Nature’s Classroom

Heidi Docter with her classmates at Terrell's Island in Omro

Nature’s Classroom

Natural Resources students learn through fieldwork projects

| By: Daley-Hinkens, Carmelyn M

Heidi Docter’s path to Fox Valley Technical College began at a local four-year university. As an English major, Heidi took multiple environmental literature classes and credits them with reigniting her love for natural resources. After finishing her bachelor’s degree, she wanted a career in natural resources but felt she needed more hands-on experience.  

“In my bachelor’s program, I learned conceptual ideas,” Heidi explains. “At Fox Valley Tech, it is completely practical learning and that's what I was searching for. I wanted to see if I liked the field experience, and they give you plenty in the Natural Resources Technician program.” 

It is not uncommon for the Collins Marsh in Manitowoc County, Radley Creek in Waupaca County, High Cliff State Park in Sherwood, or Lake Winnebago to be the classroom for students in the Natural Resources Technician associate degree program. While learning how to band waterfowl or assess a stream’s trout population, they are working side by side with instructors plus different environmental agencies that may be their future employers.  

“It’s invaluable to work so closely with instructors because you get so much one-on-one time with them,” Heidi says. “It is a small program, so you get individualized training, and you build relationships with them. Plus, we are constantly networking with Department of Natural Resources (DNR) personnel and other professionals in the field. We are getting our names out there and that will help when we are looking for a job. If someone has met you once or twice, even just visiting with different agency staff for a volunteer opportunity, they are likely going to remember you.” 

Heidi interned at the DNR while in school and graduated from FVTC in December. She is passionate about Wisconsin’s waterways and looks forward to a career in water quality or soil-water conservation. 

“What drew me to the field of Natural Resources is that I would be able to physically create positive change in the environment,” Heidi says. “I want to work where I feel I am contributing to something greater than me like the conservation of our environment for future generations.”  

“These field activities and partnerships provide invaluable practical experience in career areas where our students plan to find employment. They are building skills that will be directly applied in their jobs as technicians in all disciplines within resource management.” 

Paul Groell, Natural Resources Department Chair 

Some of the places where Natural Resources Technician students learn: 

Stream ecology: Kankapot Creek, Kaukauna 

Forestry field work: Mosquito Hill Nature Center, New London 

Waterfowl banding: Collins Marsh, Collins 

Sturgeon spearing registration: Lake Winnebago 

Soil & water conservation work: farms around northeast Wisconsin