Conservation and Environmental Research Projects

Professor Twining really likes to engage his students in practical, hands-on research projects that help the students gain experience with real environmental problems while they provide a service to the community or a conservation organization. Some of these projects are undertaken by ENC students for their junior/senior research projects. Others are carried out in the context of 4-6 hour lab sessions in conjunction with various courses. Here are some examples of projects that we have been working on.

In the fall of 2009, Professor Twining and his Conservation Biology class placed four remote wildlife cameras in three locations within the Blue Hills Reservation. This was the first step in what is hoped to be a long-term wildlife monitoring project to determine the biodiversity of medium and large mammals within the reservation for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Cameras were set up during the first week of September and were removed near the end of October 2009. Mammals and birds observed during that time period were white-tailed deer, turkey, red fox, raccoons, and gray squirrels. The cameras also captured the first ever fisher photographed in the reservation (see photo on right).

Prof. Twining also had his Conservation Biology and Introduction to Ecology classes work with senior Chelsea Lefavor to assess the condition of St. Moritz Pond for the DCR. This pond is in the advanced stages of eutrophication, a condition where the pond has excessive nutrient levels resulting in overgrowth of either aquatic weeds or algae. An aquatic weed survey was conducted, and fortunately, only native species were found. Water quality was also assessed, including tests for phosphorus, nitrogen, and fecal coliform bacteria. Chelsea is currently writing up the results and will present them to the Biology Department and the DCR in the spring of 2010.

The Introduction to Ecology class completed a survey of the Neponset River in the Paul's Bridge area. Students collected macroinvertebrates and tested water quality for pH, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved solids, phosphate, and nitrate. We shared the results with the Neponset River Watershed Association, a non-profit organization that works to improve water quality in the Neponset River.

The Conservation Biology class paid a visit to the North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery to help out with the spawning of the Atlantic salmon. This fish was extinct in New England in the early 1900s due to dams and pollution, but has made a comeback due to the efforts of the US Fish and Wildlife Service's hatchery program. The students stripped eggs and sperm from the fish, sorted out unfertilized eggs, and prepared the eggs for incubation. Thanks to Fred and Kevin at the hatchery for giving us this opportunity.

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