Deciding to take a class during the summer doesn’t always mean you are stuck inside the classroom or laboratory. Reinhardt’s 525-acre campus and its neighboring natural environments provide science students with ample space for all types of study.
Biology Instructor Keith Ray wanted to provide some variety for students and introduce them to new ways of discovering species.
“This was a part of my Field Biology class which I teach every few summer semesters,” said Ray. “Students get immersed in field research experiences and how to translate classroom knowledge into practical skills in outdoor environments.”
Three students participated in the outing: Salvador Castillo, Reid Schratweiser and Evan Lambert.
The students learned about snorkeling and using wetsuits which were purchased with funds from a Center for Innovative Teaching and Engaged Learning (CITEL) grant written by Keith Ray for this type of scientific fieldwork.
“For lots of students, we have to immerse them into the environment slowly,” explained Ray. “Many have only been underwater in a pool and some have never had a mask on, so putting all that gear on, in cold, rushing water, is sensory overload. It takes a while to calm your mind to the sensations and focus on the task of looking for something underwater.”
Ray started teaching the students how to find freshwater mussels, which are a recent discovery in Shoal Creek that he and Reinhardt Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Zachary Felix made in 2018.
“It’s a slow and tedious process searching for the mussels,” says Ray. “It requires a lot of patience and a lot of time underwater. We may travel only 50 yards in an hour or more.”
With the help of Georgia DNR, Ray and his colleagues at Reinhardt have identified four species of freshwater mussels in the streams around Waleska, including some very rare and unique species, such as the Fine-Lined Pocketbook.
“As the student’s skills improve, they will help with surveys of Shoal Creek for fish, mussels and other aquatic organisms,” says Ray. “We hope to use the information as preliminary data to establish a larger research collaboration with partners from Alabama, Georgia and beyond, to better understand the origins and importance of the mussels we have in Shoal Creek.”