On Tuesday, February 25, Justin Weiss, Assistant Professor of Biology at MCTC, with Thomas Biebighauser, retired wildlife biologist from the US Forestry Service, John Utterback, of Utterback Excavating LLC, and students of Mr.Weiss’ biology classes completed two artificial wetlands on MCTC’s Maysville campus. A wetland is formed from soil with high clay content and poor drainage, thereby saturating the area with water. Wetlands differ from ponds by being shallower, containing no fish, and drying up during the late summer months. Mr. Weiss had the idea of building wetlands after attending a Kentucky Association of Environmental Educators conference in September 2012 in which Mr. Biebighauser was presenting on wetland development. Having wetlands on campus appealed to Mr. Weiss as a means to increase hands-on science education opportunities to MCTC students as well as area K-12 schools, and community education classes, in an outdoor setting.
Mr. Weiss plans to use these wetlands in all of his courses to demonstrate topics in ecology, water chemistry, the scientific method, and native Kentucky flora and fauna diversity. “Wetlands are a unique and rare, Kentucky ecosystem that have mostly been drained due to agricultural, residential, and commercial development,” said Mr. Weiss. “Not only do wetlands provide a home to many species of plants and animals, they also offer benefits for people. For example, since no fish live in wetlands, mosquito predators, such as dragonfly larvae and amphibians, thrive and lower mosquito populations in the surrounding area. They also are home to harmless bacterial species that degrade toxic pollutants from rainwater and parking lot runoff before the water enters a stream used for drinking water.”
With the United States falling in overall science and math understanding internationally, Mr. Weiss is looking for new ways to inspire students to go into STEM (Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology) programs to bring back innovation to this country. “Science is not a subject that you master, or can enjoy, from sitting in a classroom and taking notes. You have to learn by doing and observing the world around you. The wetlands provide a perfect setting to hone these skills while making science fun,” said Mr. Weiss.
Mr. Weiss encourages area K-12 teachers to contact him about using the wetlands in their science classes. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (606) 759-7141 ext. 66128.