Hands On, Feet Wet

Much of what fisheries, wildlife and aquaculture students do at SUNY Cobleskill revolves around the College’s expansive 40,000-gallon cold water fish hatchery tank – among the largest in the northeast – as well as our tropical fish hatchery and warm-water fish and shell fish hatchery. These facilities and our several research ponds are testament to the program’s dedication to hands-on learning.

The program operates under the supervision of Mark Cornwell, Chair of the Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Science department, and Associate Professor of Fisheries and Aquaculture. He himself is a SUNY Cobleskill graduate, having earned his B.S. degree here in 1995.

“As students progress in the program, moving up level to level, the mix of their activities changes,” Mark says. “For example, those at the beginning of their study are taught in four-hour blocks of time. The first hour is classroom instruction covering theory and practice; the remaining three hours are spent in the water, where students are suddenly surrounded by what they were just taught about in class. It’s a terrific way to teach and to learn.”

As they continue in the program, students collect and interpret data, delve deeply into the biology of the species with which they work, even become conversant about the laws and regulations that affect the present and future of specific habitats and of the environment in general. “Ultimately, our goal is to produce graduates who are both extremely knowledgeable about the real-world species and systems they study and the relevant public policy issues that arise in our field.”

Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Sciences students may pursue either an associate or bachelor’s degree, and many of our associate degree-holders elect to stay here to complete their four-year degree. Further, because of the excellent reputation our program has earned over the years, we routinely have students from other schools’ two-year programs come to SUNY Cobleskill to earn their bachelor’s degree.

Besides receiving a comprehensive education about the ecosystems of central New York, some of Mark’s students have accompanied him on study trips to the Galapagos and parts of the Amazon, and a trip to Peru is scheduled for next year. “Obviously, we like getting our students out of the classroom,” he smiles, “and you can’t get much farther out of it than the Amazon or the Andes.”

Feature photo of Mark Cornwell taken by Mohamed Baligh ’12, Communications & Marketing New Media Specialist.

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