WCCC Students Work to Restore Campus Pond

January 25, 2016

A small pond on the Washington County Community College is enjoying an ecological revitalization as a result of the efforts of students from the field natural history class. Originally used as a farm pond, it hosted species of fish and wildlife for decades before being fenced off and overgrown by cattails.

Last year, the fence was removed, providing the first step in restoring the natural habitat of the pond. “We’ve seen kingfishers, egrets, wood ducks and a family of black ducks now that the fence is gone,” instructor Rose Binda said.

The students have completed preliminary tests on the pond to determine temperature levels, dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, turbidity, pH, ammonia, and nitrogen. Of those parameters, the dissolved oxygen and turbidity or suspended particles were found to be irregular.

Students were then broken up into two groups, one focused on solutions for raising the oxygen levels and the other committed to investigating methods of clearing the water column to enable photosynthesis. Once the solutions have been researched and tested in the lab, the students will do a cost analysis and put together a presentation to be shown to the student senate and administration.

“It’s student-driven,” Binda said of the project. “Learning is an organic thing, and one way to accomplish it is to tap into their interests—to encourage it, foster it, and then give students ownership.”

The restoration of the pond will serve many purposes. Students will have a quiet place to sit and study or reflect, while at the same time it will function as a living laboratory for biological studies. Binda notes that there may be a vernal pool produced near the pond in the spring, further adding to its ecological value.

In the future, the pond may host a nesting box with a live web cam enabling students to monitor nesting fowl. Students in the field natural history class could use the pond and its surroundings as the basis for putting together a campus field guide. Interpretative signage could be installed around the pond, informing visitors of the habitat and its species.

“If we can do it—if our own students can produce it—it’s a win for everybody,” Binda said. “This is a wonderful campus. We’ve only scratched the surface of what’s here.”