Check out hidden gem classes at Mercyhurst

Christina Judy, Staff writer

Exploration and adventure are two concepts that many students do not associate with their classes. On syllabus day in the fall semester of 2022, I was not excited to find out that I had to go on a camping trip as part of the lab portion of my Forest Ecology class. I had never been camping prior to that class and I would not say I am an experienced outdoorsman. Needless to say, I was very nervous to go, but when my friends and I arrived at the camp site, we quickly adjusted to the outdoors. The first night we got there, we made a fire and had the opportunity to chat with people in our class. Then, we pitched a tent and got in our sleeping bags for the night— I have also never slept in a tent so that was a unique experience. The following day, we went hiking for the majority of the day and learned about different species of trees. I had a lot of fun exploring the surrounding woods and hanging out with my classmates.

Aside from the camping trip, each lab for Forest Ecology was a field trip to different parks, woods, forests, etc. We spent a few hours during each lab familiarizing ourselves with different tree species and forests all while being completely immersed in nature. As far as classes go, Forest Ecology was definitely unique and provided a realistic and fun environment for learning.

Although the studying was intense, many imperative topics that directly impact our lives were covered in that class. Discussions facilitated in Forest Ecology raised critical questions as to how we go forward in making decisions to preserve forested areas and incorporate various tree species in our yards. While plants and forests are not what I want to work with after college, it was certainly cool to learn more about them in such a hands on way.

Another favorite class of mine is Microbiology. In the lab part of this class, each student was asked to collect a sample from whatever surface or area we wanted to. The purpose of this was to use lab techniques to isolate a bacterium and learn about the specifics on that bacterium. Doing this experiment was really interesting because each student picked a different area to swab for their sample and got to see many bacteria grow on a single plate. Some examples of the samples were sink drains, keyboards, phone cases and more.

The kicker with this class was that we did not receive the name of our bacteria until the end of the course. So, throughout the semester, we performed experiments that would give us characteristics of our bacteria and then we would conduct literature searches to piece together all the information we were gathering. This process was long but really fun and rewarding!

The lecture portion of Microbiology discussed many important topics and helped to change the viewpoint on microorganisms. One of these topics includes our gut microbiome. Finding ways to diversify our gut microbiomes was a highly discussed subject in our class because of how influential our gut microbiome is to the overall health of an individual.

There are many interesting and thought provoking classes at Mercyhurst and I am sure this is just scraping the surface. Be sure to look though the course catalog on Self Service before advising day and registration day to find classes/electives you can take!

Do not be afraid to explore something new in college, you just might learn to love it!