With the help of the 2013-14 MCCEE Mapping for the Future Grant, NRCI continued to serve students by 1) making science relevant; 2) allowing students the chance to be scientists; and 3) stimulating conservation through appreciation. NRCI seeks to connect students to science and nature by providing projects and activities within three main areas: 1) Classroom, 2) Training, and 3) Enrichment. Within each of these areas, projects were specifically designed to correspond to Mitchell Community College’s strategic plan and its four focus areas of programming, partnerships, technology, and innovation. The following summary shows what NRCI accomplished during the 2013-14 year with the support from this grant.
Thirty students from Biology 140- Environmental Biology (Fall 2013) and Biology 143- Field Biology (Spring 2014) participated in several original research projects. Equipment for these projects was purchased from grant funds. Student research groups wrote blog entries on the NRCI webpage (https://researchnature.wordpress.com/tag/2013-fall/). The final projects can be seen at https://researchnature.wordpress.com/classroom/researchproject/. Several projects from biology students were turned into scientific posters. These are displayed in MCC’s Grier Science Building.
In April 2014, as part of MCC’s STEAM Day, 32 Biology 111 students participated in a 6-hour Bioblitz. Their objective was to identify as many insects, birds, mammals, and plants as possible within the time frame. Shawn Cox, an arborist from the City of Statesville, and Ron and Garnet Underwood, two local bird experts, volunteered their time to help students with identification. The details from this year’s event can be found at https://researchnature.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/bioblitz-2014-32-students-6-hours-1-campus-block-110-species/. This event will be held annually and will try to detect any differences in biodiversity from year to year. It also gives students the opportunity to conduct and analyze original scientific research.
As a follow-up to the Bioblitz, biology students will be using a technique known as DNA barcoding to identify some of the insects to the species level. This will be done during the Fall 2014 semester. As part of a laboratory project, Mitchell students will work with Dr. Adam Reitzel and graduate student Haley Peters, both from UNCC, to isolate the DNA from insects around campus. The DNA will then be sent off for sequencing. Results will be then be analyzed using specific software.
As part of a Biology 111 and 112 final project, twelve students participated in a service-learning project at the Boys and Girls Club of the Piedmont. They were given the responsibility to create nature-based activities for 5th graders during an after-school program. Before carrying out these activities, these Mitchell students had to be go through several training sessions. Material and books for these training sessions were purchased with grant funds.
Three MCC students, Makenna Gazaille, Madeline Hamiter, and Lauren Sadowski, had the opportunity to work in a research lab at UNCC during the summer 2014 where they performed research for Dr. Ron Clouse and the Department of Bioinformatics under the supervision of Dr. Adam Reitzel. These Mitchell students sequenced the genes of Pholcids (i.e. daddy long-legs) and isolated certain genes to look for common ancestors among species from Borneo. They also researched how various genes of the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, are related to its behavior. This opportunity came about through a partnership between biology departments at both institutions (MCC and UNCC). Future MCC students will have some of these same opportunities to work in research labs at UNCC.
During both the Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 semesters, 12 Biology 111/112 students led 5th grade students from the Boys and Girls Club of the Piedmont in various nature activities (see https://researchnature.wordpress.com/category/enrichment/). Over 30 Boys and Girls Club students were served by this project.
In partnership with the City of Statesville Recreation and Parks Department, 20 MCC Biology 112 students participated in Arbor Day in April 2014. The students set up various activities/games for kids and adults.
Although no grant funds were used, MCC Continuing Education Department offered an enrichment class for the community entitled, “Project Yellowstone.” 16 participants learned about biology in Yellowstone National Park. Read about the trip here http://mccprojectynp.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/12-18-june-2014/. Over the course of 5 summers, Project Yellowstone has taken 45 participants to Yellowstone National Park for a biology experience.
Thank you MCCEE for making all of this possible.