(December 18, 2013)
The students enrolled in Environmental Studies Professor Kevin Moorhead’s and Assistant Professor David Gillette’s Environmental Restoration course now know what’s living at the corner of campus commonly known as Glenn’s Creek.
“This is an environment that I’ve been around for three years and something that most people would pass by or think that it’s cool that we have a creek on campus” said senior environmental studies major Corinne Fretwell. “But we are looking at it with a critical eye and crunching the numbers. It’s neat to understand how healthy the stream is based on macro-invertebrate sampling – or the bugs in the water – and what kind of conditions are facing something that I’ve taken for granted.”
The 16 students in the team-taught class completed a full ecology survey over the course of the semester, examining different environmental components in an attempt to answer questions about energy, nutrient input and overall ecosystem health of the urban stream.
“This class gives students a different perspective than many other classes, in part showing that humans can have a positive impact on an ecosystem,” said Gillette. “We look at many different things, so it’s a little laboratory for us, and we can demonstrate the idea that people can improve an ecosystem and there’s a scientific way to do it.”
By tapping into the combined expertise of Moorhead and Gillette, plus other faculty members in the Environmental Studies and Biology Departments, the class focused on the soil, plants, invertebrates, fishes and birds.
“This has given me some insight into how difficult restoration actually is, and how in-depth it goes,” said senior environmental studies major Ruth Cumberland. Like many students, she shared in the discovery of how much data the class had to work with, including the number of fish that surfaced during the electrofishing labs.
Those numbers are tallied, analyzed and reported to UNC Asheville’s facilities management to provide a baseline for a planned restoration project.
“By the end of the project, we have a comprehensive database of one place on campus,” explained Moorhead, who has taught the class previously and hopes to teach the class again in Fall 2015, when the students can analyze and assess the effects of the restoration project.
That means that like the stream itself, the class’ work will live on and inspire other projects.
“It’s kind of surprising and really impressive that the stream is doing so well,” concluded Fretwell. “It gives us a lot of valuable information, plus it’s so valuable having this experience. We can take these hands-on projects into our careers.”
Learn more about similar hands-on experiences from the Department of Environmental Studies.