Lectures: 23 Jan. through 27 Feb. 2019
    • Lectures (1hr/week) - background for the coming weekend's field exercises
    • Weds, 5-6pm. Ketchum 1B20

Moores-Collins Science Lodge 
Mountain Research Station
(photo: TKittel)
Course Registration
  • Credits: 3

  •     - EBIO 4100, Sec 570
        - Open to students from all colleges and universities
  • Tuition & Fees:  $1800. 

  •     - includes lodging
        - no additional tuition for out-of-state
        - meals to be arranged separately (see pre-course organizational meeting)
        - sorry, no pets
  • Reserving your Place in the Class

  • See the MRS course reservation site for general information and to sign up online.  By phone: 303 492-8842 Please note: You must sign up on the Mountain Research Station reservation site and pay the deposit before you will be counted as having a place in the course.
    Enrollment is limited to 15
    • MRS will maintain a wait list
    • Course Deposit: $300.
    • Cancellations -
      • See the MRS registration site regarding the refund policy.
  • Registration (with balance of tuition payment due) – 1st Weds lecture

  • Financial Aid -
    • While MRS does not offer financial aid for its courses –
    • If you have financial aid through CU, you can use it to cover for course costs.  Contact the Station to make necessary arrangements (email mrs@colorado.edu, phone 303 492-8842).
    • If you are at another institution, please check with your financial aid office. 


    Required texts: 

    1. Life in the Cold.  An Introduction to Winter Ecology, by Peter Marchand.  4th ed. 2014.  University Press of New England. ~$30.
    1. Winter.  An Ecological Handbook, by J.C. Halfpenny and R.D. Ozanne.  1989.  Johnson Books (Boulder, CO). ~$17 ISBN 1-55566-036-3
      Suggested outside reading (not assigned): 
    • Winter World. The Ingenuity of Animal Survival, by Bernd Heinrich. 2003 (Ecco paperback edition 2004).  HarperCollins.  $10-20. ISBN-13: 978-0061129070
    • Autumn.  A Season of Change, by Peter Marchand.  2000.  University Press of New England.  $10-20.  ISBN-13: 978-0874518702
    Note there are readings assigned for both days of the first weekend (see Week 1 readings)
    “The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours,
    kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.” 
    - Voltaire

    Getting There:
  • Directions to the MRS from Boulder:  Map pdf file (60k)

  • Please arrive by 8a, class starts at 8:30.  The drive under good conditions generally takes 45 min from downtown Boulder.  I recommend planning on an hour the first time around and given road conditions.

  • Winter trek - 1950/60's?.  Photo source: Jim Snow.  Source & copyright notice

    Course Format

    MRS field courses

    • MRS field courses are designed to provide students a hands on field research experience. 
    • Each course emphasizes informal interaction with the instructors and fellow students. 
    • Course credit is readily transferable to other institutions. 
    Winter Ecology

  • Evaluation is based on:   Field exercises,  Individual project,  Lab & field final exam, Participation, and  Field journal.
  • Grading breakdown: 
  • Due to scheduling constraints, there'll be no opportunity to make-up parts of the course including the exam
  • Final grades assigned as follows: A 90-100%, B 80-89%, C 70-79%,  D 50-69%,  F <50% 

  • (photo: Alan Rosacker, Winter Ecology 2005)

    Other Logistics:
  • See information on Health matters and Personal equipment in preparation for the class's field work. Also see other sections in 'What to bring' for information on what's needed for staying at the Lodge, food, and computer facilities.

  • CU Winter Ecology with John Marr, 1946.  Photo source: Joyce Gelhorn.  Source & copyright notice

    For more information email Tim Kittel at kittel@colorado.edu

    Download course flyer – pdf file (200k)
    Download mini-slideshow – ppt file (7M)

    Instructor's Goal
    “A personal goal for me, as an instructor, [is] to foster familiarity with the nature of science.  There are many facets to understanding the world of science.  One is experiencing the process of accumulation and evaluation of scientific understanding – how do new ideas arise and how are they tested?  Another is developing the ability for independent thought, to be able to generate innovative ideas and [to] critically assess the results of others.  And finally, gaining what is often called a ‘sense of place,’ which is to say in this context, to start on the road to develop an intuitive, personal sense of how natural systems work.” 

                  – T. Kittel (Center for Environmental Research & Conservation Notes, Fall 2000, Columbia University, NY)

    Words from Previous Years' Students to Incoming Students
    – from Student Course Evaluations and Journals
    Limnological field data collection,
    Gold Lake, CO.
    Winter Ecology 2005 (photo: Alan Rosacker)


    • “Hands down the best class ever taken at CU.”  (Spring 2011)
    • “The Winter Ecology Field Course at CU Boulder's Mountain Research Station is like no other ecology course. Covering a wide range of topics, from climate to small mammals’ winter ways to plant distribution, it was a wonderful way to experience winter research conditions and a great introduction to ecology, from a winter perspective.  I would say prepare to work hard, and say ‘I didn't know that!’ a lot.”  (Spring 2005)
    • “There are few ways to get the hands on experiences a field course provides.”  (Spring 2005)
    • “The field exercises were great!  Everyone should take a course like this.”  (Spring 2006)
    • “I also really love the small class environment. It’s really cool to go out into the field and take samples, cook dinner, and play card games together. This class is a bonding experience like none other. Lectures aren’t really lectures; they’re more like conversations with individuals who know a lot more about this stuff than I do.”  (Spring 2013)

    • “Outside time was fantastic.  Being able to talk about a subject and then go study/observe was crucial.  Field courses are great and should be required for all physical geography students.”  (Spring 2005)
    • “Expect to learn new things with fun people.  I thought this class was great.  Out of [my field courses], this was definitely my favorite field class.  ...   A really great experience!”  (Spring 2005)
    • “The format was great mixing lecture, field, guest lectures, etc.”  (Spring 2005)
    • Guest field instructors were all awesome.  The 'expert of the day' made the class great.  Do it  Do it  Do it!”  (Spring 2010)
    • “Tim is an excellent prof.  He will excite your interest and encourage you to learn immense amounts about winter ecology.”  (Spring 2005)

    • “Be ready for snow & cold, 10-20 other friends, and a beautiful environment”  (Spring 2010)
    • "I really love this place.  I thought adding a class on the weekend would stress me out, but this class does the exact opposite: it's the perfect getaway to my week."" (Spring 2019)
    • “It is a great course, pay attention, and put the effort in.”  (Spring 2010)

    Snowpit field day, Winter Ecology 2009.  Student Ryan Provencher (right)
    & Instructor T Kittel (photo: Drew Habig)

    Health Matters
    Most fieldwork will be in high elevation, snow-covered, and/or wind-blown areas.  Students must come prepared to do wintertime fieldwork under such conditions (see Required Equipment).  Participants need to be in good health and physical condition and aware of the physical stress of being out in high-elevation wintertime environments, including low oxygen, high exertion, and cold temperatures – those with respiratory or heart conditions are advised to consult their physician before enrolling.

    Required Personal Equipment
    Equipment required for field work includes, in the minimum:
    • Backcountry skis (telemark or touring) with climbing skins, or snowshoes (with sufficient floatation on unpacked snow and grip on packed/icy surfaces)
    • Extreme cold weather clothing and boots - sufficient to stay warm while standing about for substantial periods (e.g. 1 hr),
    • Ski goggles, skiing face mask or balaclava, day pack, ...
    Go to WHAT TO BRING! for a full listing of required and suggested equipment --


    University & Course Policies –

    Accommodation for Disabilities or Temporary medical condition or injury

    If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit your accommodation letter from Disability Services to your faculty member in a timely manner so that your needs can be addressed.  Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities in the academic environment.  Information on requesting accommodations is located on the Disability Services website. Contact Disability Services at 303-492-8671 or dsinfo@colorado.edu for further assistance.  

    If you have a temporary medical condition or injury, see Temporary Medical Conditions under the Students tab on the Disability Services website. 
    - 12/2018

    Professional Behavior

    Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Those who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline. Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation or political philosophy. 

    Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student's legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records.  For more information, see the policies on classroom behavior and the Student Code of Conduct.       
    - 12/2018

    Academic Integrity / Honor Code

    All students enrolled in a University of Colorado Boulder course are responsible for knowing and adhering to the Honor Code. Violations of the policy may include: plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, lying, bribery, threat, unauthorized access to academic materials, clicker fraud, submitting the same or similar work in more than one course without permission from all course instructors involved, and aiding academic dishonesty. All incidents of academic misconduct will be reported to the Honor Code (honor@colorado.edu); 303-492-5550). Students who are found responsible for violating the academic integrity policy will be subject to nonacademic sanctions from the Honor Code as well as academic sanctions from the faculty member. Additional information regarding the Honor Code academic integrity policy can be found at the Honor Code Office website.
    - 12/2018

    Students should note that their work may be evaluated with a plagiarism detection service; and that this service retains a copy of the submitted work for future comparisons.

    Sexual Misconduct, Discrimination, Harassment and/or Related Retaliation

    The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) is committed to fostering a positive and welcoming learning, working, and living environment. CU Boulder will not tolerate acts of sexual misconduct (including sexual assault, exploitation, harassment, dating or domestic violence, and stalking), discrimination, and harassment by members of our community. Individuals who believe they have been subject to misconduct or retaliatory actions for reporting a concern should contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) at 303-492-2127 or cureport@colorado.edu. Information about the OIEC, university policies, anonymous reporting, and the campus resources can be found on the OIEC website.

    Please know that faculty and instructors have a responsibility to inform OIEC when made aware of incidents of sexual misconduct, discrimination, harassment and/or related retaliation, to ensure that individuals impacted receive information about options for reporting and support resources.                                                                                                                 

    Religious Holidays

    Campus policy regarding religious observances requires that faculty make every effort to deal reasonably and fairly with all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments or required attendance.  See the campus policy regarding religious observances for full details.                                                                                
    - 12/2018

    In this class, it is your responsibility to make such requests to your professor at the start of the course.                                                    
    - 7/2018

    General Course Policy on Absences

    Missing a class can be detrimental to your grade, this is especially given that there are only ~11 full class (weekend) days for a 3-credit course.  Each day contributes directly both to your participation grade and any graded activity for the day, and cannot be excused or made up unless you have a documented legitimate reason (such as those noted above).  Each day works out to be enough points to change your letter grade.  In addition, there's an indirect impact of missing skills or other information related to take-home assignments or individual projects that is covered on any given day.  Late assignments are docked points or considered uncompleted if more than 2 days late.                                                        
    - 7/2018


    Course Description | Course Specifics | Instructor's Goals
     Words from Previous Years' Students| Health Matters | Required Personal Equipment | Schedule

    Course website including all internal links © 2021 T. Kittel.  All rights reserved.  All copyrighted material on this website is made available for limited educational use only (commercial use strictly prohibited).
    Photographs property of sources as credited.  Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of http://instaar.colorado.edu/research/mrs.html, http://www.colorado.edu/mrs/, and http://culter.colorado.edu/Niwot/Niwot_Ridge_LTER_vegetation.html (some of these sourced from: Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture webpage http://www.washington.edu/burkemuseum/mammalogy/orders.html)

    Please email website problems to:   kittel@colorado.edu
    this page URL: http://culter.colorado.edu/~kittel/WinterEcology.html
    Page updated: 29 Oc 21