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Blinn College-Brenham Campus biology students partake in first biodiversity study focused on Washington County

Larry Joe and Joanne Doherty open Long Star Ranch to Blinn College students for hands-on learning opportunity

May 2, 2018

Biodiversity Project

Blinn College-Brenham Campus biology students recently embarked to Long Star Ranch to partake in the first biodiversity study ever recorded primarily in Washington County.

Long Star Ranch, owned by Larry Joe and Joanne Doherty, borders Post Oak Savannah and Coastal Prairie, two major ecosystems.

“My students collected samples of plants and animals so we can make an identification guide and document the variety of species out here,” said Dr. Kelly Kissane, Biology Instructor.

This semester marks the first time that Biology 1407 students have had access to the land for projects.

“The Texas Wildlife Association discovered that outdoor classrooms increase a student’s understanding, recollection, and grasps of math and science,” Larry Joe Doherty said. “It’s easy to be generous with open space and it gives us a sense of having done something worthwhile. We want to this to develop into a long relationship with Blinn College.”

As part of the course, students learn different phyla of plants, animals, and fungi.

“The plan is to bring every 1407 class out here each semester because it is very important for the class for students to see the different species and how they behave in the environment,” Kissane said.

This semester plant specimens, insects and spiders that students collected on Long Star Ranch included; Blue bonnets, Scarlet Indian Paintbrushes, Evening primroses, winecups, Texas Thistles, Green milkweeds, honey mesquites, Texas Dandelions, Clouded Sulphur butterflies, Broadtipped  katydids, the Familiar bluet damselflies, the common whitetailed skimmer dragonflies, the Eastern pondhawk dragonflies, Texan carpenter bees,large wolf spiders and black jumping spiders.

“It was nice to explore nature and see where all the different species live and how they behave in Washington County,” freshman Jarod Wyatt said. “It gave me a better grasp of all the things we have discussed in class.”

Everything collected at Long Star Ranch will be housed in Blinn College databases and online for other researchers to use as a baseline. The database can help determine if different species’ range is shrinking or expanding in the future which is important in ecology and conservation biology.

“Once we know what is here, then we can start different sampling methods that will give us an idea of what the species richness in the area is,” Dr. Kissane said. “What they collected this semester lets us know what is here in the spring, and we will take more samples in the fall that will increase our knowledge.”

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