Stephen R. Pugh
Associate Professor of Biology
University of New Hampshire, Manchester
"... you can give a lecture about beaver feeding strategies, or you can sit in a canoe for an hour watching a beaver devour a maple sapling."
UNH Manchester's urban campus is not exactly the Coe College Wilderness Field Station in Ely, Minnesota.
"The one place where I love to teach—and simply love to be—is the field station in Minnesota," says Pugh. It's the largest, most pristine wilderness area in the Eastern U.S. and Pugh has a long history there: as a college student when he met his wife Barbara; as part of the support staff after graduating from college; and as a faculty member teaching summer courses.
But Steve Pugh has created a small-scale learning laboratory in Manchester that operates on the same principles.
"There is no better place than in the field to teach a class on the ecology of mammals," says Pugh. "For example, you can give a lecture about beaver feeding strategies, or you can sit in a canoe for an hour watching a beaver devour a maple sapling." For Pugh, science is a way of thinking, observing, and testing to explain natural phenomena. This method becomes a tool to "tease apart the science from the rhetoric."
Just outside of Manchester, on Hackett Hill Road, is Cedar Swamp, an 800-acre preserve. When Pugh joined the faculty at UNH Manchester in 1998, his goal was to transform the associate's degree in biological sciences. At the swamp, he created a field site for learning and research in the study of biology, ecology, and genetics.
Last year, as chair of the college's science and technology division, Pugh successfully championed a proposal for a bachelor's degree in biological sciences. Now, students can continue their studies and complete their biology degrees in small classes that guarantee one-on-one interaction with professors without having to transfer to another school.
"Many of Steve's students say that he has a gift for taking challenging and detailed course content and making it lucid and nonintimidating," says John Sparrow, a colleague and associate professor of psychology. "Of course, in the world of science education that's an extraordinary challenge, and Steve manages to accomplish that feat semester after semester."