Wayland science group works with marine habitats 

February 3, 2011

The Wayland Baptist University student chapter of the Texas Academy of Science recently completed a service project, working to restore nesting habitat for water fowl and helping to secure water tanks for injured sea turtles.

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Andrew Kasner said the trip was part of the two-fold mission. Formerly known as Pi Sigma Sigma, Wayland’s “science club” morphed into a chapter of the state-sponsored organization. Kasner said promoting science and service are the two areas of focus for the local group.

“We want to promote science and science research at the university and throughout the state,” he said. “And all of our student organizations also do some sort of a service project. This group has decided on a service project that impacts wildlife conservation.”

Six Wayland students made the three-day trip, along with Kasner, to the Corpus Christi area of the Texas gulf coast, where they worked to build nesting habitat for migrant water fowl that may be displaced due to the oil spill along the Louisiana coast line.

The students worked with volunteers associated with the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program and the Audubon Texas Coastal Program to spread crushed oyster shell, recycled from area restaurants, on the ground of a nesting island in the Upper Laguna Madre near North Padre Island. The crushed shells create nesting habitat for coastal birds such as threatened Black Skimmer, American Oystercatchers and other species.

The group then visited the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, where they worked with ARK (Animal Rehabilitation Keep) to construct partitions for holding tanks for sea turtles. Sea turtles are an endangered species and ARK takes in cold-shocked turtles and nurses them back to health before returning them to the ocean.

“They had somewhere around a dozen cold-shocked turtles that had arrived,” Kasner said. “They were trying to make room in their tanks to accommodate more.”

Wayland students helped to clean the animals and set up the partitions in existing tanks in order to accommodate additional turtles.

The group ended its three-day journey with a boat trip through the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to see Whooping Cranes in their natural habitat. Whooping Cranes are one of the most endangered birds in the world, and the Aransas Wildlife Refuge is their only remaining wintering habitat.

“Part of the trip was a service project and part of it was just plain old field biology,” Kasner said of the experience. “Our goal is to do some sort of habitat project like this once a year.”

The next project for the group is to plan the Wayland Spring Research Day that will give math and science students a chance to exhibit their research projects.