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Botany Course Hits the Road for More Than 25 Years

FARMERS BRANCH/DALLAS • Big Bend National Park becomes the classroom for a biology course at Brookhaven College. Each May, for the past 26 years, Phil Shelp, professor of biology, has taken students in an Introduction to Botany course on a week-long field trip through the park.

There are five classroom sessions before the trip that familiarize students with basic plant function and form. Students spend seven days backpacking and camping at the Big Bend National Park, home to more than 1200 species of plants according to the National Park Service. During the course students identify species, learn plant life cycles and enjoy the spectacular ecology of the park.

“A field course can offer students a higher quality experience than what can usually be produced in a classroom,” said Shelp. “It involves all your senses in learning.” Shelp said the park’s ranking as an International Biosphere Preserve makes it a perfect spot for students to see a large variety of plants and how they function in the area's ecology.

Over the years more than 300 students have taken part in this field course, the oldest such course offered through Brookhaven College. Shelp also has directed travel courses to New Mexico, Alaska and Australia.

In addition to the cost of tuition, travel costs are $350 per student. Before enrolling in the course, students should contact instructor Phil Shelp by calling 972-860-4756 or sending an e-mail to

Visit the Botany in Big Bend Web site.

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Page modified May 6, 2005.