-- Winter Ecology --

A Field Course at CU's Mountain Research Station
EBIO 4100 or 5100, Sections 570/571

Spring 2024 - 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

6 Weekends:  Mountain Research Station Starting Sat+Sun 27/28 January through Sat 2 March 2024 (last weekend Sat. only)

Times: Sat – 8:30a-5p & 7:30-8.30p, Sun – 8:30a-5p
(Jan 27/28, Feb 3/4, 10/11, 17/18, 24/25 & Mar 2 (Sat only))

7 Wednesday Meetings:  Boulder campus –  
Weds 5-6p:  Jan 17 - 28 Feb 2024

Course Orientation: Weds Jan 17 meeting (Gear, meals, carpooling details)
6 Lectures: Weds 24 Jan 28 Feb 2024
Room HUMN 180 (Eaton Humanities Building)

* * *    * * *

mrs logo

* This website has recently been moved - Updating of links in progress.
 Please let me know of broken links or other corrections (kittel@colorado.edu) *

* * * Course Syllabus  * * *

Course Description
Syllabus for printing

Course Mechanics
Location (also: Getting There)
Dates & Times
   Financial Aid Questions

Course Format
   Projects (also: Guidelines)

Schedule-at-Glance (see right fame on this page ->>)
Getting There
Info for Staying at the Lodge

Course Flyer

Instructor's Goals
Words from Previous Years' Students

Health Matters
Required Personal Equipment (also: What to Bring)
University & Course Policies - see Syllabus

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 * * *

Room is HUMN 180 (Eaton Humanities Building)   (1/5/24)

New pages/files/links

Info on wilderness toilet etiquette (posted 2/5/24):

For fun:

field ecology rap video --

* * * Schedule and Assignments * * *

2024 ScheduleCalendar-at-a-glance (and daily start times) - Links » Schedule, Readings, Gear notes!
(schedule subject to modification - see Announcements for changes)


Links » Schedule, Readings
Wednesday (5-6 p)

HUMN 180 (Eaton)

(  ) = Instructor-in-charge (DS = Derek Sweeney; TK = Tim Kittel)
Saturday (8.30a)

MRS Science Lodge
Sunday (8:30a)

MRS Science Lodge

17 Jan:

Weekend Logistics (DS & TK)



24 Jan:

Course Intro (TK & DS)
Lecture - Physical Setting (TK)

Assignments for Weekend
> Readings 4 Questions
    > Project Initial Idea
27 Jan - day: 

Pre-arrival info -
Getting There - directions and driving time

A Guide for being Prepared for Weekends at MRS

Arrive by 8am:  Get your gear and food organized in room/foyer and kitchen, respectively.

8:30a: Welcome -
MRS & Niwot Ridge Orientation (TK)

Lecture - Climate (TK)

Lecture & Field - Snowpack (DS & J Morse)
   > extra gear notes!

eve (DS):
Guest Lecture - Spencer Logan, CAIC
- Avalanche!
28 Jan - 

Field -

Soil Biology (TK & DS)
   > specific gear

3 p.m.
Field -
Walk-about: Biological Setting (TK & DS)

Project Initial Idea due


31 Jan:

Lectures -
Winter Plant Adaptations: Physiology (TK)

- Winter Limnology (TK)

3 Feb - day:

Lecture - Winter Mammal Adaptations (DS)

Field & Lab -
Winter Mammalogy (DS)

specific gear


eve (DS):
Guest Lecture: Dr. Barry Rosenbaum,
Executive Director, Altai Institute for Research and Conservation
"Snow Leopard Spatial Ecology and Behavior"

4 Feb -

Field & Lab -
Winter Limnology
(Adeline Kelly
   > specific gear 

3 p.m.
Lecture - Guide to Research Design (TK)


7 Feb:

Guest Lecture: Prof. Tim Seastedt (EBIO)
Environmental Change on Niwot Ridge

Projects - Design
    > Instructor consultation before & after class
10 Feb - day: 

early start 8:15a:

Field -

Winter Vegetation Ecology (DS & Jen Morse)
specific gear

   > special note re weekend

Lab - Winter Plant Adaptations: Morphology (TK)


Geologic History of Colorado (DS)
11 Feb:
early start 7:25a:

Field -
Winter Ornithology (A. Panjabi)

  > specific gear
   > special note re weekend

Lab - Winter Bird Adaptations - (DS)

Project Proposal


14 Feb:


Guide to Research Design

Projects - Design:
Instructor consultation
before & after class
17 Feb:

Project field day -

no class meeting.  Lodge available.
18 Feb:

Project field day
no class meeting. 
Lodge available.

FYI - Monday 19 Feb is Presidents' Day

21 Feb:

Lecture - Decoupled Climate Change on Niwot Ridge (TK)

Guide to Research Analysis & Presentation (TK)

Projects - Analysis Workshop: Consultation with Instructors

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

Lecture -
Invertebrate & Herptile Ecology (TK)

Field day & Analysis

Analysis:  Consultation with Instructors (
mandatory) - sign up for time slot.

Study time for exam

Guest Lecture: Alt day for: Geologic History of Colorado (DS)
25 Feb: 

Study session (TK & DS)

Field exam
(study guide)

Draft Project Write-up due Monday eve (2/26)
Final presentation guidelines

Monday 20 Feb:
Draft Project Write-up due Monday eve

28 Feb:

Lecture - Conservation and Climate Uncertainty (TK)

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

Project presentations due

eve (DS &TK): 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

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)

Instructors: Dr. Timothy Kittel (INSTAAR) and Derek Sweeney (EBIO)
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 & Lectures: (see dates in banner at top of page)
    • Lectures (1hr/week) - background for the coming weekend's field exercises
    • Weds, 5-6pm. (see room in banner at top of page)

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:  $1875. 

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

  • To register for a class sign up like you would for any other course.  Go to https://classes.colorado.edu/ and search for the course name.  Add the class to your cart and proceed to check out.
    Enrollment is limited to 15
    • MRS will maintain a wait list
  • 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:

    There are 2 textbooks for the course:

    1) Life in the Cold.  An Introduction to Winter Ecology
    by Peter Marchand.  4th ed. 2014.  University Press of New England. ~$30. ISBN -
    (print) 9781611684285, (ebook) 9781611685060

    2) Winter.  An Ecological Handbook, by J.C. Halfpenny and R.D. Ozanne.  1989, 2021 reprint.  ~$20 ISBN 9798726728827

    • These are available from the CU Bookstore (UMC), CU Libraries, and other sources - details are in the table that follows.  
    • There are also "reserve copies" on hand in the Lodge at MRS.
    See also Suggested outside readings below.

    1) Life in the Cold.  An Introduction to Winter Ecology, by Peter Marchand.  4th ed. 2014.
    • Bookstores - CU Bookstore, UMC
      • eBook version: Call# QH543.2 .M37 2013 or QH543.2 .M37 2013eb
          • Also look for in other libraries with the ebook on Prospector, and which you might have access to
      • Reserve copies - at Norlin: Call# QH543.2 .M37 2013
    2) Winter.  An Ecological Handbook, by J.C. Halfpenny and R.D. Ozanne.  1989, 2021 reprint. 
    • Bookstores - CU Bookstore, UMC

    Suggested outside readings (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

    “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.

  • Staying at the Lodge:

    Winter trek - 1950/60's?.  Photo: (c) Jim Snow. 
    (original source http://instaar.colorado.edu/meetings/50th_anniv/photo_album/SnowJames/index.html - link broken)

    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: (c) Joyce Gelhorn. 
    (original source: http://instaar.colorado.edu/meetings/50th_anniv/photo_album/GelhornJoyce/IMAGE09_JPG.html - link broken)

    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 flotation 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 --

    Course website including all internal links © 2024 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 Niwot Ridge LTER (some of these sourced from: Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture webpage: https://www.burkemuseum.org/)

    Please email website problems to:   kittel@colorado.edu
    this page URL: http://culter.colorado.edu/~kittel/WinterEcology.html
    Page updated: 5 Fb 24